First-Year Composition

Free stock photo by Element5 for Unsplash.

This section of the portfolio is designed to provide a glimpse of the choices I make as the instructor of an FYC course and how I use readings and assignments to foster student growth in writing.

At the University of Arkansas, the course description and textbooks for FYC were standardized across the department, but I felt that my course should have two main objectives: to support the transfer of metacognitive skills from students’ previous and extracurricular learning and for students to immerse themselves in complex source material and feel well-informed enough to enter academic debates in their current field of study,

My assigned projects build on one another, so the project topic guidelines ask students to choose a topic for all their projects. These guidelines are structured to help students feel comfortable writing about something they’re interested in, but also to push them away from “safe,” common topics like marijuana legalization or controversial topics that students feel like they are the experts on and are unwilling to listen to others’ points of view.

The following materials are from the Fall 2012 FYC course at the University of Arkansas.

Project topic guidelines

This semester, you will produce a series of papers on a particular topic relevant to some area of academic discourse, and ideally, your own academic interests. This course is set up so that you will draft, revise,and edit material on a single subject over an extended period of time, which allows you to develop your writing skills more fully. I encourage you to write about a topic in your field of study, but will not limit your subject material to major-only topics. I also encourage you to write about subjects that incorporate the One Book One Community selection, The Working Poor, although you are not required to. In choosing a semester-long topic, you should abide by the following guidelines.

  • You should write about a subject that you want to know more about, not a subject that you feel like you know everything about.
  • You should be genuinely interested in the subject and think that it is important to many different types of people.
  • You should develop your topic based upon questions that have more than one answer. For example, the question “How many students at the University of Arkansas smoke?” has one answer that can be easily determined.The question “How effective is the University of Arkansas’s no-smoking policy?”or “What no-smoking policies have proven effective on other campuses, and should the University of Arkansas adopt parts of those policies?” provide multiple answers and multiple paths of research for you to explore.
  • Do not feel trapped in your subject. As your work on this topic progresses, so too will your ideas about how this topic relates to your future plans. As the semester goes by, consult me for any major changes.

When you turn in a project, you should attach a cover sheet that tells me two things:

  • What question (or questions) do you feel like this project answers for the reader?
  •  What question (or questions) do you have about the topic now that you have written this project?

Midterm assignment following a unit on visual rhetoric

Food allergies warning poster for visual rhetoric project
Student visual rhetoric submission on food allergies

For your midterm exam, create one visual text that makes an argument to an audience of viewers and readers. Your argument may be related to your semester project, but you are not required to create a visual argument on your topic. You can create your visual text in several different ways:

  • A drawing or collage on no smaller than a piece of 8 ½ x 11 paper.
  • A .jpeg, .bmp, or other image file format that you have created yourself or have arranged yourself. Any images taken from the internet should be indicated as such on your written explanation. Remember that your visual text should be your original creation, not simply a copy of an image online.
  • A short (2-5 minute) video uploaded to YouTube or other video website.
Student visual rhetoric submission on the flu shot

Your visual text will be graded on your ability to design images and text to make a clear and appropriate visual argument and to be creative and innovative in your use of images and text. Your visual text should be accompanied by a short (1 page) paper in which you answer the following questions.

  • What thought process do you intend for your viewers and readers to go through in order to understand your argument?
  • How do the images, text, and other media forms work together to emphasize or enhance your argument?
  • What ethical, logical, and/or emotional appeals do you make to your audience?
Student visual rhetoric submission on vegetarianism

Final project guidelines

Many professors at the University of Arkansas value originality and innovation in student writing, and good academic writers will explain their own perspective, contribution, or analysis in the context of previous work in the field. Your final project in this class will draw upon many of the skills we have worked on in class, such as paraphrasing, quoting,citing, summarizing, critiquing, synthesizing, analyzing, and arguing. Since this paper is the culmination of your work in Composition I, you should have high standards for your work.

You have two options for your final project. Both of these options require you to contribute original ideas to inform the debate over your research topic or to enhance the understanding of your research topic.

  • Research Paper: Write a 2,500-4,000 word (8-12 double-spaced pages) research paper in which you state, support, analyze, and persuasively argue your own views on a topic.
  • Research Proposal: Write a 2,500-4,000 word (8-12 double-spaced pages) research proposal in which you state, support, analyze,and persuasively argue for a detailed plan of action on a topic.

You may (and indeed, should) revise and expand portions of your previous projects to meet the requirements of this assignment. You must include between 7 and 15 academic sources in your project.

Remember to cite, integrate, quote, and paraphrase your sources correctly and attach a Works Cited page that lists all of the sources you cited in the text of the project. Your project will have two main purposes:to summarize, critique, and evaluate your sources’ divergent perspectives, and to develop your own stance or plan of action fully and persuasively in the context of those sources. You should also include an academic