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English 101 Essays Reading And Writing Composition

Statement of Mission and Course Goals

Recent research into the role of first-year writing reveals that first-year writing courses are best used to encourage meta-awareness of the genres, contexts, and audiences that writers encounter in college (see Anne Beaufort, Writing in College and Beyond). English 101, which the great majority of incoming students take their first or second semester in college, serves as an important introduction to the culture of the academy—its habits of mind, conventions, and responsibilities. Its central purpose is to immerse students in the writing, reading, and thinking practices of their most immediate community: the university. Students explore how literacy works, both within the academic and without, through extensive inquiry-based writing.

English 101 focuses on engaging students as writers and building the reflective awareness needed for success in a wide range of writing experiences within the university. In English 101, students write consistently, receive feedback on their writing and give feedback to others, are introduced to academic writing conventions (including using the library, integrating sources, and using a citation system), engage with challenging readings, and begin putting others’ ideas in conversation with their own. Because writing in the 21st century means composing in a wide variety of print-based and digital environments, the 101 curriculum encourages students and instructors to work in online environments as is appropriate.

The overall goals, outcomes, and curricular components for English 101 and 102 have been developed locally through discussion and collaboration among instructors in the First-Year Writing Program. They are directly informed by our annual student assessment process, and they have been written within the framework of nationally accepted outcomes for first-year composition. The yearly assessment reports are available at the First-Year Writing Program website; the Council of Writing Program Administrators Outcomes for First-Year Writing are available at their site.

What You Should Know about This Course

Rhetorical Knowledge

Writing effectively involves making a multitude of choices. Many of these choices are determined by the rhetorical situation—the writer’s purpose, the writer’s audience, the nature of the writer’s subject matter, and the writer’s relationship to the subject. English 101 is intended to increase students’ awareness of rhetorical situations—within each writing project at the university, and beyond. Students learn that language has consequences and writers must take responsibility for what they write.

In English 101, students to take responsibility for the ideas they discover as writers—ideas that occur through engaging with a range of materials in independent research and considering how one’s own perspectives add to those of an ongoing conversation. The course frequently puts students at the center of their own discourse, challenging them to discover and express their own ideas and to make their ideas convincing or compelling to others.

Critical Thinking, Reading, and Writing

In English 101, students work with readings that stretch them intellectually; readings may be challenging, or may be in genres with which they are less familiar. Generally, readings in English 101 center on intellectual challenges and questions—that is, they are written to respond to and extend the conversations in academic communities of various kinds. However, instructors sometimes also provide a wider range of nonfiction texts as they guide students toward becoming more flexible readers. While English 101 is a primarily a writing course, it is also a course in rhetorical reading. Students learn how to engage with a variety of texts, how to understand a writer’s argument, and how to actively critique and respond to the ideas of others.

Knowledge of Process and Conventions

Part of helping students to embrace writing as a lifelong practice is to emphasize that writing itself is a kind of inquiry, a way to think and learn. It is not simply a means of recording what one already knows. English 101 creates the conditions that allow students to gain confidence as they discover what they think through writing, helping them see that this process can be used in any subject, any discipline, and almost any situation that demands thought.

How students view themselves as learners and what motivates them to acquire a particular body of knowledge strongly influences students’ learning. As instructors of an entry-level writing course, we believe that students’ experience with language and language use in the course should be a positive one, and this will provide the basis for the development of writing strategies and practices. As a consequence, English 101 focuses, in part, on the affective dimension of writing and thinking processes; the course encourages students to believe that reading and writing are meaning-making activities that are relevant to their lives, within school and without.

A Final Note about the Activity of Writing

In English 101 students work within a community of writers in which they understand that membership implies engagement with each others’ struggles to make meaning. They experience writing as a social interaction for a particular purpose, for knowledge is not created in isolation but through dialogue and writing shared with a real audience. The writing classroom functions as an intellectual community in which students are encouraged to think freely and deeply, where difference is not only accepted but is also seen as an opportunity for learning.

