UConn ECE English 1010: Seminar in Academic Writing
Instructor Ms. Arri Weeks
* 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 images 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 composition production course. Your compositions will focus on your ability to critically LOOK, evaluate the medium, and engage in the discourse of the images.
There are two key lines of inquiry for the course. The first has to do with looking and what it means to look. In our 21st century world, we are 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 inquiry focus 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 develops your writing 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 and the humanities 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 your 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 strategies 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?
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.
- Actively and critically read informational texts, identifying the main and supporting ideas and using 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.
This course does not have a textbook, but rather we read a selection of texts and films.
Not only will you learn to evaluate the written word critically, but you will also learn to carefully read visual images. I do not teach the same films and units every semester. An updated list for the year is provided in class.
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 reading and writing. We will conduct both formal and informal discussions. You will also collaborate with your peers and have group assignments. Therefore, it is expected that you are attentive and participate fully each class, contributing to the discourse of the 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). The readings are academic texts, whose concepts are the underpinning to your viewings in your writings. Some of these texts present challenging and difficult concepts and require that you read actively, carefully, and thoroughly. You may have to read a piece several times to work through your understanding. Coming to class prepared with questions about the reading is also a key component of success. These are the expectations, and there is no content here that is above your understanding. For planning purposes, you should schedule 45 minutes to an hour for reading when it is assigned as homework.
Since the focus of this course is on writing, you will be writing a lot and explore different ways of writing. The only way to become a better writer is to practice your writing, just like the only way to become a better soccer player, actor, baker, etc. is to practice. The class provides the context to develop a writing practice. In order to accomplish this, you will have a variety of writing assignments, including informal reading and viewing responses, reflective pieces, inquiry-based essays, and multimodal compositions. Since writing is a process, you will submit outlines, drafts, and revisions and conference about your essays. 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 and continually reshape your thinking.
Conference and Peer Review
Good writers seek out feedback on their pieces. 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 is one of the key learning goals of our course. While all assignments will provide opportunities for developing Information Literacy skills, the final assignment on the Power of Cinema and/or the Image is constructed 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.
Good writing and critical thought arise out of reflection, and in this course we will take multiple opportunities to reflect. You will reflect on your writing practice throughout the different stages. You will also reflect on your engagement with images throughout the course, considering how your ways of seeing change and expand.
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.
All grades are out of 100 and are weighted depending on the amount of time and effort necessary to meet the assignment’s requirements. Weights will range from 1 to 5:
|≤ 1 = homework checks, short classroom assignments
2 = quizzes, longer homework, discussions, short responses
3 = long writing responses, periodic journal assessments, class participation
4-5 = formal papers and major projects
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. If you submit passing-level work in on time, you will receive at least a B for the course. Work that missing components and/or insufficient, your grade will fall below a B. Failure to turn in any of the major assignments will result in failure for the course.
There are six revised composition assignments over the course of the year. Those assignments make up 75% of your grade and your participation in the course is the remaining 25% of the grade. Because we are engaging in a growth model, earlier assignments will be weighted lower than assignments further on in the year.
While there are distinct criteria for each assignment, generally to receive an A 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 with the discourse of the other writers and artists of the unit
- Demonstrate rhetorical awareness
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 – out of sight. Not on the desk flipped over. Out of sight. A warning will be issued for any off task behavior. If the behavior persists, I may take the device to be collected at the end of the class period or the end of day. 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.
- 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, Model UN trips, 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.
- 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.
- This is a college-level course; there should be no late work. If you are absent or have other circumstances that may interfere with work completion, communicate with me before the assignment is due. In some cases, your circumstances will warrant an extension.
- 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. I will not accept work beyond the third day unless you communicate with me directly. Again, there is no reason for late work, and you should communicate with me before an assignment is due.
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. You will also be incorporating images made by other people as part of your discussion in your compositions. 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 find that you’re behind in your work, communicate with me and let’s make a plan.
If you find that the assignment is difficult or you do not understand the concepts or the assignment, communicate with me and let’s make a plan.
If you’re not sure how to cite something, let’s work on it.
I’m here to help you with your writing and learning.
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. UConn assignments are subject to UConn policy.
A Note to Parents
Many of the films deal with mature subjects. Please take the time to review the list of films to be sure there is nothing you find objectionable. The R ratings for films on the viewing list seem to be because of the language and mature subject matter. If there is a film you have further questions about, please do not hesitate to contact me. If necessary, arrangements can be made for an alternate film viewing. In no way will alternate film viewings affect a student’s grade in the course.