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writing in and about school

Benjamin Miller EngCmp 0207, Class Number 10912
email: Fall 2016, TuTh 1:002:15pm
office: Cathedral of Learning 617-N class location: CL 318
office hours: Tu/W/Th 11:00am12:30pm or by appointment

Our course website:

All this information and more is posted there. Please sign up as soon as you can!

Table of Contents
I. Course Description
II. Required Textbooks
III. Course Outcomes and Responsibilities
IV. Welcome Letter
V. Avoiding Plagiarism
VI. Available Resources at Pitt
The Writing Center
Disability Resources
Counseling Services
VII. Class-by-Class Schedule
VIII. Grading Contract (separate handout)
For B Grades
For Grades Below a B
For Grades Above a B

Like other Seminars in Composition, this introductory course offers students opportunities to
improve as writers by developing their understanding of how they and others use writing to interpret
and share experience, affect behavior, and position themselves in the world. This particular seminar
will include readings that consider issues of teaching and learning in American education, and for
this reason may be of special interest to students who plan to become teachers. As a step toward
college-level critical literacy, the course is designed to help student writers become more engaged,
imaginative, and disciplined composers, better equipped to handle complex subjects thoughtfully
and to use sources responsibly. This section will require at least one crafted composition or revision
per week, as well as participation in class discussion about writing and education.
1. Graff, Gerald, and Cathy Birkenstein. They Say / I Say: The Moves That Matter in Academic
Writing. Third edition. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2014. Print.
A small and light textbook, TSIS provides templates (fill-in-the-blank guidelines) and rationales for
such fundamental tasks as summary, quotation, agreement, disagreement, and acknowledgment of /
response to counterarguments. A good nuts-and-bolts primer, we will draw on it both for standard
templates and as inspiration to derive templates of our own, for which this book would provide useful

This has been ordered at the University Bookstore, for convenience, but its also readily available via
online booksellers. Important Note: You do not need the anthology. Buy the slim book with the
charcoal cover; save money and weight.

Because writing is in some ways defined by its all-at-onceness, such that questions about one
aspect will lead frequently questions about some other aspect and because the book weighs so
little and takes up little space please bring it with you to every class meeting.

2. Eli Review, located at

This is not actually a textbook, or indeed a book at all its an online platform for focused practice in
review and revision, designed by tech-savvy writing teachers to increase the power of feedback
looping between writers and readers. Im listing it here because its not free: theres a $25
subscription fee that will last you the semester. Create a student account, then use the following
code to join our class:

In addition to assigning writing and peer review exercises on Eli, Ill assign some multimedia
readings from the Eli website regarding forms of feedback and the evidence in their favor.

3. Finally, you will be responsible for locating, printing (if online), and reading additional relevant
texts using the library database system (see links at lower left of the website). I and Pitts
reference librarians will happily assist you in this process.

In addition, I recommend but do not require the following:

Hacker, Diana, and Nancy Sommers. A Pocket Style Manual. 7th edition. Boston: Bedford/St.
Martins, 2014. Print.

A light-weight and easy-to-use style guide, PSM contains advice and guidelines for sentence
construction and grammar, as well as extensive references for citation and documentation standards in
several academic fields. I used to require this, but in light of, Zotero
bibliographic software, and other digital tools, Im trying to minimize costs to you. Still, PSM is well-
organized, decently comprehensive, and slim: a great resource when you just want quick and reliable
answers to standard questions.

Booth, Wayne C., Gregory G. Colomb, and Joseph M. Williams. The Craft of Research. 3rd edition.
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008.

CR contains a surprisingly good presentation of techniques, not only for conducting library research,
but also for developing and defending claims and theses, and even for revising sentences and
paragraphs for clarity. Some exercises may be derived from this book, so anyone desiring a fuller
background and explanation will find it useful.

Bishop, Wendy, ed. Acts of Revision: A Guide for Writers. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook
Heinemann, 2004. Print.

Bishop, a long-time champion of connecting creative writing with academic writing, assembles here a
collection of essays both practical and theoretical (often at the same time) on revision which is to
say, on writing. I will doubtless be distributing at least one of these essays during the semester, but all
are worthwhile.


