English Comp (WR 121) Portland Community College - Week 1.1


  • Professor Jenny Woodman
  • WR 121 - Monday/Wednesday - 1-2:50 p.m.
  • Sylvania Campus, HT 321
  • Email: jenny.woodman@pcc.edu
  • Office Hours: Wed, 12-12:50, and by appointment in CT 219, desk 36
Image Credit: NASA

Why are we here?

WR 121 is the first of a two-part sequence of writing classes at PCC. The course focuses on the essential elements of composition: pre-writing, drafting, revising, editing, research, and critical thinking. In this composition course, we will approach writing as a generative process – as a way of thinking, processing information, and exploring the world around us. Using a combination of readings, class discussions, short writing exercises, and essay drafting, students will develop as critical thinkers and communicators who use evidence to support their writing and, subsequently, their academic discourse. Students will be asked to read and identify textual conventions, reflect on their own writing, and offer peer feedback in a workshop setting.

Prerequisites: Completion of WR 115 or COMPASS testing placement into WR 121

But more importantly...

  • This course will prepare you for engaging in academic discourse.
  • Give you transferable skills: you aren't learning to write in order to hand in one paper or (several years' worth of papers); rather, you are working to develop communication skills you will need in any job (or endeavor) you will have for the rest of your life.
  • Shift your view of writing as something only certain people are good at -- writing is just another way of thinking and you can all think!

Who am I?

Dog mom, East Coast transplant, recovered-restaurant-manager-turned-home-chef, obsessive knitter, amateur photographer, recent college graduate, science storyteller writing about ocean health, technology, and women in STEM.

What will you need?

  • 1 - 8 ½ x 11 inch notebook (spiral or composition book will be fine)
  • (Optional, but highly recommended) Modern Language Association (MLA) Handbook (8th Ed) (ISBN 9781603292627) (Purchase used on Amazon or elsewhere, please don’t pay full price)
  • (Optional, but recommended) Strunk, William & White, E.B.. The Elements of Style (1999) (ISBN 978-0205309023)
  • Access to a computer, email, and Internet.
  • The desire to be here.

Course Reading Links

In lieu of a text book, I've pulled together a reading list from some pieces I've loved over the years, which are all available for free online. Each of these essays, articles, and book chapters have served my own writing in invaluable ways and it is my hope they will do the same for you. Since this was rather last minute process, I will likely make adjustments and additions when I meet you all and have a better sense of what will help you grow as writers. In the mean time, here are the links:

Course Elements

Reading. We read to become better writers and communicators. We’ll read more than we can talk about in class, so use your journal to capture and develop thoughts around the readings. Failure to come to class prepared and ready to discuss readings will impact your performance in this course.

Journal and Editing Log. Use your journal to reflect on course readings and make notes of: key points to discuss in class, questions raised, areas of confusion, and areas where readings may serve your own writing. You can also use the journal for brainstorming ideas for upcoming papers. Additionally, each student will keep a log of edits and common errors made in our class writing assignments; you will refer to this frequently on order to strengthen your grammatical instincts and gain confidence when editing your own work.

Papers. In addition to informal writing assignments, you will hand in three papers (#1, 750-word minimum, #2, 1000-word minimum, #3 1200-word minimum). For your final portfolio, you will take one of these three papers, your choice, and make substantial revisions and expansions, which we will discuss during our second paper conference (see below).

  • Paper Formatting: Your papers must be double-spaced, titled and page numbered, with your name and date on the first page. Use a standard 12 pt. font and indent the start of paragraphs. (Do NOT place an extra space between paragraphs; section breaks may be indicated with a border or asterisks.) If your paper will break from this standard and required format, you will need to discuss why and how to do this in advance of submission. We will discuss why this matters over the course of the term.
  • Paper Conferences: There will be two scheduled individual meetings during the term. Class time may be abbreviated on conference days, and attending the conference is mandatory.

Grading. In order to give you the space to grow and freedom to experiment, your final grade will be based on a portfolio of work completed over the term. You will not receive letter grades for specific papers and assignments; these assignments will be marked as submitted and counted towards the process work portion of your grade (see below). You must hand in all assignments to pass this class. Be sure to save all your work and writing activities for your final portfolio.

  • Final Portfolio (60%): Consists of all of your work, including previously submitted papers, invention work, group commentary, one polished and revised paper, of your choosing, with previous draft versions, and a final reflective cover letter.
  • Process Work (20%): Informal writing done towards an assignment, including in-class writing, homework, and drafts of each of your papers. Plan on writing extensively for each paper. Some of what you wrote will be work I will assign to stimulate thinking about your topic and to focus workshop activities. In addition, you’ll want to do invention work of your own, such as trees, maps, and freewrites that help you develop your ideas. Your invention work should be placed in a folder and turned in with each of your papers; it does not need to be typed. Late work will not be accepted without prior approval from me.
  • Participation (20%): Consists of participating in class discussions, workshop activities, and conferences with me—showing up for class prepared, contributing oral and written comments on the work of others, getting drafts and invention work in for conferences on time, and various group work will be considered for participation.

