Folsom cordova unified school district vista del lago high school

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Beginning Composition Syllabus/Course Expectations 2015/2016

Instructor: Patrick Crean M.A.

Office Hours: 7:15-7:45am & 1:40-3:10pm in H204 and by appointment

How to reach me: 916-924-2419 Ext. 410364


Website: Please see link on Vista del Lago teacher webpage

Additional Resource Site: (
Course Description
Beginning Composition is a 9th grade required course designed to help students become skilled writers by engaging them in thoughtful writing that will extend across the content areas. Because the course is designed to integrate thinking, reading, and writing, students will become aware of writing as a process and deepen their understanding of the ways writers use language to convey specific ideas. Students will learn skills necessary to write on demand with an awareness of structure, tone, and word choice. Students will learn to choose strategies for specific writing prompts and become aware of the importance of audience. The course will include intensive study of essay structure and format, how to support a thesis statement, and how to integrate evidence into thoughtful commentary for various writing prompts.
Course Overview
Pre-Unit: Introductory Assessments

Synopsis & Learning Targets: This quick unit will help me get a better understanding of who you are as a person and where you are academically. Short and sweet. You won’t be graded but there will be an assessment of your current skills. No pressure.

Assessments: Reading level test, entry diagnostic essay, personality/learning modality survey, baseline (department-created) benchmark tests.

Duration: 3-4 day
Unit 1: I Matter! – Descriptive and Narrative Composition (CCSS: Writing 9-10.3.b, d)

Synopsis & Learning Targets: The first unit will focus on two of the four primary modes of discourse: description and narration. Students will work on: 1) focus and exposition, and creating a dominant impression 2) detail, organization and plot 3) narrative techniques and pacing and 4) language and style. Instructional focal points will also include creating dialogue, using precise words and phrases (diction), sentence variety, and utilizing “telling” and creating sensory language.  The unit will culminate in an essay that draws solely upon a specific narrative example from your own life.

Possible Selected Readings: “Fish Cheeks” by Amy Tam; “Araby” by James Joyce; “White Lies” by Erin Murphy; “How I Discovered Words: A Homemade Education” by Malcolm X; “Salvation” by Langston Hughes; “Childhood” by Alice Walker; “Shooting an Elephant” by George Orwell; “Reunion” by John Cheever; various student exemplars writings (the good, the bad, and the ugly).

Formative Assessments: Close Reading and analysis questions; SOAPSTone (Pre-AP) strategies; quizzes; grammar and usage exercises; essay workshop (pre-writing, writing, revising, peer review, etc…); academic vocabulary; impromptu speeches.

Summative Assessments: Final Descriptive/Narrative Epiphany Essay, impromptu speeches

Duration: 2-3 weeks (August 11-31)

Rough Draft Due: Monday, August 31st

Final Draft Due: Tuesday, September 1st
Unit 2: “Does it Matter Matter?”—Argumentative Writing

Synopsis & Learning Targets: In this unit, students will incrementally examine the elements of persuasion and rhetoric (e.g. pathos, ethos, logos, logical fallacies), considering what constitutes a convincing argument. This will be accomplished by readings of a variety of “texts” both traditional and non-traditional. The goal of this unit is twofold: to give students experience with the tools of rhetoric and to demonstrate that everything is an argument--that regardless of the “text,” it can be read, interpreted, and responded to. They will finally be required to compose an argumentative essay based on an AWPE style prompt that makes use of the rhetorical techniques discussed in this unit of study and incorporates a variety of these “texts.” Students will center their arguments around issues that exist within the public school system. Moreover, students will build on their narrative skills to support their assertion as well as focus on claim and counter claim.

Possible Selected Readings: Argumentative articles to be determined

Summative Assessments: Final Argumentative Essay

Formative Assessments: Continued close reading and analysis strategies; SOAPSTone (Pre-AP) strategies; quizzes; the rhetorical précis; grammar and usage exercises; essay workshops (pre-writing, writing, revising, peer review, etc…); academic vocabulary; impromptu speeches.

Duration: 4 weeks (September 1st – September 29th)

Rough Draft Due: Monday, September 28th

Final Draft Due: Tuesday, September 29th

MIDTERMS – Students will write an in class midterm exam (narrative and informative) on October 9th and 10th.

Unit 3: “Does it Matter Matter?”—Expository Writing

Synopsis & Learning Targets: In this unit, students will write an essay in which they research elements of either the Holocaust or Apartheid in an informative essay. Students will read the novel Night, and engage in several formative discussions surrounding the novel and its themes.