Students in this course will:
write frequently, building a habit of reading and writing as reciprocal activities;
respond orally and in writing to the ideas in scholarly texts about writing and pedagogy;
respond orally and in writing to the ideas in their peers texts;
revise in response to their own reflections and feedback from peers and the teacher;
use a variety of sentence structures to revise for emphasis and coherence;
distinguish between the content and structure of sentences and larger textual units, even
while they recognize that structure shapes our perception of content;
develop fluency in online composing through participation in the course wiki website;
complete a portfolio containing, at a minimum, three extended shaped pieces, one set of
drafts, and an introductory reflection.

As the teacher in this course, I will:

respond orally and in writing to students ideas and the ideas of scholars;
provide a large number of exercises for generating text, re-chunking how texts are
perceived, and revising texts;
discuss with students rationales for what each exercise is designed to do, and why it ought to
encourage students to retry earlier exercises in later contexts, to support the development of
choose academic texts that balance accessibility for novices with constructive challenges
that allow for learning;
provide background context and guidance in understanding difficult texts;
structure in-class time, especially time spent working in small peer groups, so there is
meaningful work to be done (even if we finish early or run out of time);
build in flexibility to per-class and semester-long schedules, recognizing that the complexity
of writing means insights and lessons do not follow a linear order of development, but leap
from teachable moment to teachable moment;
provide a detailed grading contract that outlines criteria for success in the course, and
communicate with students about their successes, failures, and possibilities.
Dear writers,
Welcome to Seminar in Composition, and for many of you, welcome to Pitt! I'll skip straight
to the essentials for this section:
There are no formal exams. There is a final portfolio, with a practice run at midterm.
Individual assignments will not be graded. If you turn in all the assignments on time, your
minimum grade a personal minimum, not a max or course average will be a B.
You can revise anything you write as many times as you want until you're satisfied. Not only
will you not be penalized for this, you'll be rewarded.
Feeling better yet? Or are you still curious about the actual content of the course, apart from its
mechanics? Either way, I'm glad to hear it!
Now, every Seminar in Composition at Pitt shares a common set of goals, which are usefully
expressed as a shared set of activities. In this class, as your friends will in other classes, you will

1. Engage in composing as a creative, disciplined form of critical inquiry.

In this course, youll compose as a way to generate ideas as well as explain them. Youll
form questions, explore problems, and examine your own experiences, thoughts, and
observations. Investigating a multifaceted subject, youll be expected to make productive
use of uncertainty as you participate in sustained scrutiny of the issues at hand.

2. Compose thoughtfully crafted essays that position your ideas among other views.
In response to reading, listening to, and discussing challenging texts, youll compose essays
in which you develop informed positions that engage with the positions of others. Youll
analyze as well as summarize the texts you read, and youll compose essays that pay close
attention both to the ideas voiced by other writers and to specific choices they make with
language and form.

3. Compose with precision, nuance, and awareness of formal conventions.

Youll work on crafting clear, precise prose that uses a variety of sentence and paragraph
structures. Youll be required to learn the conventions for quoting and paraphrasing
responsibly and adeptly, and youll be assisted with editing strategies that reflect attention to
the relation between style and meaning. Youll also have opportunities to consider when and
how to challenge conventions as well as follow them.

4. Revise your writing by rethinking the assumptions, aims, and effects of prior drafts.
This course approaches the essay as a flexible genre that takes on different forms in different
contexts not (only) as a thesisdriven argument that adheres to a rigid structure. Much
class time will be devoted to considering the purpose, logic, and design of your own
compositions, and youll be given opportunities to revise your work in light of comments
and class discussion, with the aim of making more attentive decisions.

