H Sr English and Film Studies

UConn ECE English 1010: Seminar in Academic Writing


Instructor                 Ms. Arri Weeks
Room                         223
Email                         arri.weeks@ncps-k12.org
* I reserve the right to make changes to this syllabus, as the need arises


Welcome!  Congratulations on seizing the opportunity to take a rigorous senior elective.  I hope you will enjoy this course as much as I do, and I look forward to working with each of you to understand how films and visual culture both shape and reflect our culture and ourselves.

This course investigates current topics in film and media studies, using academic writing as a means of making sense of your world.  As a seminar in academic writing, our focus is on developing a writing practice, using films and texts about films to engage in academic inquiry.  As a student in this class, you should expect to engage with academic texts on a critical level and approach writing as a means to explore and refine your own thinking in your compositions.  This is not a film production course, but rather a writing production course. While there will be some opportunities for you to work with imagery, this course is aimed at deepening your ability to LOOK and critically evaluate the medium and its discourse by composing a variety of texts.

Course Inquiry

There are two key lines of inquiry for the course.  The first has to do with looking and what it means to look.  In the 21st century, our world is increasingly saturated with imagery and media messages.  With the proliferation of screens and media at every turn, an understanding of visual imagery and contemporary topics relating to film and media will prepare you to navigate this world with a developed critical lens.  You will learn the difference between passive reception and active, engaged understanding and apply your understanding of visual language to deconstructing images.

Our guiding questions for looking are:

  • What does it mean to be an engaged, active viewer in the 21st century?
  • How is our understanding of the world both impacted by and reflected in images? What is the nature of this relationship?
  • How are media messages constructed using a creative language to convey unique points of view?

Our second focus for inquiry has to do with writing.  Most of you are taking this class for UConn ECE credit, and the course is designed to align with their First Year Writing classes.  The First Year Writing course is a composition course, which is meant to develop your writing process and practice for different modes and genres of writing.  For many of you this will be a different experience for you than your English classes up until this point.  There is no literary analysis essay, no personal narrative, and no poetry…unless (we’ll get into these possibilities later, but in art there is very rarely something that is always true).   What you can expect in this class is that your writing will address directly what it means to live in a visual world, what impact images have, and how images help us make sense of the world we inhabit.  You will explore different processes, structures, and rhetorical devices as you approach different types of compositional tasks.

Our guiding questions for writing are:

  • Why write?
  • What composition skills are necessary to effectively communicate and participate in today’s world?

Course Outcomes

By the end of the semester, you should:

  • Actively and critically read visual texts using visual literacy to: identify the message of the visual; who created it; what creative techniques were used; how different people may understand the image differently; the values and ideologies represented in images; and why the message is being sent.[1]
  • Actively and critically read informational texts, able to identify the main and supporting ideas as well as use texts to deepen and challenge your own understanding.
  • Consider yourself a writer, someone who is able to create and support an idea while engaging in a discourse with other writers, thinkers, and image makers.
  • View writing as a practice and a process of discovery where you continue to explore and reshape your ideas.

Demonstrate basic competency in Information Literacy as defined by UConn’s general education guidelines.

[1]These goals are adapted from the 5 Key Questions of Media Literacy from the Center for Media Literacy


This course does not have a textbook, but rather we read a selection of texts and films. I do not teach the same films and units every semester, but here are the potential units.

  • Intro to Cinematic Language
  • Hollywood, Independent, and Foreign Film
  • Visual Culture & the Act of Looking 
  • Vision and Justice
  • Representing Gender & Film Noir
  • Dystopian, Sci-fi, and the Mythical: Society’s Anxieties
  • Seeing the World: Cinema and other cultures
  • The Power of Cinema

Course Components


While there may be the occasional necessary lecture on key concepts, this is not a lecture course.  This course is run as a seminar and therefore requires your full engagement, meaning you come to class having completed any assigned viewing, reading, writing, or other assignment.  We will conduct both formal and informal discussions.  You will also collaborate with your peers and have group assignments on occasions.  Therefore, it is expected that you are attentive and participate fully each class.  It is your responsibility to keep up with readings, viewings, and coursework to be able to participate effectively and to attend class regularly and on time (see policies).


Although you have signed up for the Seminar in Academic Writing, the writing you do in this class is directly tied to the readings (both textual and visual).  These are academic texts, whose concepts you are applying to your viewings in your writings.  They are challenging and difficult and require that you read actively, carefully, and thoroughly.  You may have to read a piece several times to work through your understanding of the concepts.  Coming to class prepared with questions about the reading is also a key component of success.  These are the expectations, but there is no content here that is above your understanding. For planning purposes, you should schedule an hour for reading when it is assigned as homework.


For each unit, you produce an academic essay and/or project, created both in and out of class.  In order to accomplish this, you will have assignments along the way to develop your thinking and understanding about related topics.  Since writing is a process, you will submit outlines, drafts, and revisions and conference about your essays and projects.  Throughout this process your ideas and concepts should continue to shift, perhaps even change drastically.  You are not expected to have the answers in the first go, but rather use writing as a means to understand.

