Because I believe that growth as a reader and writer stems from consistent practice, I have designed this course to reward both the quality of your finished writing and thoughtful, steady work over the course of the semester.

Semester Grade

You will earn letter grades on the final versions of your two main essays for this course. You will also earn a cumulative letter grade for your plans and drafts, as well as for your attendance and class work. Here is how I will tabulate your final grade:

Essay One 30% 120 points
Essay Two 40% 160 points
Responses, Plans, and Drafts 20% 80 points
Attendance and Class Work 10% 40 points
TOTAL 100% 400 points

You can add to your point total (and thus improve your grade) for the semester in two ways: the digitizing essay two assignment, and the cell phone agreement. I have more to say about both below.


I will assign a letter grade to the final draft of each of your two essays. This grade  will reflect my sense of the ambition, interest, and quality of your writing.  While I can’t reduce this professional judgement to a simple numerical scale, I can say that, in grading your essays,  I will consider your

Project your goal or aim in writing
Materials your use of sources
Voice the clarity and interest of your prose
Professionalism thoughtful attention to detail in the editing and design of your document

I will use this form in assigning and explaining your grade. We’ll go over it later this semester. But don’t fixate on the words on the form. Your task is to write an ambitious and interesting essay in a voice that feels your own. Do that, and you will do fine.

Please consult the final grade tabulation chart (below) for how I convert letter grades into points, and vice versa.

Responses, Plans, and Drafts

I will ask you to develop each of your essays through a series of responses (r), plans (p), and drafts (d). These process pieces will not earn a letter. Instead they will be given points according to the following simple rubric:

10 points Good
5 points Hurried, incomplete, or wildly off the mark
0 points Missing or late

Deadlines are firm. To earn a 10, your work must be on time, thoughtful, and edited with care.There are eight process assignments, so you can earn up to 80 points for this part of your final course grade.

Attendance and Class Work

I expect you to be an active participant in this class.  I will use the following system to track your participation.

1 point Present, class work
½ point Present, no class work, or

Excused absence, class work

0 points Absent, no class work

We will meet 26 times, including required conferences, over the course of the semester. I will start you out with 14 points. That means you can earn up to 40 points for class work and attendance.

Digitizing Essay Two

In the last two weeks of the semester, I will ask you to digitize your second essay and post it to If you do thoughtful work on this assignment—as shown by the images, links, audio, or video you decide to make part of your essay— I will add 10 points to your final semester grade. If in digitizing your essay, you also revise or develop your original written text, I will add 20 points to your semester grade.

Cell Phone Agreement

I realize that it can be hard to resist checking your phone (or other device) for texts and updates. But I think it’s crucial that we focus in class on the work we are doing together. I therefore offer you the following incentive: If you agree to silence your phone and put it away for each class this semester, I will add 20 points to your final grade. The first time that I (or one of the GTAs) notice you checking your phone or social media in class,  the incentive will go down to 10 points. If we catch you a second time, the deal is off.

Missed Work and Plagiarism

I expect you to complete all the work assigned for this course. Missing assignments will count as a zero or F. And I of course expect that all the work you do will be your own. If you plagiarize any of your work for this course, the penalty will be an F for the assignment, and possibly for the course. I am also obligated to report serious cases of plagiarism to the Office of Student Conduct.

Final Grade Tabulation Chart [pdf]