Composition I (English 111)
Composition I is a required course for all first-year students at Lehman. It is housed in the Freshman Year Initiative and intended to bridge the gap between high school-level expository writing and college-level research writing, the latter of which is formally introduced in Composition II. In tandem with the Freshman Seminar, it is also intended to teach the process-based skills that students will need to complete college-level coursework and navigate the institution successfully.
My approach to teaching Composition I focuses on cultivating an authentic connection to academic thinking and writing as tools for self-directed intellectual exploration. Most Lehman students enter the composition classroom having been taught (and sometimes browbeaten with) the formula of the five-paragraph essay: introduction, two main claims and one "counterclaim," conclusion. Because I find that this often establishes a flattening sense that writing is a way of doing something correctly or packaging a pre-determined idea, I prioritize disrupting their reliance on that formula. It is my hope that after taking my course, my students are not only better equipped to to take on the challenges of college and professional writing, but also able to see and use writing as a method of connecting with their own individual intellectual lives and of exploring, organizing, working through, and communicating their own ideas.
A great deal of the work of skill-building takes place actually in class, which is what’s denoted by “Workshop” on the syllabus below. The workshops I've developed are oriented towards identifying and cultivating the skills of analytical expository writing, a productive writing process, or both. I've found these modes of experiential learning really crucial to making progress towards the specific pedagogical aims of Composition I, and I hope to find time at some point to write them up and make them available as a resource or a jumping-off point for pedagogical discussion. In the meantime, one resource I'd recommend to anyone considering developing a more experiential pedagogy in the college classroom is Bill Gleason and Diana Fuss's The Pocket Instructor.
You can scroll through my most recent syllabus for Composition I below.
My Composition I course is built around three essays (as the syllabus above would indicate!). The readings in each essay unit are designed to support both students' thinking around theme and their methodological skills. We build from a personal essay in which students interpret their own experiences in light of our readings to a comparative essay that hones close-reading and analytical skill and then to a conversation essay that introduces college-level research methodology. I also assign a close-reading presentation that prompts students to observe carefully and synthesize analytical understandings from their observations. The goal of the assignment structure is to connect individual perspective and intellectual curiosity to the architecture of academic writing, to build formal and methodological writing skill incrementally, and to set up the second semester's introduction of the methods of academic reading, research, and research writing. Scroll through my assignments for Composition I here: