Course Description and Objectives:

My goal is to simultaneously disrupt and augment your previous high school writing experiences. Progressing to a collegiate level requires some disruption of the standards you were taught—we will dismiss your friend “the basic persuasive model” that has an introduction, three supporting points, and a conclusion. We will also lay to rest your built-in colloquialisms (First, Second, Lastly, In conclusion, To begin with, etc.), as well as your basic vocabulary through the use of the amazing and wonderful thesaurus (now in app form!). The augmentation of your previous experience means that you have developed a sense of how to analyze works; how to critique; how to persuade others. However, we’ll begin by learning new methods that will raise the bar on your understanding of how rhetoric works visually, persuasively, algorithmically, narratively, and by evaluation.

We will work mostly in the cloud. The world has gone digital and so will we. I acknowledge that there are merits to the artifact of paper and pen, and I am happy to give some leeway in terms of peer editing, etc., with red ink and paper. However, we will keep everything online and in the cloud. Your documents will be organic and “living”—ready to be accessed and edited at any point by you, your peers, or an instructor or professor. This helps us speed up the process of editing, proofing, and review, and you’ll be able to keep reviewing and updating your documents after the course via website, ePortfolio, bulletin board, Google Docs, and so forth. For the purposes of brevity and community, we’ll look at Google Sites and Google Docs, and I’m happy to assist you with basic web design or template-building if you’re willing to put forth the work.

Required Texts:

The Writer’s Presence, 8th Edition. McQuade and Atwan, 2015: Bedford St. Martin’s.

Selected E-Reserves, public access PDFs, and Creative Commons literature available through Blackboard.

Course Requirements:

There will be opportunities in this course to experiment with a variety of language tools and settings, as well as performing these experiments alone and in a collaborative setting. You’ll be testing yourself creatively and professionally, and you’ll be opening yourself up to the classroom during readings. This requires trust and confidentiality in the classroom, as well as a demeanor of professionalism and courtesy. This isn’t born overnight, and we’ll proceed down the road of trust-building throughout the semester.

You can only accomplish this by attending class and participating. In the real world you interact with people you may not necessarily understand or seek out. You may even disagree with them fundamentally. In a collegiate setting, however, I expect you to overcome these differences with maturity, and that maturity is achieved by working to understand one another while respecting each other as an individual.

You will read. You will read frequently. You will write frequently. These two operations coexist with one another. You cannot become a solid or decent writer without having read many decent stories by strong writers. And you cannot have a healthy respect for a text unless you have written and failed many times.


Your grade breakdown will be the following:

Self-Narrative: 5%

Resumé and Cover Letter: 5%

Rhetorical Analysis: 10%

Visual Analysis: 20%

Creative Nonfiction: 20%

Persuasive Essay: 20%

ePortfolio: 10%

Attendance/Participation: 10%

Your total grade will be 1000 points, with the above areas accounting for 100% of your grade. We will have daily exercises, comments on readings, prepared statements about your readings, lectures, and even lab activities. I might introduce quizzes if I find the class is lagging in readings and participation.

I will grade you according to the phase of the semester. For instance, your introductory self-narrative will be graded more on content and rubric than grammar and syntax. When we get to your piece of creative nonfiction, you’ll be assessed on creativity and inventiveness, as well as rhetorical devices. Your resumé and cover letter will have to be grammatically superior in terms of headings, alignment, and levels. The persuasive paper will contain all of the above.


Northern Illinois University is on a plus/minus grading system, which is as follows:

A     93-100

A-    90-92

B+   87-89

B     83-86

B-   80-82

C+   77-79

C     70-76

D     60-69

F     0-59

Attendance and Participation:

It’s this simple: Come to class. We cannot build a community without you. You matter. If you were supposed to turn something in but forgot to write it or you’re not prepared for a quiz, etc., I don’t care. Come to class. I won’t belittle you.

I give three “freebies” for personal matters. You can use them to drive to Florida for a few days on the beach, or attend a wedding of a best friend, or recuperate after a series of science and math exams. Use them wisely. After the three absences, you will severely affecting your participation grade. Excessive absences will result in a formal request that you repeat the course. You will not be able to keep up with the work if you miss classes.

In summary, just come and be ready to participate. Let’s shake up what a college course is “supposed to be.”

Labs and Computers: 

We will meet once a week after Week 2 in a computer laboratory TBA. This is where we will be accessing cloud-based files. You’ll need your student ID (Z-ID) and password to access the computers and Blackboard. I highly recommend that you don’t intentionally skip lab days.


I like to meet with students in personal conferences twice a year: once in the first third of the semester, and once in the remaining third. You’ll have a chance to talk about your work, we’ll get to know each other, and we can set personal goals for you during the semester.

Use of student work for assessment purposes:

Student folders, in print and/or electronic form will be kept by the First-Year Composition program for a minimum of four weeks into the following semester. Occasionally, some work may be kept longer and used anonymously for program assessment. If you wish that your work not be used for program assessment, please inform your instructor in writing as soon as possible.

Accommodations for students with disabilities:

Students who believe that they may need academic accommodations based on the impact of a disability should contact the NIU Disability Resource Center to discuss their individual needs. The Center is located on the 4th floor of University Health Services and can be reached at 815-753-1303. Students are encouraged to inform the faculty of their requests for accommodations as early as possible in the semester or as soon as they become aware of the need for an accommodation.


Week One

Week Two

Week Three

Week Four

Week Five

Week Six

Week Seven

Week Eight

Week Nine

Week Ten

Week Eleven

Week Twelve

Week Thirteen

Week Fourteen

Week Fifteen

Week Sixteen


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