Possible Selected Readings: Night, by Elie Wiesel & related supplementary articles to be determined

Summative Assessments: Final Expository Essay

Formative Assessments: Continued close reading and analysis strategies; SOAPSTone (Pre-AP) strategies; quizzes; the rhetorical précis; dialectical journal; grammar and usage exercises; essay workshop (pre-writing, writing, revising, peer review, etc…); academic vocabulary; impromptu speeches.

Duration: 3-4 weeks (October 13th – November 7th)

Rough Draft Due: Monday, November 9th

Final Draft Due: Tuesday, November 10th
Unit 4: “It All Matters” – Synthesis Essay and Final Speech

Synopsis & Learning Targets: To demonstrate that the skills learned in each of the preceding units are not isolated, this final unit will specifically task students with the synthesis of everything they have learned. In this unit, students will tie all three forms of writing to create a final synthesis essay. Students will choose either a problem that requires an upstander (essentially the opposite of a bystander) or a person they feel is an upstander, and write an essay in which they include narrative, informative and argumentative writing techniques. Students will review these types of writing as well as how to find quality source material and how to draft a works cited page. Primarily centered around a research-based synthesis essay, the students will find a reading that will serve as the basis of an inquiry on a topic of their interest.  They will develop a prompt (similar to those we’ve written on throughout the course), craft essential questions, and then research the topic.  Students will be required to draw upon narrative, literary, and informational examples to demonstrate mastery of all the domains.  Students could also be required to deliver a presentation sharing their findings (using technology to publish their research).

Possible Selected Readings: To be determined

Summative Assessments: Final synthesis essay

Formative Assessments: Continued close reading and analysis strategies; SOAPSTone (Pre-AP) strategies; quizzes; the rhetorical précis; grammar and usage exercises; essay workshop (pre-writing, writing, revising, peer review, etc…); academic vocabulary and final speech prep.

Duration: 3-4 weeks (November 12th-December 8th)

Rough Draft Due: Monday, December 7th

Final Draft Due: Tuesday, December 8th

Final Assessment—Students will modify their synthesis essay and produce a 3-5 minute speech. Students will present these speeches (5-10 per day) during the last 4 days of the term.


Classroom Rules & Consequences: Teachers have a clear job: to teach. Students too, have a clear job: to learn. Any behavior that interferes with the teacher teaching or all students learning is unacceptable. If after a warning, the behavior does not change, the consequences will be immediate and include any of the following: a private conference, a phone call home, detention, or suspension from class. Frequent unacceptable behavior will have more severe consequences: conferences with parents or school suspensions. To be on the safe side, please note the following:

  1. Follow all school rules

  2. Be prepared and ready to work/participate when the bell rings.

  3. Follow directions the first time they are given.

  4. Raise a quiet hand when participating in classroom conversation or asking questions

unless otherwise specified. Do not interrupt.

  1. Do not bring food or drink (other than water in a plastic bottle) to class.

  2. Do not sleep or put your head down in class.

7. Personal grooming is not to be done in class.

8. Please do not do other work (for another class) in this class.

9. All cell phones and electronic devices must be turned off and put away while class BEFORE you enter the classroom. If I see a cell phone, I will politely ask you to put it away. Please do so. Perpetual cell phone violations will result in a parent conference.

10. Entering/Exiting the Classroom: Students will enter and exit the classroom in an orderly fashion. If a student does not, he/she will be asked to leave and re-enter or stay and wait until everyone else has left the room. Mantra: Those who pack up early shall be last to leave. Learn it. Live it.
Cheating and Plagiarism: Please refer to the school wide Academic Dishonesty Policy.

Attendance and Tardies: Regular attendance is critical for success in this or any endeavor. Just as with any absence, it is the responsibility of the student to ask about this and any missed materials and work. If the student is absent for more than two days, a call to the school requesting homework should be made to keep the student up to date.

Students who have 1-3 “lates” will be handled individually according to the teacher discretion. Any “late” that exceeds the 1-3 allowance should be dealt with according to the following procedures that are outlined in detail in the school planner that include: detention, parent contact, class suspension, administrator conference, school suspension. After School Detention on Wednesdays 1:30 pm – 3:00 pm and/or Saturday School May be assigned. In order to avoid being late, students must be in their assigned seats when the bell rings.

Citizenship: The citizenship grade is measured by your ability and willingness to follow the policies of this class. As an English Department, we value courtesy, cooperation, and respect. The policies reflect this and the standards conducive to an orderly, productive classroom environment. Therefore, the following will be used to determine your citizenship grade: attendance and class contribution, following directions, obeying rules and protocols, and attitude.

