Month: June 2009

I’ve fallen off the wagon, need to get back up and get to work.


How to: Design a summer composition course Part 2


 So here is my summer syllabus. I would love some criticsm, suggestions. I can always make adjustments to it. I’m quite pleased with it. I am a bit worried about getting all this grading done as quickly as the syllabus demands but I’m sure I’ll survive.

Thanks in advance for your help.


OneMeanMFA’s Summer Syllabus

We will be using a modified portfolio system.  Each portfolio will consist of two major papers, each undergoing a draft and revision process, as well as an additional significant revision of a previous paper.  Clear, written descriptions of all writing assignments will be distributed to the class, as well as the evaluation criteria that will be used.  Response papers and other writing assignments will be reflected in your class participation grade.  The grade break down is:


Paper 1: 100pts                        

Paper 2: 100pts

Paper 3: 100pts

Paper 4: 100 pts


Quizzes: 10pts each (40 pts)

Paper Outlines: 25 pts (100pts)

Annotated Bibliography: 50 pts

Final Portfolio Assignment: 50 pts

Participation/ Attendance: 10 pts


Class total points: 650pts


You will receive substantive comments on all written work through both instructor and peer comments. 

1)     Paper One: Prompt based paper using reading one. You will use the reading to support a topic that works outside of the reading. This paper is worth 100 pts.

2)     Paper Two: Prompt based paper using reading one and two. This paper should use reading two more than reading one. Roughly 60% reading two to 40% reading one.  You will use the readings to support your original idea that works outside of the readings. This paper is worth 100pts.

3)     Paper Three: Prompt based paper using reading one, two, and three. This paper should use reading three more than readings two and one. Roughly 50% reading three to 25% readings two and one. You will use the readings to support your original idea that works outside of the readings. This paper is worth 100pts.

4)     Paper Four: This is a research based paper. You will be required to use reading four  and outside sources. You will need a minimum of three outside sources and a maximum of five. Two of these sources should be books and not retrieved online. You may have a maximum of two online resources, available to you via the library’s electronic journals. This paper is worth 100pts.

5)     Final Portfolio Assignment: This is a written assignment that will discuss your progress as a writer, what you have learned in this course, the strengths of this course and as well as the weaknesses. You will also discuss what grade you believe you have earned. This paper should be no more than 3 pages and no less than one and a half. This assignment is worth 50 pts.

6)     Paper Outlines: You will outline your papers paragraph by paragraph. Inserting which quotes from the readings you plan on using in the final draft of the paper. This assignment worth 100pts.

7)     Quizzes: I will give you a short quiz on the reading in the first 10 minutes of class. Each quiz is worth 10 pts.

8)     Annotated Bibliography: You will take the resources for your research paper, cite it, then give a brief summary of the resources as they will apply to your research paper. The summary should be no less than 2-3 sentences and no more than a half page. This assignment is worth 50pts.


Week One:

 June 23rd


Contracts in

Writing Sample

MLA Formatting

What makes a good paper?

Prompt Paper One

Assign Reading One:

June 25th

 Reading Quiz One

Free Writing Exercise

Discuss Reading

How to outline a paper

Begin Paper Outline


Week Two

 June 30th

 DUE: Rough Draft Paper 1

Review thesis writing

Peer Review

What makes a good thesis?

Begin Changes to Paper


July 1st:

 Continue discussing prompt

Create Paper checklist

Peer Review revised paper 1

MLA formatting Review

Work on paper

Assign Reading Two 

Week Three

 July 7th

 DUE: Final Draft Paper 1

Quiz Reading Two

Free Writing Exercise

Parallel Readings

Discuss Reading Two

Prompt Paper Two

MLA Review: Quotations/ Evidence


July 9th

DUE: Rough Draft Paper 2

Peer Review


Work on papers

Assign Reading Three 

 Week Four

 July 14th

 DUE: Final Draft Paper Two

Quiz Reading Three

Free Writing Exercise

Parallel Readings

Prompt Paper Three

How to Research: Using the library


July 16th

DUE: Rough Draft Paper Three

Peer Review


Work on Papers

Assign Reading Four

MLA Review: Organization


Week Five

 July 21

 DUE: Final Draft Paper Three

Quiz Reading Four

Free Writing Prompt Paper Four

Parallel Readings

Introduction to writing a research paper

How to write an Annotated Bibliography

 July 23

 DUE: Annotated Bibliography

Continue Discussion on Reading Four

Outline Paper Four

Introduce Final Portfolio Assignment

Week 6 (We’re almost Done!)

July 28th

 DUE: Rough Draft

Peer Review

Work on paper in class

July 30th

DUE: Final Draft

DUE: Portfolio Assignment

School’s out for Summer!

How to: Design a summer composition course Part 1

I have a problem. Well many, but let’s just focus on the one. In a week I’ll be standing up in front of students and need to have prepared a syllabus that squeezes a semester into 18 weeks. HELP!

I’m not sure exactly how to squeeze four 6- 7 page papers into 6 weeks without wanting to hang myself. Designing this class has been something I’ve put on the back burner and now I’m wondering what to do. I have been debating if I should do three short papers during the semester then have them hand in  one bigger paper in the end.

Any advice on this would be really welcomed. Maybe if I tell you the requirements for the class we can all brainstorm together and create a great summer writing course.

The students are required to:

1) Write four papers

2) The papers must be around 6-7 pages in their final draft

3) The papers are centered around readings and prompts. All of the readings are connected by some ethical, political, controversial issue ( I know this sounds lame, I didn’t design it).

