Sunday, October 27, 2013

CLU's English 111 (Blog 9)

I did not attend Weber State for my undergrad but my institution, California Lutheran University, had an equivalent to 2010 known as English 111. Weber's 1010 was known as English 101. Based on the placement tests, most students were put into English 111 - only those who scored very poorly were allocated to 101.

The structure of English 111 class was consistent but the topics/books covered depended entirely on the professor you got. The course was a called "Critical Reading and Writing" and each class centered around texts of the professor's choosing. My professor had chosen the theme "The Hero's Journey" and we read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling, Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko, The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston, and Black Boy by Richard Wright. Subsequently, we were given a series of prompts for each text and would write a literature paper based on the prompt of our choosing. Then, we wrote an in class final essay that incorporated all 4 books in some significant way. So, 5 essays total.

The day-to-day experience in the classroom was very predictable. My class started at 8am so many students showed up late and did not contribute to discussion. However, the class period was always the same. We should show up, the teacher would take role, we would discuss what happened in that day's assigned readings, and he would discuss with us the significance of events in the chapter(s) assigned. When we had an essay coming up, he would ask us what kinds of questions we had pertaining to essay structure. Occasionally, this would segue the day's discussion towards composition. I think the assumption was that students placed in English 111 grasped basic essay structure so little time was spent going over composition itself.

Personally, I found the course rewarding but I know several of my peers did not. I believe that the structure of English 111 is geared towards students who already have an affinity for writing. However, if a student still needs help in basic composition, they will lack the instruction necessary to do well in the upper division English course required for graduation.

I believe the course was taught this way to give students an introduction to what it means to write about novels at the college level. I overheard many students discussing how difficult they felt the course was and struggled with critical close readings of popular literature. While I recognize the flawed system of assuming students understand composition, I had a positive experience in the class and got to engage with literature that I likely would not have read on my own.


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