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English 4840 (1002)

Foundations of Teaching Writing


Dr. April Conway

Meeting time: TTr 8:00-9:15 (Spring 2017)



441 East Hall



Office Hours: MWF 1-2 p.m. (and by appointment). Note: I will also be available during this
time via Skype/email/Canvas messaging.
Catalog Description
ENG 4840. Foundations of Teaching Writing (3). Historical and contemporary traditions that
have led to the pedagogy and theories of teaching writing to adolescents. This course offers
specific material and practice in writing assessment, writing assignments, developing writing
groups, peer assessment and information about process involved in teaching writing to
adolescents. Prerequisite: Junior standing.
Course Description and Goals
What do you remember about learning to write? How does one teach writing? If you were
asked to describe yourself as a writer, how would you respond? In what ways might your
experiences as a student (past experiences with writing, reading, learning and so on) influence
how you choose to teach writing? We will spend our time together this semester investigating
these and other questions. Well devote ourselves to reading about, thinking about, writing
about, researching, and discussing various approaches to teaching writing (also referred to as
writing pedagogy).
This course is designed around activities meant to engage and challenge each of us as we
explore the many facets of teaching writing to middle grade and high school students.
Upon completion of the course, then, you should feel confident

identifying, understanding, and critically reflecting on current theoretical and

pedagogical approaches to the teaching of writing;

integrating theories and practice in the development of writing curricula;

developing appropriate teaching strategies for different aspects of composing, including

prewriting, drafting, revision, editing, and publishing that reflect best practices in writing

developing appropriate strategies for responding to, assessing, and grading student

Fall 2016

developing curricular materials that implement Ohios Academic Content Standards for
the English Language Arts with respect to teaching writing; and,

understanding writing as a social, political, and rhetorical act.

Required Texts and Computer Access

You will need regular, extended, and reliable access to various online resources for English

Annenberg Video Series In the Middle and Developing Writers


Our English 4840 Canvas Site

English Language Arts Content Standards for Ohio Schools.


NCTE/IRA English Language Arts Standards (

A (electronic or hard copy) notebook for regular, informal in-class writing. Note: youll
want to keep all informal, in-class writing until the close of the semester.

Various assigned readings (Posted to Canvas as attachments to individual discussion


Two books by Kelly Gallagher:

o Write Like This: Teaching Real-world Writing Through Modeling & Mentor Texts
(ISBN: 9781571108968)
o Teaching Adolescent Writers (ISBN: 9781571104229)

Recommended, but not required (readings from this text are provided on Canvas):
o Zemelman, Steven, and Harvey Daniels. A Community of Writers: Teaching
Writing in the Junior and Senior High School. (ISBN 978-0-435-08463-9 / 0-43508463-1)

Course Requirements and Grade Distribution

Please Note: I post complete assignment descriptions for all projects to Canvas
Major Assignments
Attendance and Participation
Attendance and active participation are critical in this classroom. Class time will be devoted to
discussion, writing, peer review, collaborative learning, and other activities, so if you miss a
class, some of these things cannot be made up. In addition, we will use both face-to-face and
online spaces to interact with each other. Please meet with me immediately if you are
concerned about how to best meet this requirement.
In short, the success of the course is extremely dependent upon active student participation;
that is, on you. We will learn much about the course content and our approaches to writing

Course design adapted from Dr. Lee Nickoson

Fall 2016

pedagogy through thoughtful interactions with each other. As a classroom community, we

count on everyone to be present in class and actively participating. Everyone will need to
complete informal and formal assignments before the deadline in order to ensure timely peer
response and, more practically speaking, to receive credit.
Participation grades for the course break down as follows:
0-3 missed posts or assignments to be eligible for an A;
4-6 missed posts or assignments, eligible for a B;
7-9 missed posts or assignments, eligible for a C;
10-12 missed posts or assignments, eligible for a D.
Thirteen or more missed informal response posts will result in a failing participation
grade for the course.
As you can see from the descriptions of course assignments, I will ask everyone to engage in
many informal, peer-to-peer discussions of various topics including, but not limited to, those
that stem from the required readings. Each of us is expected to participate as carefully,
critically, and reflectively involved respondents to our 4840 colleagues.
I realize that personal issues may arise and you may need to miss class. For that reason, I allow
four (4) absences without penalty, but every absence over four lowers your final grade by a
letter. It is important to realize that I do not distinguish between excused and unexcused
absences. An absence is an absence.
Informal Responses/Questions for Discussion
In addition to reflective teachers of writing, we should also be reflective students of writing. So
well be writing regularly this semester. Most of the writing will be informal responses youll
post to the discussion board on Canvas. These informal but significant texts will be based on
reading and/or writing youll engage throughout the course. I want to encourage you to think of
these responses as way to thoughtfully interact with the ideas, questions, and concerns
presented in various class discussions and texts. In addition, many of these responses will be
used to jot down early ideas for your major assignments, too.
Remember: The goal of these short assignments is to get you thinkingabout writing and how
we might effectively teach it to specific audiences and with specific purposes in mind. There are
no right or wrong responses to or questions on the material presented, then. Rather, well read
(and Ill assess) the responses and questions by the perceived level of thought and care they
represent. For reading/viewing responses this means clear and specific engagement and
references to the text(s). Though I assess for quality of engagement and thought over quantity,
aim for a minimum 250 word count per response. (Complete/incomplete)
Interview/Response Project
What can we learn about teaching writing from current practitioners? What advice might they
have for us? This project provides an opportunity for you to interview a current composition
teacher about her pedagogy and present a summary of and response to what you learn (five-toseven double-spaced pages). (See Canvas assignment for complete description.)