4) They have the option (if I so choose) to write a research paper. I am thinking I will definitely add this because I have noticed how many students are uncomfortable with this and frankly being able to research is so important in college. I would hate for a professor in a core class ask students about previous research assignments and see glazed over looks in the eyes of my former students. I have also taught high school and know that students don’t do research papers there. In fact, my students that have graduated and gone on to college have thanked me for showing them how to reasearch. So if they are not doing  in high school and not in college , when? I would hate for students to be doing their first research paper in grad school, like so of my classmates.

5) The prompt usually ask the students to come up with some outside situation that applies to the issue in the reading. For instance, the theft of intellectual property.

The class meets twice a week for three hours at a time. I had a professor of mine suggest working on their papers in class. The students will mostly be students who failed the class in the spring, or students who are eager to get a head start for the fall. They are mostly first or second year college students. I’m not sure how important the demographic of students is but I think the eager beaver vs the lazy panda is important when getting the students excited.

This class is a basic composition class that requires students to understand the basics of writing a paper. I’m not sure how to do this. I would love to do a workshop style class, where the students hand in their papers a day before to their classmates and then we spend some time discussing the strengths and weaknesses of the paper. I think this would be an excellent way to get the peer reviewing element of the papers in. I’m not sure how to do this with 20 students.

I have been toying with the idea of having them do five three-four page papers, but then I’d have to grade five papers. I am also working at a camp, and taking a class.


All ideas are welcome.

I will post my syllabus when I’ve designed it so that you guys can give me feedback on it.  Also, it might be such a kick ass syllabus you’ll want to use it yourselves!

The End is Near

So summer session one will be over in a week and then summer session two will commence on the following Monday. A whole weekend to rest. WOW! Still I’m okay with the intensity of it because when summer is over I’ll have knocked out 9 credits, taught creative writing and composition. Also, my novel is moving along. Feels good.

Still I can’t wait for that three week break before Fall. I may just bask in nothingness.

Random thought…thoughts

For a Monday I wasn’t as productive as I would have liked. Still, I got some writing done, both fiction and personal.

Lately, I’ve been reading the letters that writers like Fitzgerald and Sherwood Anderson wrote to their wives and I think that this is where some of their best writing was. It’s overwritten yes, but it’s good and when you read these letters, they move you. Most of these letters were written before they were famous and I wonder if they wrote these letters hoping they’d be found and published. Probably not, they were just good writers. If they were writing in the hopes the letters too would be published it would make me sick. There is only so much narcissism a person can take.

Practice Makes Perfect

So while ago I wrote about my non-existent writing schedule. I am proud to say it is no longer non-existent.

Initially when I started grad school I was writing only when I had deadlines. I think this is an issue with a lot MFA students. We are so bogged down with our literature classes and writing feedback for our classmates for workshop that we neglect our own work. I know that was my issue.

I’m currently enrolled in a three year program that requires both literature classes as well as workshops. The amount of literature  credits that I am required to take is three credits short of receiving an MA. It’s quite literature intensive, and because of the heavy focus on literature courses I knew I’d need a writing schedule that would enable me to write my own stuff.

If I continued to let my deadline system continue to be the only drive I had to write, all I’d have written is a crappy thesis I’d be embarrassed to revise, and way too many literature papers than I’d know what to do with. When would I produce anything else?

I was discussing this with my thesis chair. My professor suggested I write first thing in the morning, so that  “then it’s done.” I could move on with my day not worried about not having written anything because it would have been done as my first cup of coffee was being finished.

Since I didn’t have any kind of schedule I decided to give it a shot. I will say I was concerned writing in the morning was going to effect my workout routine. I enjoy running in the morning because it hasn’t gotten so hot yet and I can usually beat whatever weather issue my area may be having. In order to prevent any kind of interruption to my running regimen I set my alarm an hour earlier and decided I’d write for an hour first thing in the morning, then run, then shower and finish up the rest of my classwork.

Well, I will say it totally works for me.  I always thought that I was a nocturnal writer; that my best work flowed from my brain in the late hours of the night. Au Contraire! After a decent night of rest (who get’s good sleep anymore or ever, I know I sure don’t) I’m able to think clearly and focus. The best part of this writing in the morning thing is if that hour of writing sucks I get to run it out of my system and know I’ll be better the next morning or if I have a little bit of time to spare in the evening after class I can try again.

I’m so glad to have found my groove. I was hoping that would be something that I learned in grad school and it seems that after a year I have.

I know that not everyone is a morning person. I definitely am. Actually, I’m kind of an insomniac but I think I prefer the morning to night as far as being productive is concerned. Regardless of the kind of person you are, I think the trick to finding a writing schedule is to force yourself to set aside an allotted amount of time EVERYDAY.

Maybe you don’t have an hour to spare, then give yourself  twenty minutes. I know I waste twenty minutes here and there all day everyday, why not write during that time instead?

I’m sure when the fall starts or when I start my summer teaching I may have to cut my hour down to 45 minutes or even to half an hour, still I don’t plan on stopping my schedule all together because “I’m busy.” My thesis and my writing career are too important.  Plus, I think this is true with so many skills…Practice makes perfect.

This has become my mantra: Practice makes perfect, practice makes perfect and so I encourage all you writers out there to remember that when you are in a slump and can’t “find time to write” you won’t get any better unless you write. That poem, essay, story or novel won’t write itself.

Practice makes perfect.