FAQ: English Composition I and II
What are the required texts for English Composition I or English Composition II?
Can I require students to buy texts that aren't required by the department?
No. Instructors can require students to buy or rent only the texts required by the department. You may list any other texts as "optional" on your syllabus, or you can copy and hand out excerpts from any supplemental readings that you wish to assign. Please remember, though, that the majority of the reading that you assign must come from the required texts. Students should be making enough use of the required texts to justify the purchase or rental price paid for them.
Can students test out of English Composition I and English Composition II?
The English Department has departmental exams that students can take if they feel that they possess the skills the courses teach. However, the success rate for those who take the exams is not high, and students are generally encouraged to take the courses instead.
Should I give some kind of diagnostic on the first day of class? Is there a standard one?
You should give a diagnostic essay on the first day of class to help you get a sense of your students’ ability. If you feel that a student is potentially misplaced, please contact the Chair to arrange a reading of the diagnostic essay, but please know that students cannot be forced to move backwards in the course sequence. It's important, furthermore, if you feel that a student might have difficulty, that you talk to the student in as positive a way as possible, suggesting one-on-one conferencing and visits to the Academic Support Center, for example. What we need to avoid is giving the student a sense that failure is a foregone conclusion. Diagnostic essays are not to be graded or returned to students.
There is a standard diagnostic assignment in place for developmental classes (ICRC I and II). If you would like to use the same one for English Composition I or II, contact the Adjunct Liaison.
If you wish, you may use the ICRC diagnostics for English Composition I and II as well, or you may create your own, using the ICRC diagnostics as models.
How many essays are required for English Composition I and II?
The course outlines for both English Composition I and English Composition II call for "4-5 out-of-class essays of 4-8 pages" each and at least three in-class essays, including the final exam. In both of these courses students should write at least 25 pages of graded work over the course of the semester; this includes all of the in-class essays and the final drafts of the out-of-class essays. Rough drafts of the out-of-class essays do not count toward this page requirement.
Within these requirements, how you divide the 25 pages across all of the in-class and out-of-class essays is up to you. It can be useful to assign shorter papers in the beginning of the course and longer ones later in the course to help students build up their skills.
How should research be incorporated into English Composition I and II?
Research can be daunting for both the instructor and the student. Begin by focusing on teaching students how to integrate quotations and paraphrases from the textbook so that students get comfortable with that skill. Then integrating sources from the library will not be quite so overwhelming. English Composition I requires that at least one out-of-class essay be based on research; English Composition II requires that more than one out-of-class essay be based on research. Each course also requires an information literacy instruction session led by a librarian, which should come before the research-oriented assignment. It’s helpful to provide the librarian doing the instruction with your assignment so he or she can teach your students how to find sources appropriate for that particular assignment. It's also helpful if the research the students do becomes part of an essay that is still an argument essay, rather than a straight report. Students could even return to a previous essay they wrote without sources and find sources to back it up and revise it as such. Or, you could encourage students to choose an essay from the textbook and take it in a new direction, supported with research. There are a variety of options available to you. The library instruction session will teach students how to look up the books in the library's catalog and find them in the library, how to find articles in the library's databases, and how to search the web effectively.
How do I schedule an information literacy instruction session for my class?
You can schedule a session through the library's web site. It's best to schedule the instruction session before the semester begins so you can increase your chances of getting your preferred day and time. (We run a lot of sections of English Composition I and II, so the available day/time slots go quickly.) The session generally takes up a regular class period of eighty minutes and usually includes time for students to practice doing research.
In addition, if you decide that students would benefit from more time in the library for them to work independently (but so that you're all together), you can let the library know you'd like to reserve the library computer lab for your class. There is no formal instruction provided; you will be responsible for effectively structuring your class time in the lab. However, for English Composition I and II, you need to do the formal library instruction first.
Update August 2013: The library no longer offers information literacy sessions for classes that meet at 7:00 a.m. If your class meets at 7:00 a.m., your students will need to fulfill this requirement by doing the online research tutorials used by online composition courses (see below).
I'm teaching English Composition I or II online or at an off-campus location. How do I arrange an information literacy session for my class?
Students in classes that meet online should be assigned to complete the activities in the library's online research guide for English Composition I or English Composition II in lieu of attending an in-person information literacy session at the library.
If you teach at an off-campus location such as Bridgewater, you have the choice of either using the online research tutorials or requesting an in-person visit by an RVCC librarian. (This works best if you teach in a classroom with computers.) If you wish to schedule an in-person visit by a librarian, then when you request an information literacy session please clearly indicate that you teach at Bridgewater and would like the librarian to visit your class.
Updated 6/23/14 by SA