Im not going to lie I kind of love the way these are worded, the attention to nuance, choice,
thoughtfulness, openness. Its one of the reasons Im excited to be at Pitt. At the same time, did
anyone notice that we still havent addressed the content question? Were supposed to investigate[]
a multifaceted subject, but we have a lot of freedom as to what that subject is.
In signing up for this section, youve chosen the broad subject of education anyone
surprised? I know some people pick just based on timeslot and Ive built the syllabus around the
idea that its a writers education well most focus on. That is, well be responding to authors who
have studied the teaching and learning of writing, and who have theories about what it takes to get
better, and what better means. (Fair warning: they dont all agree.) Well test their ideas against
the evidence of our own experiences, and refine our own models that we can use to continue
improving as writers, even after the semester or college (or grad school) is over.
Over the next fifteen weeks, you will write through several low-stakes exercises, doing
some writing or reading for and in just about every class. Some of these exercises will accumulate
into a series of larger, more consciously revised and shaped pieces: one story and three essays, in
all of which a key objective will be to reach some new idea that you and the rest of us will be
excited to read. Your final project for this class will be to assemble a portfolio of those shaped
pieces plus your own selections from your other written work, demonstrating your awareness of
what you've accomplished and how you might accomplish more in the future.
We'll also be reading and discussing (and, yes, writing back to) a number of different kinds
of texts: our "official" textbook, They Say / I Say, which provides a focused set of writerly tools, as
well as rationales for why they're worth using; several published articles and chapters from the
academic discipline of Composition/Rhetoric/Writing Studies, which will serve as both models and
instigations for your own further thinking and reading; and, drawing on the skills developed in the
first part of the course, texts that you gather in pursuit of an academic question of your own.
Id also like you to get in the habit of rereading your own work, updating it as time and
desire dictate, but especially reflecting on the processes you use to create your products to assess
the gaps between what you intended and what emerged, between what is there and what could be
there. To help you improve at this admittedly difficult skill, I'll often ask you to read each other's
work, helping your classmates to discern these gaps by first describing what you see on the page.
One tool we have to help with this process is a web-based app called Eli Review. Built by writing
teacher/researchers, Eli is designed to speed up the cycles of response and revision; to focus our
attention on fewer aspects of the text at a time but more frequently; and to make our responses to
each other more visible, and thus more available for teaching and learning.
This class will not teach you The One Way To Write, or even The One Way To Write For A
College Course. It cant. The situations are too varied, the goals and audiences and assumptions
change, your level of expertise changes as you move from one place to the next. But what it can
teach you, what I hope you will learn, are ways to deal with that uncertainty: a repertoire of options
to draw on, and questions to ask as you move through a complex set of processes that we sum up,
saying writing. If we can do that, youll be in good shape to teach yourselves the rest, in each new
context you encounter.

Excited to read your replies,

Benjamin Miller
(please call me Ben)


This is a collaborative class, in which we offer each other suggestions and constructive criticism.
However, the goal of all this collaboration is to clarify the expression of original ideas never to
substitute someone else's ideas for our own, or to impose our ideas on someone else.

To misrepresent the origins of an idea is plagiarism, and it will not be tolerated.

If you want to cite an outside source, there are ways of giving credit to the original author; section
33 of the Pocket Style Manual presents one standard method of documenting sources, and the
English department has some useful resources at
undergraduate/understand-and-avoid-plagiarism. (See External Links on the wiki.)

If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask, because Pitt takes a very hard stance on plagiarism.
It could get you expelled. Here's an excerpt from the official Policy on Academic Integrity, to give
you the flavor:

Cheating/plagiarism will not be tolerated. Students suspected of violating the University of Pittsburgh
Policy on Academic Integrity, from the February 1974 Senate Committee on Tenure and Academic
Freedom reported to the Senate Council, will be required to participate in the outlined procedural
process as initiated by the instructor. A minimum sanction of a zero score for the quiz or exam will
be imposed. (

A student has an obligation to exhibit honesty and to respect the ethical standards of the profession in
carrying out his or her academic assignments. Without limiting the application of this principle, a
student may be found to have violated this obligation if he or she: []

8. Depends on the aid of others in a manner expressly prohibited by the faculty member, in the
research, preparation, creation, writing, performing, or publication of work to be submitted for
academic credit or evaluation.
9. Provides aid to another person, knowing such aid is expressly prohibited by the faculty member,
in the research, preparation, creation, writing, performing, or publication of work to be submitted
for academic credit or evaluation.
10. Presents as one's own, for academic evaluation, the ideas, representations, or words of another
person or persons without customary and proper acknowledgment of sources.
11. Submits the work of another person in a manner which represents the work to be one's own.
12. Knowingly permits one's work to be submitted by another person without the faculty member's
authorization. (

You have the right to a fair hearing, and Ill talk to you before I talk to anyone else, but its far
easier just to avoid plagiarism in the first place. All clear cases of deliberate plagiarism will be
referred to the appropriate Dean for disciplinary action, including an Academic Integrity Board
hearing. For the University's full policy on Academic Integrity and the adjudication process for
infringements, including plagiarism, go to


The Writing Center

The Writing Center, located at 317B O'Hara Student Center, is an excellent resource for working
with an experienced consultant on your writing. Although you should not expect consultants to
correct your paper for you, they can assist you in learning to organize, revise, and edit your work.
Consultants can work with you on a one-time basis or throughout the term. In some cases, I may
require that you go to the Writing Center for help on a particular problem; otherwise, you can
decide on your own to seek assistance. To make an appointment, come to the Writing Center or call
412-624-6556. For more information, including answers to frequently asked questions, visit

Disability Resources
If you have a disability for which you are or may be requesting an accommodation, you are
encouraged to contact both your instructor and the Office of Disability Resources and Services, 140
William Pitt Union, 412-648-7890 / 412-624-3346 (Fax), as early as possible in the term. Disability
Resources and Services will verify your disability and determine reasonable accommodations for
this course. For more information, visit

Counseling Services
Pitt also offers free counseling for students who are experiencing personal or emotional difficulties.
The Counseling Center, located on the 2nd Floor Nordenberg Hall, offers Psychological Services
and Sexual Assault Services (412-648-7930) (8:30 am-5:00 pm, Monday-Friday) or (412-648-7856)
(after 5 pm, Monday-Friday or on weekends). For more information, see

The following schedule is just a preview; the full and most up-to-date version will be posted on the course
wiki (, including more detailed explanations of each homework
assignment and full lesson plans with space for collaborative notes. This gives me more flexibility to adapt
the specifics to our needs as a reading and writing community.

Assignments are listed (as HW) on the day they are assigned, and are due at 10pm the night before the
following class meeting, unless otherwise specified. You should in general also bring a copy to class, so
that we have access to it for in-class discussion and/or revisions. An electronic copy is fine, so long as it's
already submitted on the wiki or on Eli.

Unit I: Building on What We Know

In this first unit, well introduce and practice moves that will become our constant companions when engaging in
academic work: active reading, reflection, peer review, and revision. The major writing project for this unit is a
narrative, exhibiting a moment in your life that we can examine to better understand a writers education.

Lesson 1, Tuesday 8/30 - Course introduction: The Writers in the Room

o HW: Join the wiki and create a gallery page for yourself; Sign up for a one-on-one
conference with Ben in the next two weeks; read syllabus and come in with
questions/suggestions; buy textbooks.
Lesson 2, Thursday 9/1 - Theories of Writing; Genre
o HW: Read Donald Murray's "Writing and Teaching for Surprise"; post dialogic notebook to Eli;
review a partner's dialogic notebook. Bring in a laptop (or equivalent) if you can.

Lesson 3, Tuesday 9/6 - The world through your eyes

o HW: First draft of Shaped Piece #1 (writing to render experience). Think about engaging the
Lesson 4, Thursday 9/8 - Exercises for surprises.
o HW: Read Shelley Reid's "Ten Ways To Think About Writing"; post dialogic notebook
(enhanced) to Eli; review two partners' dialogic notebooks.

Lesson 5, Tuesday 9/13 - Active listening; concreteness

o HW: Re-read Reid; revise Shaped Piece #1.
Lesson 6, Thursday 9/15 - Audience and intervention.
o HW: Read Kathleen Blake Yancey's "On Reflection"; post a reduce/reuse/respond to Eli

Lesson 7, Tuesday 9/20 - Using sources: BEAM and Academic Conversation

o HW: Read TSIS introduction and chapter 1; do exercise 2 on page 15 (end of intro)

Unit II: Entering the Burkean Parlor

In the second unit, well continue with the examination promised in the narrative of unit 1, using lenses drawn from
scholarly publications to re-contextualize your experience and/or reading in light of academic arguments about
education. The final project will be a source-based essay that links exhibits and arguments to advance your own claims.
Lesson 8, Thursday 9/22 - Your world through other eyes
o HW: Read TSIS chapters 4 (I Say) and 6 (Some May Object). Begin shaped piece #2 by
writing from an exhibit to an argument or from an argument to an exhibit.