English 101 Student Outcomes

By the end of English 101, students will be able to

  • apply strategies for generating ideas for writing, for planning and organizing material, for identifying purpose and audience, and for revising intentionally;
  • produce writing in non-fiction, inquiry-based genres appropriate to the subject, context, purpose, and audience;
  • integrate evidence gathered from experience, reading, observations, and/or other forms of research into their own writing in a way that begins to complicate their own understanding;
  • use a variety of strategies for reading and engaging with a range of material;
  • use an academic documentation style, even though they may not show mastery;
  • revise to extend their thinking about a topic, not just to rearrange material or “fix” mechanical errors;
  • articulate the rhetorical choices they have made, illustrating their awareness of a writer’s relationship to the subject, context, purpose, and audience;
  • provide appropriate, engaged feedback to peers throughout the writing process;
  • produce prose without surface-level convention errors that distract readers from attending to the meaning and purpose of the writing.

Curricular Components

The curricular components listed here only begin to capture the energy and commitment necessary for student success in a first-year writing course. Individual instructors work within these outcomes and curricular expectations in a variety of ways.


  • Students in writing classes continuously produce written work. This includes evaluated work, such as formal assignments and subsequent revisions, as well as informal and non-evaluated work, such as research blog entries, annotated bibliographies, collaborative wikis, in-class writing exercises, reflective logs and memos, rough drafts, and peer responses. Students can expect to write a considerable amount of informal and non-evaluated work from which their formal, evaluated work may grow.
  • Instructors generally assign four projects, at least two of which encourage students to integrate outside sources and perspectives to inform, complicate, and/or extend their perspectives. Instructors will encourage student writers to draw purposefully on a range of sources, including (but not limited to) personal experience, observation, interviews, field work, and text-based sources—both online and in print—in a wide variety of ways.
  • Students produce the equivalent of 20 or more pages’ worth of “final draft” material. As students work in digital spaces, the writing produced should be appropriate for those genres and media.
  • English 101 is a revision-based writing course. At the end of the semester, students select at least two “final draft” projects to substantially revise and also write an extensive portfolio cover letter. Taken as a whole, the revisions and reflection demonstrate how students have met or exceeded the assessment scoring guide for English 101. The final portfolio generally accounts for a significant portion of students’ final grades.

Reading and Research

  • Instructors encourage students to engage with readings through a variety of critical reading strategies. These may take the form of informal, in-class work as well as annotated bibliographies, source reports, double-entry journals, and reading workshops of various kinds.
  • Instructors will provide an introduction to library references and methods of citing sources.

Course Community

  • Writing courses are highly interactive and depend on frequent feedback, discussions, and in-class workshops. Attendance, in-class participation, and respect for submission deadlines are expected in writing classes.

We believe that writing is both a serious, powerful activity and a highly pleasurable one. Writing can be powerful because the writing you do matters: it affects people. It is pleasurable because putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) to shape sentences, paragraphs and essays engages one with the tones, rhythms, and textures of language. It is also pleasurable to communicate successfully something that matters to others.

We also approach writing as a social, even ethical, activity because, when we write, we have to think carefully about the relations we already have with one another and about the ways the choices we make in our writing may bring about new or different relationships. Sometimes when we write, we write to figure out what we want to say: we write to learn or to discover, without thinking of the writing as communication. But mostly when we write, we write to other people because we want or need to do something that only writing can enable us to do.

We hope, then, that in your writing classes you both take writing seriously and have some fun with it. Continue to play with words and sentences as you have been doing since you first began to speak (and later write).

Finally, we make a request of you: please remember that these are classes about writing and communication, so please communicate throughout the semester with each other in class and with us. Let us know what you think about your composition classes and what you think about the writing you are doing here at UWM.

Goals for First-Year Writers

While each composition course has a set of specific goals and practices that are particular to its place in the sequence of courses, all composition classes share a common set of goals:

Critical Reading/Critical Writing Connections: Writers will use writing and reading for inquiry, learning, thinking, and communicating.

