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CRW Course Description

College Reading and Writing will introduce you to the skills needed to read and write at the college level and in the workplace.  This course focuses on collegiate reading and study techniques, and it offers you extended practice in applying these strategies to a variety of college level materials. Emphasis will be given to developing critical thinking and reading skills, like identifying main ideas and supporting details, highlighting and annotating text, creating outlines, summary writing, and making inferences. College Reading and Writing also reinforces principles of composition that develop your grammatical competence and writing style.  Through multiple revisions and workshops, you will acquire writing process awareness, self-advocacy skills for understanding and managing assignments, and information literacy skills to prepare you for college and careers. 

This class is designed to prepare you for successful completion of English I (a college level composition course).  I’ll introduce you to the skills needed (and expected) in such courses, as well as the reading and writing skills needed in most college-level classes and by many employers, and I’ll give you lots of opportunities to practice.

Required Materials:

  • Reading Across the Disciplines: College Reading and Beyond by Kathleen T. McWhorter. 5th edition. Pearson, 2012.
  • A Pocket Style Manual by Diana Hacker. 6th edition. Bedford/St.Martin’s, 2012
  • Paper (notebook or binder) for writing and drafting ideas in and outside of class
  • A two-pocket folder to keep all handouts
  • Recommended: A planner (daily, weekly, or monthly).

Course Work:

In this course, you will read and write frequently, turning something in nearly every day.  The goal is for you to read texts from a variety of academic disciplines, with a variety of purposes, and in a variety of styles.  You will also be writing constantly, in a variety of genres, in response to different assignments with different kinds of challenges, and for multiple readers. 

The major assignments include:

  • The Midwest Author Project
    • Author Biography Assignment
    • Reaction Essay
    • Informal Book Talk
  • A reading exam
  • Summaries of complex, college-level texts
  • An Annotated Bibliography
  • A thesis-driven, research-based paper
  • Several personal essays of different kinds
  • A final exam

There will also be many smaller, but also important daily in-class and homework assignments. Doing the homework is helpful in three main ways: 1. It allows you to practice the skills you will need on the quizzes (thereby raising your chances of doing well on those quizzes), and 2. It helps you figure out what you do know how to do and what you need to ask about and practice more, and 3. It give you points, which can act as a nice cushion for your grade if you don’t happen to do so well on the quizzes!

Guidelines for Assignments:

Unless otherwise noted, all major assignments—including drafts—must be typed, submitted to, and follow MLA formatting guidelines, which I will explain later.


Your written work will be graded using the following system:

 “A” work: Student’s work is excellent and goes beyond what was expected. An A essay holds the reader’s attention throughout, shows creative thinking or uncommon insight, exhibits full understanding of the assignment, and demonstrates mastery of standard written English.

 “B” work: Student grasps the subject matter at a level considered very good. A B essay holds the reader’s attention well, shows good understanding of the assignment, and closely follows  standard written English.

 “C” work: Student demonstrates a satisfactory comprehension of the subject matter. A C essay attracts the reader moderately, shows competent understanding of the assignment, and generally follows standard written English.

“D” work: Student’s work demonstrates below average and barely acceptable quality and/or quantity. A D essay roughly fulfills the assignment but falls short of appealing to the reader’s interest, following the assignment, or using standard written English.

These are the grade scales I will use to convert point grades to letter grades and to calculate your final grades:

Madison College Grade Scale              Wisconsin Heights Grade Scale

A         93-100                                    A         93-100             C-        70-72
AB       88-92                                      A-        90-92               D+       68-69
B          80-87                                      B+        88-89               D         63-67
BC       78-79                                       B          83-87               D-        60-62
C          70-77                                       B-        80-82               F          59 and below
D         60-69                                       C+        78-79
F            < 60                                       C          73-77

It is entirely possible that you will receive different grades for Wisconsin Heights and Madison College. The grading scales are slightly different and the specific assignments that make up your respective grades are also likely to be different. If you have questions about this situation, please do not hesitate to ask.

Course Policies:

Reading and writing can be fun, engaging, and rewarding endeavors when you allow yourself proper time to read actively and complete the writing process. These are also skills that are learned by doing, so in order to flourish as a college reader and writer – and do well in this course – it is necessary to adhere to the following policies:

I. Attendance and Class Participation 

In order to succeed in this course, you will need to follow these guidelines: 

  1. Come to class on time and prepared. Carefully read all the assigned readings and complete all homework assignments before class starts as we will often refer to or focus on them in class. Late work will not earn credit.
  2. Read everything I give you or assign to you—it’s hard to do the assignments right if you don’t read the directions.
  3. Ask questions if there is anything you don’t understand. Seriously. Ask.
  4. Finish your work ahead of time for planned absences and make up your work quickly after unplanned ones. If you know you are going to miss class for sports, stop by earlier in the day to pick up work so that you are ready for the next day. It’s hard to catch up once you fall behind and missing class when you were here earlier in the day is not an excuse for not doing the work.
  5. Turn off all cell phones and other electronic devices during class. You may listen to music during individual work time, as long as you are not bothering others.