Course design adapted from Dr. Lee Nickoson

Fall 2016

Collaborative Pedagogy Project

What are some of the greatest obstacles facing writing teachers, and what are some strategies
for confronting, overcoming, or effectively managing those challenges? For this project, you
and a 4840 colleague will select what you feel is a key challenge to effective writing pedagogy
and propose strategies for meeting that challenge. Another option is to develop a 50-60 writing
lesson and teach this lesson to the class as though we were your students. Youll have fifty-sixty
minutes of class time to inform us on the topic and its relevance for teaching writing. (See
Canvas assignment for complete description.) Should the independent student be unable to
present in class with a 4840 colleague, she can write a 5 page paper addresses a key challenge
to effective writing pedagogy.
Unit Lesson Plan Project
How does what we read or view for class transfer into actual classroom practice? How might
we make the concepts work for us? Think of this as a hands-on imagining of applying theories
of teaching writing to practice. Youll identify, develop, and articulate a specific unit plan
(seven-to-eight single-spaced pages). (See Canvas assignment for complete description.)
Reflective Narrative/Philosophy of Writing Pedagogy Project
How do you see yourself as a writing teacher? How do you want your future colleagues and
students to view you, and why? We will discuss possibilities for and the parameters and
expectations of the project in more detail as the course progresses, but I will ask you to identify
your approach to teaching writing in the context of the reading, thinking, and writing youve
done for English 4840. (You might think of this as an open-book, take-home final exam.) (Fiveto-seven double-spaced pages.) (See Canvas assignment for complete description.)
Total 100%
Late Assignments
All assignments must be completed and submitted by the scheduled deadline (see course
schedule). If for some reason you are unable to meet the scheduled deadline you are
responsible for negotiating a new deadline with me in advance of the date assigned. To request
a revised deadline for an assignment, you need to e-mail me in advance of the original
assignment deadline asking permission for an extension, clearly stating the reason that you
need the extension, and proposing a new deadline. In other words, please keep me informed.
Late informal assignments will not receive credit.
Revision Policy
As we will read this semester, writing tends to improve when writers are provided
opportunities to revisit and revise their work. In order to enact this best practice, I offer you the
opportunity to revise the Interview/Response and/or Unit Lesson Plan (formal, graded projects
due prior to the conclusion of the course). You have until December 15 to revise. Grades
assigned to revised project drafts replace those assigned to earlier drafts.

Course design adapted from Dr. Lee Nickoson

Fall 2016

Online Gradebook
I will maintain an online grade book for the course on Canvas. Please email me if ever you have
questions/comments/concerns about the information posted.
Email Policy
Please email me if you have any questions and need assistance with anything. If you email me,
I will email you back, ordinarily within 24 hours. However, please do not expect an email from
me before 8 a.m. and after 5 p.m. on weekdays and not at all over the weekend. Additionally, if
you dont receive my email reply, this means that I did not receive your message and that you
should discuss the content of your email with me personally.
Technology Concerns
In addition to saving your work often and in more than one place. I recommend you back up
your work, too. There are several free backup services online (e.g., It may also
be a good idea to email your drafts to yourself, or save it to an external hard drive.
Non-Sexist Language
In keeping with the latest style guidelines in most professions, I ask that we work to avoid sexist
language both in our oral and written communications: male pronouns refer specifically to
males; female pronouns refer specifically to females. I would suggest alternating between she
and he.
Accessibility Statement
Disability Services provides equal access and reasonable accommodations to students with
disabilities attending BGSU. Students wishing to discuss their eligibility for such
accommodations are encouraged to contact the office at phone: 419-372-8495, fax: 419-3728496, or email:
We each have different learning styles and preferences and will be challenged more when
those styles and preferences arent met. I have tried to design this course with that in mind so
that you will have opportunities to learn and present your work in the way you prefer. For
instance, you will write informal responses in this class; if you work better making a video or
audio response instead of a written response, you have that option. If you require an
accommodation, please see the note in the paragraph above. In addition, all students have
access to support services, including the Learning Commons, which can offer feedback for all of
our writing assignments.
University Policies
Academic Honesty
The Academic Honesty Policy is designed to enhance and sustain an environment of ethical and
principled intellectual pursuit, consistent with the core values of the University. This policy is
based on respect for intellectual property as well as for one another. Academic honesty is
essential to the academy.

Course design adapted from Dr. Lee Nickoson

Fall 2016

Please refer to BGSUs current Student Handbook (available online) for more information
regarding BGSUs academic honesty policies and penalties for violations. These policies and
penalties apply to our class.
Religious Holidays
It is the policy of the University to make every reasonable effort to allow students to observe
their religious holidays without academic penalty. In such cases, it is your obligation to provide
me with reasonable notice of the dates you will be absent. Should you need to miss a class due
to a religious holiday, understand that absence from class does not relieve you of responsibility
for completing work. Consult with me well before you leave for the holiday to find out what
assignments will be due while you are absent, and you should have the assignments turned in
to me prior to missing class.
University Closure Due to Bad Weather
In most cases, the University will not close for winter conditions unless the Wood County
Sheriffs Department declares a Level 3 emergency. Closing information will be communicated
through BGSUs AlertBG text system, BGSU e- mail notification, BGSUs website, and Toledos
Television stations. (Note: You can sign up for AlertBG by signing into MyBGSU and clicking on
the AlertBG tab at the top of the page.)

Course design adapted from Dr. Lee Nickoson

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