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Course Information

Instructor Info:Daniel Block
Office Extension x6209
Term: 2012F
Meeting Info: Tuesday Thursday
10:30 AM - 11:50 AM Emily Dickinson Hall (EDH) 2
10:30 AM - 11:50 AM Emily Dickinson Hall (EDH) 2

Office: Dakin House Office, #207

Office hours: Tuesday 12:15–1:45PM, Thursday 8:45-10:15AM, and by appointment..  Sign up at

Course description: This writing intensive course develops the communication skills that are necessary for college-level work. The class takes its premise from Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein’s They Say / I Say, which argues that writing well means entering into conversation with others. As Graff and Birkenstein explain, “the underlying structure of effective academic writing… resides not just in stating our own ideas, but in listening closely to others around us, summarizing their views in a way that they will recognize, and responding with our own ideas in kind.” In other words, good writing negotiates a balance between self-expression and effective communication.

To better explore the social activity of writing, students collectively select discussion topics that matter to them. The semester builds towards in-class debates that dramatize the give-and-take of academic arguments. In preparation for this work, we spend the first weeks of the semester studying essays by well-regarded writers and developing a shared vocabulary for analyzing the components of academic writing. Subsequent class meetings address the skills that are essential for persuasive writing, including comparing and contrasting alternative viewpoints, experimenting with different ways to respond, assembling a critical conversation, seeing the other side’s point of view, and assessing the effectiveness of one’s argument.

Course Objectives:

Learning objectives:

- To develop a critical vocabulary for analyzing the elements of an academic essay;

- To write persuasively and in conversation with others;

- To practice revising work in progress.  Special attention given to re-envisioning an essay, self-identifying common compositional errors, and properly documenting the use of outside sources

Enduring goals: On completing the course, students take away an understanding that…

- Writing is a process of intellectual discovery, not only a finished product;

- Thinking takes place on the written page, not just “in your head”;

- Engaging in dialogue with others is more effective than writing in monologue;

- Completing assignments on time and interacting with instructors during office hours are prerequisites for academic advancement at Hampshire

Evaluation Criteria:

In order to receive an evaluation, a student must…

- Attend class and actively contribute to the discussion;

  • Absences: Students who miss three (3) classes without a medical excuse or other serious reason will not receive an evaluation.  Students are responsible for making up missed work. 

- Visit the instructor in office hours twice over the course of the semester; once before Fri Nov. 2nd and once after that point;

- Print out the readings posted on Moodle and bring them to class along with other required course texts;

- Provide discussion questions as assigned;

- Participate in peer review workshops;

- Complete all papers by the assigned due dates;

  • A paper extension may be granted at the discretion of the instructor only if a student requests it more than twenty-four hours before the paper is due;
    • A student will receive no more than two extensions;
    • Unless there are extenuating circumstances, the instructor will not accept papers that are more than seven days late;
    • The instructor will not grant extensions on the final paper  

Evaluation Rubrics:

Additional Info:

Required texts: Available at Amherst Books (8 Main Street, Amherst, 413.256.1547)

  • Graff, Birkenstein, and Durst.  They Say / I Say with readings.  2nd edition.  W.W. Norton, 2012. ISBN: 978-0-393-91275-3.  Paperback.  
  • Lunsford, Andrea.  easyWriter.  4th edition.  Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2010.  ISBN: 978-0-312-65031-5.  Spiral-bound. 

Sequence of assignments:

  • Assignment #1: Finding an issue worth debating – due September 13th        
  • Assignment #2: Ways to respond – due October 18th
  • Assignment #3: Annotated bibliography – due November 6th
  • Assignment #4: Seeing the other side’s point of view – due November 15th
  • Assignment #5: Draft of persuasive essay – due November 27th & 29th
  • Assignment #6: Assessing the debate – due December 4th & 6th
  • Assignment #7: Revised persuasive essay – due date TBD

Feedback: Keep the instructor’s comments on each essay for final review at the end of the semester.  

Email: All communication will go out by email.  Check your Hampshire account often!

Statement of academic integrity: It is an ethical violation to submit work that is in whole or in part plagiarized from other sources.  This includes papers or material copied from fellow students, from published sources such as articles or books, or from website or internet paper mills.  For more information, see Hampshire’s “Ethics of Scholarship."

Writing center: The writing center is an invaluable resource.  For information about scheduling appointments, see this link

Learning differences: Students with learning difference should notify the instructor as well as disability services at the start of the semester in order to arrange for appropriate accommodations.  See this link for more information.

Preferred name and pronoun: Please provide the instructor with your preferred name and pronoun.  Students are also encouraged to let the instructor know if their preferred name and/or pronoun changes over the course of the semester. 

A note on the schedule below: Asterisks (**) indicate that the reading is posted to Moodle.  Print out a hard copy of each e-text and bring it to class on the assigned day.