ENG 345: Sample Assignments

Reading Responses: A summer course covers a great deal of material very quickly. Students often have a hard time remembering what they have read, or the details that they may use for later projects like final essays. Over a 5-week session, students created 6 short responses based on Wayne Booth’s claim structure from the Craft of Research. These short responses helped students cultivate critical writing skills and to structure what they could discuss in class that day. Instructions were as follows:

            For each major text you will construct a short, 250 word reading response. This response should select a small part of the text to construct an argument about. In these responses, you need to  make a compelling claim supported by a close reading of a significant passage or scene. These responses will be due at the end of the class meeting we discuss the text. These must be in hard copy and MLA format.

Current Events Presentations: In an interest in opening the classroom up to the reality of everyday, students were asked to keep an eye out for contemporary events or news stories that engaged with the course content. These reporting dates become incredibly important ways to apply the concepts we studied to difficult and controversial events like the trial in Ferguson and the death of Michael Brown. Student instructions were as follows:

Twice during the semester, you will be asked to present a current event and lead a short discussion. These current events activities aim to expose our discussions to real-life and contemporary issues of ethnicity in America. With your facilitation, the class will discuss critical concerns regarding such current events and attempt to relate them to our readings, critical models and topics of interest.

There is no formal write up necessary, but you should be well versed in your current event (from a print source, either internet or hard copy), be able to provide the general details, source, and attempt to relate it to the class. Have a critical question or concern for the class to begin the discussion with.

Author/Text Presentations: Students were responsible for doing background reading and bringing supportive and contextual information to class to help facilitate the readings. This assisted not only in the understanding of materials class wide, but gave each student the opportunity to participate in class more readily. Students signed up for an author or text on the first day of class. The directions were as follows:

These presentations will require a little Internet searching. Look at various websites, including Wikipedia, to get a feel for the figure’s background and work. So long as you cite your sources, any source is fair game. You will need to create a handout that is at least 1 page in length, but does not exceed 2 (front and back). Bring copies for the class. Note: We will sign up for presentations on day 1. Text presentations will only occur as needed and are based on enrollment.

               Author Presentation Scope: Brief biography; Works written, genre; Key issues or topics; Audience reception overall; Known for…, and anything else you stumble upon that seems important.

               Text Presentation Scope: Publication history; Audience/critical reception; General or overall argument; goal of the text; Criticisms or controversy; Popularity (do people talk about it and what do they say?), and anything else you stumble upon that seems pertinent to understanding the text.

Final Essay: At this course level, the best representation of a student’s engagement with the material is through critical writing. I assign a final essay because it helps students intellectually engage with the content we have been covering, and acknowledge that understanding changes with each additional text, providing competing interpretations. In addition, students have been practicing evidence-based argumentation throughout the term, and a final paper provides them the opportunity to revisit their smaller arguments and exercise the skills required to develop these concepts further. In this way, students are responsible for coming up with their own topic, their only parameters are length (5-7 pages) and scope (to use two critical texts and two fictional texts, etc.).

In this five-week session, I meet with students during week 3 to start developing ideas for a final paper. These informal conversations allow me to guide students toward texts that represent their interests, or refocus their initial ideas to cover more critical ground. This is often done in conjunction with a preliminary outline, that students workshop together in class.