Lesson 9, Tuesday 9/27 - Essaying as Argument; Quotation as Exhibit

o HW: Read TSIS chapters 2 (on summary) and 3 (on quotation); extend SP 2 draft
Lesson 10, Thursday 9/29 - In-class writing studio
o HW: Read TSIS chapter 5 (Distinguishing What You Say From What They Say); do two short
reviews for two partners

No class Tuesday 10/4: Rosh Hashanah

Lesson 11, Thursday 10/6 - Workshop; Modes of Revision

o HW: Read Wendy Bishop's "Revising Out and Revising In." Choose 1-3 of her revision
suggestions to bring in a revised draft of SP 2.

Lesson 12, Tuesday 10/11 - Reflection

o HW: Review two classmates' drafts ; work toward midterm portfolio (due Friday)
Lesson 13, Thursday 10/13 - Writers Choice: in groups, workshop writing (SP 1 or SP 2) or discuss texts
you're responding to
o HW: "final" versions of SP 1 and SP 2 plus Reflection due Friday, 10/14.

No class Tuesday 10/18: Pitt Monday

Unit III: Widening the Conversation a.k.a. Research as Questing

"If the writer asks no question worth pondering he can offer no focused answer worth reading." Booth,
Colomb, and Williams

Lesson 14, Thursday 10/20 - From topics to questions.

o HW: Read Booth et al, "From Topics to Questions"; install Zotero and join our group library;
write a research opening reflection

Lesson 15, Tuesday 10/25 - From questions to keywords.

Class meets in the Amy Knapp Room at Hillman Library (ground floor, central hallway, past
o HW: Write research proposal; sign up for conferences before/during Thursday's class
Lesson 16, Thursday 10/27 - Reading alone together; micro-conferences
Class meets in the Amy Knapp Room at Hillman Library (ground floor, central hallway, past
o HW: Make and follow a personal reading schedule that will allow you to turn in a Report on
Research-in-Progress in one week
Lesson 17, Tuesday 11/1 - Perl Guidelines for Composing
o HW: Finish your report on research in progress, and bring to either a conference or Thursday's
class; either way, post to your sp3 page
Lesson 18, Thursday 11/3 - Return of BEAM, now with Stases
o HW: Two arguments, an exhibit, and a model

Lesson 19, Tuesday 11/8 - In-class review, plus generative style

o HW: Read TSIS chapter 9 (Aint So / Is Not). Revise and extend your shaped piece #3.
Lesson 20, Thursday 11/10 - Small-group workshop
o HW: Read TSIS chapter 8 (Connecting the Parts). Revise and extend your shaped piece #3.

Lesson 21, Tuesday 11/15 - Sentence Outline / Writing alone together

o HW: Revise and extend your shaped piece #3, and post to Eli. Full-breath draft of SP3 due
Tuesday 11/22; final due Tuesday 11/29.
Lesson 22, Thursday 11/17 -
o HW: Read TSIS chapter 10 (The Art of Metacommentary). Review two classmates' drafts on
Eli. . Continue revising your shaped piece #3.

Lesson 23, Tuesday 11/22 - Full-draft Workshop

o HW: "final" version of SP 3 and reflection due Tuesday, 11/29

No class Thursday 11/24: Thanksgiving

Unit IV: Looking Back, Looking Forward

"The road goes ever on and on, out from the door where it began" J.R.R. Tolkien

Lesson 24, Tuesday 11/29 - Discuss reflections, introduce Shaped Piece 4

o HW: Read Chapter 2 of //How People Learn//: "How Experts Differ from Novices". By next
Thursday, reread and tag all your pages on the wiki. What does it start to add up to? What
exhibits might you want to include in your SP 4?
Lesson 25, Thursday 12/1 - Theories of Writing for/as/in Education
o HW: Post a draft of SP 4; review two

Lesson 26, Tuesday 12/6 - Workshop

o Revise SP 4. If we're having a party on 12/16, bring in something else to workshop on Thursday.
Otherwise, bring a short excerpt (from 2 lines to 2 minutes) to share.
Lesson 27, Thursday 12/8 - Last real day of class
o HW: Final portfolio due Friday 12/16 at noon;
o If we have a party, bring a short excerpt (from 2 lines to 2 minutes) to share

Final exam slot, Fri 12/16 12:00pm-1:50pm - final portfolio due; farewell party if people can come