Conference and Peer Review

Good writers seek out feedback on their pieces, and our class will serve as one of your writing communities.  You will have opportunities and in some cases, be required to conference with me and/or a Writing Center teacher.   We also will conduct peer feedback sessions, allowing you the opportunity not only to receive feedback but also to see the work of the work of your peers as a means to help you understand your own work and process.   Your preparation and engagement during conferences and review sessions are necessary for success.

Information Literacy

Information Literacy is one of the key learning goals of our course. While all assignments will provide opportunities for developing Information Literacy skills, we will have at least one assignment that will be built with this specific purpose in mind. We will work closely with the NCHS Library and may even take a trip to visit UConn’s Library.  This will be the first step in your process toward research for your InfoLit assignment. What you learn about research through this assignment will lay the foundation for scholarly work throughout the duration of your college career. Expect to push yourself out of your comfort zone and start searching and working with information from new kinds of sources and in new ways.

Reflective Component

Good writing and critical thought arise out of reflection, and in this course we will take multiple opportunities to reflect. For each major essay, you will write a brief process note in which you will describe and reflect on the process by which you wrote the essay.

Grading and Evaluation

Those of you taking this course for UConn ECE credit will have two separate grades (a NCHS transcript grade and a UConn transcript grade) since the requirements and demands for UConn credit are based on distinct criteria.

NCHS Grading

≤ 1 = homework checks, short classroom assignments

2 = quizzes, longer homework assignments, discussions, short responses

3 = longer writing responses, periodic journal assessments, class participation

4-5 = formal papers and major projects

Semester Grading



Exam: 15%

The essays that you write over the course of the semester are the largest portion of your grade.  All grades are out of 100 and are weighted according to the amount of time and effort necessary to meet the assignment’s requirements.  Weights will range from 1 to 5:

UConn Grading

The UConn grade is based on the quality of the major composition assignments for each unit and your participation and completion of work throughout the course.   For each unit, you will complete a culminating composition assignment, and these will go toward your UConn grade.

Participation and Learning – 25%

Major Assignments – 75%

  • Anatomy of a Scene
  • Film Review of Dancer in the Dark
  • Visual Culture
  • Vision and Justice
  • Representing Gender
  • Power of Cinema

While there are distinct criteria for each assignment, generally to achieve excellence on your essay it must:

  • Engage with the contents of the prompt and class discussion with vigor and sophistication
  • Set a provocative and challenging purpose that is explored in focused, critical depth
  • Form a cohesive discussion
  • Participate in and advance an idea that participates within the discourse of the other writers and artists of the unit
  • Demonstrate rhetorical awareness


Your UConn grade is separate from your NCHS transcript grade.  Your final UConn grade is based on the following:


As seniors, I expect that you act as the mature, young adults you are.  You should be at the pinnacle of maturity and come to class ready to work, participate, and think every day.  If you follow the basic principle of respect – RESPECT the class, the teacher, and yourself – then you are meeting expectations.

Here are a few basic guidelines:

  • Show up to class every day prepared to think and actively participate.
  • Technology is a part of our everyday lives, and we will use your devices during class. However, when not in use as part of instruction, put them away.  A warning will be issued for any off task behavior.  If the behavior persists, I may take the device.  Please refer to the student handbook regarding the school’s policy.
  • Class starts when the bell rings. If the bell rings and I have started class, it is considered a tardy and will be recorded as such.  Be on time.  Don’t accumulate unnecessary unexcused absences.  It is up to you to keep track of your absence points.
  • Bathroom, drinks of water, and other sometimes necessary breaks: Take them if you absolutely must, but figure out when the most appropriate time is to ask to step out of the class for a minute.
  • Late work- I do not assign busy work. Your homework, classwork, and other assignments are a necessary component of the class for YOUR understanding of the material. Therefore, work is due when it is due.
    • For some assignments late work is accepted with the following penalties: 5% turned in after deadline but by the end of the same day; 10% turned in the following day; 20% turned in the second day; 30% turned in the third day, and no late work accepted after the third day.
  • Attendance is essential to success. Therefore, if you know you are not going to be in class ahead of time, especially due to college visits or Model UN and other field trips, it is essential that you email me in advance.  You are still responsible for the work due and completed in class that day, and any work due that day is expected to be submitted on time.  “I was out” is not an acceptable excuse unless there are extenuating circumstances or other arrangements were made ahead of time.

Plagiarism and Academic Honesty

As the syllabus notes, we examine a variety of films and texts which will and should be used as evidence for your writing in this course.  Citation and appropriate use of sources, therefore, are essential.  I adhere to the Academic Honesty policy in New Canaan High School Student Handbook, and therefore expect that all writing is from your point of view and in your unique voice.  I want to hear what you have to say. If you submit work that is partially or wholly not your own, you will receive a grade of 0 for the assignment with no opportunity to make up the assignment. This is a zero tolerance policy.