Why grade with a portfolio system?

  • Freedom to experiment: You can try new things and stretch without fear that it will backfire and tank your GPA!
  • Fairer assessment: Your final grade won't be impacted by early papers written before skills and comfort are acquired.
  • Shifts focus to writing over grade: That's why we're here. While grades help us measure where we are in our learning, in actuality they mean very little in the real world. (They do, however, mean a great deal when it comes to scholarships, entrance into graduate school, and some transfers - so please do take care with your GPAs folks!)

Policy Information

Attendance. Attendance is required and will be noted for each class session. Two latenesses will be counted as one absence. Class absences cannot be made up. If you miss more than two class meetings, your grade will drop one letter grade; missing four or more classes, per PCC policy, means you will fail the course.

Flu Policy: Please show consideration for the health of yourself and your classmates. Do not come to class with flu symptoms, and do not return until at least 24 hours have passed entirely free of symptoms (i.e. without needing fever-reducing medication.)


Cell phones. In order to preserve an atmosphere conducive to observation, conversation, and contemplation, no cell phone use will be permitted in class. If there is an emergent situation that requires keeping your cell phone on (silently), please notify me before class begins.

Laptops/Tablets/eReaders. Laptop use is permitted, but only when class activity warrants it. If you must use your laptop in class to take notes (and only to take notes) please sit in the front row to the side. Using electronic readers is permitted, but browsing the Internet during class is not. Failure to abide by this policy could mean that you may be barred from using technology in future class sessions.


  • Email is best way to reach me, and I will do my best to answer emails within 24 hours during the week, and 48 hours over the weekend.
  • Do not email me to ask questions that can be answered by reading syllabus, assignment handouts, and other materials provided.
  • Do not email me after 5 p.m. with questions about an assignment that is due the following day as you have had ample time to ask questions or email in the days and weeks leading up to the assignment.
  • You should connect with at least one or two classmates and exchange email addresses and phone numbers so you can have backup information available in case you miss class.

We learn best when we are pushed ever-so-gently outside of our comfort zones. Sometimes, this means tackling difficult subject matter or looking at our own work and actions critically. To make room for this, I ask that you come to class ready to engage with the materials, with each other, and with me in a manner that is both kind, courteous, and compassionate. We are here to critique our own writing and the writing of others so we may grow, but we are not here to critique each other or our beliefs.


PCC Writing Center. The Sylvania Writing Center is there to assist with any writing project, including essays, response papers, outlines, speeches, resumes, lab reports, and scholarship applications. Each visit is an opportunity to receive one-on-one feedback for thirty minutes from a qualified consultant. Call 971-722-4952 to make an appointment, or drop in to CT 239 Hours: Mon. - Thurs., 9a.m. to 6 p.m.; Fridays, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. (starting 2nd week of term). The Writing Center is not an editing service; rather, the Writing Center is a place where you can brainstorm ideas, troubleshoot problem areas, and get a "second pair of eyes" on your writing. The more polished or prepared you are for the session, the better.

PCC Disability Services. Students who experience disability-related barriers should contact Disability Services (disability.services@pcc.edu, 971.722.4882, www.pcc.edu/disability/). If students elect to use approved academic adjustments, they must provide in advance formal notification from Disability Services to the instructor. I am available to discuss any accommodations you might require to help you succeed in your learning, but I you must see me during week 1 of the term or at the onset of a specific situation. Email: disability.services@pcc.edu | PH: 971-722-4341 | FAX: 971-722-4882 | Video Phone: 503-928-5875

Title IX/Nondiscrimination Statement. Portland Community College is committed to creating and fostering a learning and working environment based on open communication and mutual respect. If you believe you have encountered sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, sexual assault, or discrimination based on race, color, religion, age, national origin, veteran status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability please contact the Office of Equity and Inclusion at (971) 722-5840 or equity.inclusion@pcc.edu.

Student Rights And Responsibilities Handbook. Students are required to comply with the Student Rights and Responsibilities Handbook (www.pcc.edu/about/policy/student-rights/). The Handbook includes the Code of Student Conduct and the Academic Integrity Policy.