You will receive a Participation/Behavior/Work Ethic grade every quarter. It's really simple:

0 Points  If you are not here or you are unprepared (including not having your books and/or materials) or are not working, or you fall asleep.

Up to Full Points If you come to class, are prepared, and are actively involved, i.e.: you ask pertinent questions, help other people, make interesting and helpful comments, try to answer questions, volunteer to read aloud, etc. 

When I put this grade into the computer, I give it a 100-point value (the same as a paper grade).

As you can see, I value preparation, involvement and participation very highly.  When you are prepared and involved, you learn.  Simple. These habits of mind and behavior will make you a much more successful student and employee, so practice them now.

II. Peer Review: Don’t be scared; it’s not that hard and it’s actually helpful.

Writing is a social process – for the most part, the words that people put on a page are meant to be read by others.  So that you may experience the social, collaborative element of writing, the class includes frequent peer review sessions – class periods where you work with other students, reading and responding to each other’s writing.  The peer review method allows you to take on different roles within the writing process:  author,audience, critic, and editor. 

Peer editing can be intimidating and it’s sometimes easy to dismiss others’ readings of your papers as unhelpful.  But your writing is meant to be read by others and only improves when you have good readers.  You need to learn to trust others’ readings of your work; you need, also, to provide the kind of readings of others’ papers that you want as a writer. 

III. Late Work: It’s easy to fall behind and hard to catch up.

As a college student, you must take responsibility for your actions and behavior in order to create a successful educational experience, so practice these skills now.  For instance, if you miss a class, it is YOUR responsibility to get what you missed. Plan ahead for classes you know you will miss (like for sports or appointments you know are coming up) and when unforeseen absences occur, check the daily assignment sheet and homework basket and get notes and announcements from a classmate as soon as you get back—ask me for help if those two avenues fail you.

This class will move at a steady pace and assignments will regularly build upon each other and prepare you for what follows.  In addition, we often do group work in class based on the homework from the day before. If you have not done the homework, you may not do the group work either. Therefore, an assignment that is done even a day or so after its intended due date will not achieve the intended purpose (and often simply becomes busy work).  For this reason, all work must be turned in on the date specified or it will not earn credit. If you know you are going to be gone, talk to me as far ahead of time as possible, so that I can help you finish your work before you are absent. Of course, if you are the *true victim* of a sudden and unexpected absence, talk to me and we will figure out a way that you can catch up.

IV. Plagiarism: Know what it is and how to avoid it.

Plagiarism is the act of representing words or ideas of another person as your own. It is unethical and non-academic. Consequences for plagiarized assignments may include, but are not limited to a zero for the assignment, athletic and extracurricular consequences, detention, and notification of parents.

In college, plagiarism can result in an F on the assignment, an F for the course (which can derail your planned major), and a letter in your academic file (which can threaten future employment). It’s a big deal. For Madison College’s policies on plagiarism, see “Academic Integrity” on the Madison College website:

Because this course relies so heavily on sharing knowledge and information in the learning and writing processes, it is important that students learn how to work with sources without plagiarizing, either intentionally or accidentally.

It’s surprising to me how many people don’t really know what constitutes plagiarism. Here are some examples:

  • using someone else’s words or ideas without proper documentation;
  • copying some portion of your text from another source without proper citation;
  • having someone else correct or revise your work (not the same as in getting feedback from a writing group or individual, where you make the changes suggested by others);
  • turning in a paper written by someone else, an essay “service,” or from a website (including reproductions of such essays or papers); and
  • turning in a paper that you wrote for another course or turning in the same paper for more than one course without getting permission from your instructors first.

If you have questions or concerns regarding what may or may not be plagiarism, please come see me.  If you’re having particular problems or anxieties, come see me so we can work through the problem together. I would much rather explain than punish, so give me a chance to help you before it gets to be an issue.

Ways to get the most out of this class:

  • Take responsibility for your education.  Like most college courses, what you get from this class is largely determined by you.  One person will gain a lot from an assignment (or class period) while another person will gain very little.  The difference is in how you choose to approach things.  Take ownership of the learning that will take place in this course.  Find a reason to be here.
  • Follow directions.  You’ll be given an assignment sheet for each major assignment.  Make sure you understand what’s being asked of you before you start, and make sure you don’t stray from the requirements in the process.  And don’t forget instructions re. length, format, due dates, etc.
  • Ask questions. If you don’t understand something, it is your responsibility to get it clarified. If I don’t know what you don’t understand, I can’t help you, so please don’t be afraid to ask. You will probably be doing someone else a favor by speaking up.