Required Texts and Materials

If You’re Trying to Teach Kids How to Write, Revised Edition, by Marjorie Frank
A Writer’s Reference, 4th Edition, by Diana Hacker
Course Packet for English 399: Writers Helping Writers

Course Goals

The primary goals for this course are:

  • To improve both your writing skills and those of students at Stivers School for the Arts, while encouraging them to continue their education through college.
  • To help you form a diverse community with Stivers students and to explore the richness and complexities of that community.
  • To engage you in critical thinking about the complexities of community/communal life and about the impact of an individual’s actions within a community.


Description of Course

In English 399, you will act as writing coaches for a class of students at 5tivers School for the Arts. This community service project is the heart of the course, but the course itself has three major components. These components wilI overlap and inform one another throughout the quarter, enhancing your learning and helping you achieve the course goals.

First Component: Orientation
The purpose of the orientation phase of the class is to prepare you for the work you will do with a class of sophomore honor students at Stivers every Thursday. Some of class time each Monday will be given to this preparation. We will get acquainted with the state of Ohio’s schools in general. And we will read selections from the course packet, respond to those readings in class discussions and in class and out of class writings, and develop questions that will help focus a critical exploration of our community experience.

Second Component: Experience
The experiential portion of the class, of course, consists of your work with the Stivers students every Thursday. During this part of the course, you will work with a group of 3-4 high school students, guiding them through the processes of writing two different essays. You will give them feedback on their writing; and since you will be writing the same papers right along with them, they can give you feedback on yours, as well. In this portion of the course, it will be important to remember that high schools and universities operate differently in a number of ways. For one thing, teachers in high schools don’t work from a course syllabus. They plan their projects in much smaller segments or units than do college instructors. Therefore, we may sometimes be in a sort of plan and learn as we go situation. We will need to be flexible in order to work effectively with the class at Stivers.

Third Component: Reflection
What makes a community service experience a service learning experience is the knowledge gained through reflection. In this component of the course, you will
reflect on your observations, thoughts, and feelings in reaction to the service experience through discussions and writing. Keeping service log and writing a final reflective essay are two of the concrete activities that will help you think through and communicate your reflections.

Course Requirements

Your grade for the course will be based on the following:
Daily Writing 25%
Essay 1 (I Search Essay) 25%
Essay 2 (To Be Announced) 25%
Final Reflective Essay 25%

You will receive a handout describing the three writing assignments at the appropriate time.

  • Daily Writings
    You will have some in class or out of class writing due almost every time class meets. It may be a service log entry, a plan for your Stivers work session, a quiz or free-write based on the readings, pre-writing for an essay, a draft, feedback on classmates’ writings, etc.
  • Service Log
    Service log entries are a particular type of daily writing that deserve and, perhaps, require additional explanation. As mentioned earlier in the syllabus, without the opportunity to reflect on the service experience, it becomes simply a community service project, not an academic learning project. However, this is a course for college credit; and as such, it has its own set of learning objectives that must be addressed. The service log entries give you a place to “digest” your experiences in the service project, to process them and connect them cognitively to other experiences and areas of knowledge.

Therefore, after every workshop session at Stivers, you will need to write a log entry that

1. describes what happened in your group
2. demonstrates critical thinking about those events.

Occasionally, I will give you specific prompts to guide you, but you are always welcome to take your thinking in other directions.
Here are some ideas to help get you started.

  • Describe the school building or the classroom. How does it compare to your own junior high or high school? What were your initial reactions to seeing it? How do the students seem to feel about their school?
  • Narrate the events in your group’s work session. What did you or others do and say? What reactions did you observe? How did you feel at the time? How do you feel now in retrospect?
  • Describe Ms. Bohman (the teacher we will be working with). How does she compare with your junior high or high school teachers? What could you learn from observing her?
  • What puzzles, surprises, excites, troubles, or angers you about the school, the students, etc.?
  • What problems do you see in the school, the education system, the lives of the students in your group, or any other reality you observe
    at the school? What solutions can you imagine to these problems?
  • What questions would you like to ask someone (Ms. Bohman) or check out through research?
  • What kinds of personal or social situations can you observe that might have an impact on these students’ ability to learn? What evidence do you see of this?
  • Evaluation of Daily Writings
    You must be present in class to receive credit for that day’s writing. All out of class assignments must be complete at the beginning of class on the assigned
    day. If you should miss a class, you must come to the next class with all the work that is due on the day you return, as well as the work that was due the day you were absent. The late work will receive less credit unless documentation is provided to demonstrate that you were unable to attend on the due date. When I grade daily writing, I am not looking at organization, punctuation, etc., as I will in your formal essays. Rather I will be weighing the amount of effort demonstrated in the degree of thoroughness, the depth of critical thinking, the number of insights, etc.

Course Schedule

Week 1 T 3/28 WSU In class: Introduce course and syllabus. Get acquainted.

Th 3/30 WSU Assignment: Read the first section, “Community Service and Service Learning,” in the course pack.

In class: Discuss service learning.

Week 2 T 4/4 WSU Assignment: Read Chapter 1 and 3 in If You’re Trying.

In class: Discuss reading and plan first visit to Stivers.

Th 4/6 Stivers Meet behind Millett at 9:00. We’ll take my green mini van.
At Stivers, we’ll form groups, get acquainted and
brainstorm for I Search paper topics.

Week 3 T 4/11 WSU Assignment: Read Chapter 4 and 5 in If You’re Trying.
Service Log #1 due. Also, bring to class all your
research/sources for your I Search essay.

In class: Discuss readings, do prewriting activities, and
plan Stivers visit.

Th 4/13 Stivers Work through prewriting activities.

Week 4 T 4/18 WSU Assignment: Read Chapter 6 in If You’re Trying. Service Log #2 due.

In class: Discuss readings, logs, next Stivers visit.

Th 4/20 Stivers Assignment: 1st draft of I Search essay due.
Lead group in responding to each other’s first drafts.

Week 5 T 4/25 WSU Assignment: Read “The Writing Response Group” in course pack.
Service Log #3 due.

In class: Discuss readings and logs. Plan peer responses to

Th 4/27 WSU Assignment: Read Chapter 9 in If You’re Trying.
Revision of I Search essay due (bring 2 copies).
In class: Peer responses to drafts. Discuss

Week 6 T 5/2 WSU Assignment: Read Chapter 7 in If You’re Trying.

In class: Discuss reading, Essay 2, and next Stivers visit.

Th 5/4 Stivers Assignment: Final draft of I Search Essay due.
Share/publish final drafts. Introduce Essay 2 and

Week 7 T 5/9 WSU Assignment: Read “The Language of Response” in
course pack. Service Log #4 due.
In class: Discuss reading, logs, and next Stivers visit.

Th 5/11 Stivers

Week 8 T 5/16 WSU Assignment: Read “Response Groups in Action” in
course pack. Service Log # 5 due.
In class: Discuss reading, logs, and next 5tivers visit.
Introduce Final Reflective Essay.

Th 5/18 Stivers

Week 9 T 5/23 WSU Assignment: Bring all logs to class. Service Log # 6 due.

In class: Discuss logs and next Stivers visit. Do romancing for Final Reflective Essay.

Th 5/25 Stivers

Week 10 T 5/30 WSU Assignment: Draft of Final Reflective Essay and Service Log due #7.
In class: Plan final visit to Stivers and celebration.
Respond to peers’ drafts.

Th 6/1 Stivers Assignment: Final draft of Essay 2 due.
Share/publish final drafts. Celebrate!
Finals Week T 6/6 WSU Final Reflective Essay due in my mailbox by noon.