Plagiarism. Students caught plagiarizing will fail the course and be reported for academic misconduct. The Academic Integrity Policy can be found here: www.pcc.edu/about/policy/student- rights/documents/academic-integrity.pdf

  • Here is the English Department’s policy: Plagiarism is the act of stealing ideas, passages, or writing of others and using them as one’s own, without acknowledgement or documentation. Intentional plagiarism on the part of a student is a very serious offense and will result in a failing grade for the course. Common instances of plagiarism include such practices as copying sentences from another student’s paper, turning in papers written by someone else, failing to credit the source of ideas, and incorrectly treating specialized information gained from sources of knowledge so widely held that it requires no documentation. Learn proper techniques for documenting source materials. Do not plagiarize inadvertently; remember that you must give credit to the source of borrowed words and ideas.

Weather Alerts/Campus Closures. Should PCC be forced to delay or cancel class because of weather problems, this information will be posted on the web (www.pcc.edu) and will be recorded on PCC’s main phone number (503-244-6111). This information is also broadcast on local radio and television stations. (HA HA HA - to my students reading this from home since the first two classes have been cancelled...)

Flexibility Statement. I reserve the right to modify course content and/or substitute assignments and learning activities in response to institutional, weather, or class situations.


Freewriting Activity

DUE: Wednesday, January 18

Supplies Needed: Notebook or paper, timer, pen or pencil, comfortable space to write, laptop.

1. Find a quiet place without distractions. Read the following writing prompt and then set your timer for 8 minutes. Once you start writing, don't worry about your handwriting, spelling, grammar, or even writing with any sense of logical progression. Just let the words flow. You can even write in incomplete sentences and veer off into lists. The important thing is to just keep writing until the timer goes off. Here's what I want you to write about: Think about a place that you know really well. It could be a room in your home, a favorite park bench, the kitchen in your parent or grandparents' home, or a dreadful cubicle at work -- as long as it is a place you can easily call to mind. Start by walking someone unfamiliar through the space: describe the approach, the size, the layout, and gradually zoom closer in. Why do you know this place so well. What does it feel like to be here? Are there smells? Sounds? Colors? Gradually start to zoom in on something or series of items. Think about running your hand over an object in this place. Let the writing take you wherever it leads...perhaps writing about your kitchen leads you to a specific memory, or you simply create a descriptive inventory of your favorite objects or feelings in this space.

2. When the timer goes off, read what you wrote and then set it aside for a few minutes, a day, or even just an hour.

3. Now, I want you to get on your computer, take this freewrite and edit, revise, correct, and improve upon the writing as best as you can. Hand in on Wednesday (1/18) at the beginning of class. Please have your work typed, double-space, Times New Roman with your handwritten paper from day 1 stapled behind it.

Readings Due January 18

1. Read this page through several times -- the first portion (up to the freewriting above) includes all the information found in our syllabus. Write down any questions you have and we can discuss when we meet face to face.

2. Read: Orlean, A Place Called Midland

3. Read: Orlean, American Male Age 10

Reading Guide:

  • Susan Orlean is one of my favorite authors because she manages to make the seemingly mundane fascinating. Here's a wonderful excerpt from an article about her in The New New Journalism: "New Yorker writer Susan Orlean is known for her quirky stories about "ordinary" people who are not normally in the public eye or consciousness, but in whose very ordinariness Orlean finds something extraordinary. These include a profile of a ten-year-old boy, a woman in suburban New Jersey who keeps tigers, and a New York taxi driver who also happens to be the king of the Ashanti. "An ordinary life examined closely reveals itself to be exquisite and exceptional, somehow managing to be both heroic and plain," she writes ..."I really believed that anything at all was worth writing about if you cared about it enough, and that the best and only necessary justification for writing any particular story was that I cared about it. The challenge was to write these stories in a way that got other people as interested in them as I was.""
  • Take notes in your journal: Keep in mind you are not reading for memorization. You are not trying to write down all the facts in preparation for some test. Rather, you are reading to look at the techniques the authors use to engage you, the reader, with the material. The following questions can be used to trigger your responses or you can take your response in another direction if you would like. NOTE: You don't have to answer each question specifically in your journal unless you want to, but I would like to see you write a one to two pages of written reflections in your journal on Wednesday (you won't be handing this in, but I will be checking).
  • Did you enjoy one or both stories? Why?
  • How do these two stories draw you in?
  • How does the author give you a sense of place?
  • What are your initial feelings about these stories?
  • If you were to have coffee with Susan Orlean, what questions would you ask her?
  • What questions were raised when you read these pieces?
  • What do the author's descriptions and explorations of these two distinctly different worlds offer in terms of a larger message or meaning? In other words, Collin Duffy's story isn't just about Collin Duffy, right? What is the author saying?
  • Are there techniques Susan Orlean used in these pieces, which you could borrow for your own writing?
  • Bring 3 questions per reading to class for a larger discussion on the readings.

I am very much looking forward to meeting each of you next week. Don't forget to go play and frolic in the snow, it will do you good! - Professor Woodman

Created By
Jenny Woodman


Unless otherwise notes, all images are mine.

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