Writing Process Strategies: Writers will use their writing as a means of developing a critical perspective on their reading.

Shaping and Communicating Meaning: Writers will develop purposeful essays that provide adequate context for readers.

Knowledge of Academic Writing Practices: Writers will develop knowledge of academic writing conventions.

Critical Reflective Practice: Writers will reflect critically on, evaluate, and revise their own reading and writing practices in light of academic and other reading and writing practices and course goals.

Sequence of First-Year Writing Courses

English 100 – Introduction to College Writing and Reading

(4 credits, 4 graduation credits)

English 100 introduces students to college-level reading and writing strategies in a supportive workshop community. Components of the course include a three-credit reading and writing course, a one-credit weekly discussion lab, and required attendance at the UWM Writing Center. Through a sequence of assignments, students will critically interpret texts and reflect upon their interpretations. In doing so, students will develop skills of rhetorical analysis and essay writing, culminating in a final portfolio of revised written work.

English 101 – Introduction to College Writing

(3 credits, 3 graduation credits)

English 101 introduces students to college reading and writing practices through a sequence of writing assignments that integrates critical reading, writing, and reflection. Thus, the course is intended not only to build on but also to complicate students’ knowledge of texts and reading and writing practices.

English 102 – College Writing and Research

(3 credits, 3 graduation credits)

English 102 introduces students to academic research writing through a sequence of assignments in which students pose and investigate questions in response to their reading of course texts. The course builds on and complicates students’ understanding of the purposes and practices of research writing by asking students to investigate and engage in academic inquiry and presents academic inquiry as a process of positioning and developing one’s ideas in relation to others. Additionally, the course asks students to critically reflect on their reading, writing, and research strategies and those of their peers.

ESL 118 – Advanced College Writing in English as a Second Language

(3 credits, 3 graduation credits)

ESL 118 is equivalent to English 101 and is taught by instructors who are experienced working with writers whose first language is not English. Class size is limited to 16, and instruction is designed to help students strengthen their reading and writing in English.

Students qualify for ESL 118 by taking the ESL-PIC test or by passing a lower level ESL writing course. Find more information about the ESL-PIC test and ESL writing courses here: http://www4.uwm.edu/esl/.

Virginia Burke Writing Contest

The Virginia Burke Writing Contest honors first-year writers whose essays are judged the best of the year. It is named in honor of the late Professor Virginia Burke, an outstanding professor of English Composition who was devoted to undergraduate writing instruction at UWM. At the annual awards ceremony, first-place winners read their essays aloud; a reception follows the awards ceremony. This event brings students, teachers, administrators, family, and friends together to celebrate the academic achievements of UWM students.

Writing Program Administrators

  • Shevaun Watson (watsonse@uwm.edu), Director
  • Deb Siebert (dsiebert@uwm.edu), Lead Coordinator
  • Brooke Barker (barkerb@uwm.edu), Composition Program Assistant
  • Molly Ubbesen (mubbesen@uwm.edu), 101 Coordinator
  • Chris Lyons (bobdylan@uwm.edu), 102 Coordinator
  • Joan Ruffino (ruffino@uwm.edu), 100 Coordinator
  • Terry Thuemling (thuemlt@uwm.edu), Lead Mentor
  • Kristin DeMint Bailey (kdemint@uwm.edu), Digital Literacies Specialist
  • Robert Bruss (rlbruss@uwm.edu), Teaching Mentor
  • Jeremy Carnes (jcarnes@uwm.edu), Teaching Mentor
  • Adam Andrews (andrewsa@uwm.edu), Assessment Specialist
  • Vicki Bott (vlbott@uwm.edu), Basic Writing Specialist
  • Marci Bigler (mbigler@uwm.edu), Basic Writing Specialist
  • Neil Simons (simonsna@uwm.edu), Basic Writing Specialist


First-Year Composition Program

Shevaun Watson

UWM Writing Center

Margaret Mika, Director

Writing Center locations

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