Homework: A portion of the academic grade will be based upon homework assignments. Although assignments will be made regularly, they may vary in quantity and complexity based on subject matter and ability level. Students will be given two “late homework passes” that they can use for any assignment if agreed upon by a meeting between the teacher and student. The purpose of this policy is to recognize that occasional “emergencies” arise, but for the most part, work must be turned in on time! Large project assignments, including essays, are due on the day they are due, even if the student will not be in class. Students who are absent should email an electronic copy to the teacher by the time the class session is to be held, and then bring a paper copy when he/she returns from absence.

Tests: Students will receive at least two days notice prior to major tests, which will be given on grammar, vocabulary and writing. The semester exams, which will include information from any part of that semester, may also be both objective and essay. Quizzes may be given at any time and (on occasion) without advance notice. Make-ups will be taken the day the student returns to class. If this is not possible, it is the student’s responsibility to arrange alternate scheduling on that return day.

Essays: There are four formal essays, and many informal essays, throughout the term. The formal essays must be turned in on the due date. If students want to revise these formal essays for a better score, they may do so after conferencing with the teacher so that the student understands what improvements need to be made.

Make-Up Work: All quizzes and minor assignments are due upon returning from an absence. (Long term assignments are due on their due date—see “ESSAY” section.) The only exceptions will be those assignments GIVEN during the absence. These will be due two days after your return unless designed to be completed over several days. It is the responsibility of the student to inquire about any and all missed work and to make the necessary arrangements for its completion. Also, if there is something going on at home (which may give justification to you missing assignments) or just in life in general, please communicate with me. Keep me in the loop, otherwise, I will assume that everything is ok and you are making the choice to not complete your assignments. Please put all late work in your specified (period) folder near the doorway—see Judge Judy.

Retakes and Revisions: Students may revise a minimum of two major essays per term provided they complete all prewriting and formative activities for the essay. Feedback (both peer and teacher) will be provided to students throughout the writing process prior to the final draft due date. Conditions of revisions will be determined by the individual teacher but will be copacetic in synonymous courses. Students will be allowed to retake summative tests (excluding midterms and final exams).

Group Projects: When participating in a group project, students will be graded individually and we will be evaluated based on their own work within the group. No group grade or average score will be used to determine an individual student’s grade on a group project. In the event that a student wishes to raise a grade on a project score, a retake assignment (essay) will be provided.

Extra Credit: No extra credit will be accepted. Students are expected to do the reading and writing assignments as designed for the course.

Method of Evaluation: Grades will be weighted according to the following:

  • Formative Assessments (Assessments FOR Learning – quizzes, reading checks, study guides, etc…) – 30%

  • Summative Assessments (Assessments OF Learning – tests, essay final drafts) – 70%. The semester grade will be based on a running total of the first and second quarter points and the final exam points. The following scale will be used for letter grades:

Grading Scale
A+ = >100% B+ = 88 - 89% C+ = 78 – 79% D+ = 68 - 69% F = <60%

A = 93 – 99% B = 83 – 87% C = 73 – 77% D = 63 – 67%

A- = 90 – 92% B- = 80 – 82% C- = 70 – 72% D- = 60%

Materials: The recommended materials list includes a blue or black pen, sharpened pencil with eraser, red pen (not a crayon, marker, pencil, or highlighter) for correcting only, highlighter, and binder with loose-leaf paper. Final drafts of writing assignments and reports must be word-processed. Please see teacher ASAP if you are unable to attain these materials.

Textbook/ Material Responsibilities: Students are financially responsible for any and all books and materials provided to them. This includes damage as well as loss and will be billed accordingly.

Conferences: Students will receive help in class whenever possible. Students may also meet with me during Advisory or after school. Please check with me ahead of time to ensure my availability. Because students in high school should be more responsible, it is important that they are the first to approach the teacher with any issue. If, after a meeting with the teacher, the issue remains unresolved, parent involvement/conferencing is appropriate. The best way to reach teachers is through district email.

By signing your names below, you are indicating that you have read and understood the preceding class guidelines and that you will assume the responsibilities and accountability of being a student, or the parent/guardian of a student, in this class.
Print Student’s Name _____________________________________________________
Student Signature_______________________________________________Date____________
Please answer the following questions:

  • Do you have computer access at home? YES/NO

  • Do you have Internet access at home? YES/NO

  • If you answered NO to either of the above questions, where would you go to use a computer or the Internet? _______________________________________________________


  • Will you need me to provide you with any of the supplies mentioned in the course outline? YES/NO

  • If YES, which supplies will you need help with? List them here:

Parent/Guardian please sign below verifying the information above:
Print Parent’s/Guardian’s Name__________________________________________
Parent/Guardian Signature__________________________________________
Date ___________
Parent/Guardian Information:
Daytime phone ( )
Evening phone ( )
Email Address
Additional Comments:

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