Teach : Tim Koppang

English 103 Syllabus for Fall 2013

In general, I was very pleased with the way my English 103 class proceeded last Fall. Therefore, I feel no need to make any drastic changes to the syllabus. I know there are some instructors who would like to jump into the research skills earlier in the NIU FYComp process, but I personally believe that giving incoming freshmen a chance to feel comfortable as writers before bombarding them with the nuances of writing a lengthy research paper is beneficial. What I learned from many of my students’ reflections is that they feel as if they are poor writers. Many lack the confidence needed to be successful college-level writers. Therefore, I feel it is part of my job as an English 103 instructor to instill a sense of confidence, and to show the students that they can in fact write. What changes I am making to the previous syllabus are largely administrative.

First, I am adding an additional “assignment.” I will be requiring my students to keep electronic writing journals, for which I will be providing them weekly prompts. One of the best ways I have found to encourage improvement is, simply put, practice. Brief weekly journal entries will provide my students with a chance to flex their writing muscles without the added pressure of a deadline or grade. I will not be grading the journals on the quality of organization, grammar, spelling, etc. Instead, I will be looking for effort and an honest attempt to engage with the prompts. The idea is not to add busywork to my students’ schedules, but rather to encourage the act of writing itself. The journals will be more akin to in-class free-writing activities, but done on a regular basis with my guidance.

Second, I am redistributing some of the points available for the class. I am reducing participation and electronic portfolios by 5% each. I will be making the weekly journals worth 10% of each student’s grade. Alongside these changes, I will be making the reflections assigned in class a more obvious portion of the electronic portfolio grade. Although it appears as if I am reducing the number of points available for class participation, I am actually redistributing those points amongst in-class assignments. This will provide my students with a more transparent syllabus and grading system. They should know exactly how I will be calculating their grade. As I value in-class participation highly, I prefer to be upfront about where those points are coming from.

Finally, although this does not represent a change to the syllabus, I feel it is worth commenting on the fact that I am keeping the same books for the class. I found the This I Believe book to be especially useful. The short essays combined with the breadth of topics covered kept my students engaged. Even if they didn’t enjoy all of the essays, they typically enjoyed at least a handful of them. Rather than try to find another reader that would have the same broad appeal, I am sticking with what already works. In addition, basing two of the assignments around This I Believe narratives gives my students a chance to write about themselves. If there is one thing I have learned in the past year, it is that incoming freshmen typically enjoy personal writing. Not only does it appeal to their burgeoning sense of independence, but it also provides a change from the academic writing they focused on in high school. This again matches with my idea that English 103 should be about increasing confidence as much as laying the technical foundation for college-level writing.

NIU Department of English

English 103: Rhetoric and Composition I for Fall 2013

Instructor: Timothy Koppang
Meeting place & time: SWC 9:00 a.m.
Office Hours: TBD
Phone: TBD
Email: tkoppang1@niu.edu

Course Description & Objectives

The primary goal of this course is to help you become a better writer. Writing is a continuing process of thinking, of discovery, of learning, of communication, and of reflection, and you will need these skills to succeed as an engaged citizen of NIU and the world beyond. I presume that you have things to say, voices with which to say them, and a good knowledge of English that comes from many years of use—speaking, reading, and writing.

This course offers you the occasion to explore the purposes, intents, and audiences of expressive, informative, and persuasive writing, as well as the rhetoric of electronic communication. It provides the opportunity for you to become more conscious about the strategies involved in shifting focus among the writer, message, audience, style, and medium. It asks you to become more sensitive to the ways all writing emerges from the expressions of community and in turn influences the nature of community.

Finally, this course affords you the opportunity to become more aware of yourself as a writer by creating an electronic portfolio. This portfolio is a collection of material that you will select and assemble to demonstrate the course competencies identified in the English 103 Outcomes. Reflective writing both generates material for your portfolio and serves as the glue that holds your portfolio together by showing how its pieces demonstrate course competencies.

Required Texts

Allison, J. & Gediman, D. (Eds.) (2008). This I Believe II. New York, NY: Holt.

Fryling, A. & Hoover, M. (Eds.). (2012). Y1 Writes: A Collection of Student Essays. Vol. 3 Southlake, TX: Fountainhead Press.

Hacker, D., Bernhardt, S., & Sommers, N. (2011). Writer’s Help.

Course Requirements

We learn to read and write better by reading and writing regularly. Consequently, this will be a workshop course where we will write often. We will spend significant time not only on individual writing, but also in small groups where we will work collaboratively, sharing and responding to one another’s writing. We will analyze and evaluate language, experiment with language, play with language, get very serious with language.

By the end of the semester you will produce an electronic portfolio that demonstrates the competencies identified in the English 103 Outcomes. Along the way, however, you will produce a great deal of text—notes, lists, scribbles, drafts, responses to drafts, and other reflective pieces.


The course system of evaluation rewards you for timely, serious effort on daily assignments and in workshop. It gives extra weight to your highest level of achievement near the end of the semester. It does not penalize you for mistakes or experiments that go awry, as you learn from mishaps how to produce quality finished work. In fact, this system assumes that finished, effective communication is often the end product of a very messy creation process in which you take risks, follow false leads or trails, make lots of mistakes, and return anew to your writing task. This system encourages you to engage in the recursive and sometimes chaotic process of becoming a productive, confident, and fluent writer.

Early in the semester we will arrive at an understanding of the standards by which our writing is judged, both within the community of our class and within the larger public audience of readers. The course assumes that your final revised essays will observe the conventions of grammar, spelling, and punctuation of written academic American English. If you need extra support with these conventions, I will help you. You may also seek writing assistance from the University Writing Center, Stevenson South Lower Level, 753-6636.

Summary of Assignments

5% : “This I Believe” Narrative
10% : Resume & Cover Letter
20% : Rhetorical Analysis
20% : Visual Analysis
20% : Expanded “This I Believe” Narrative (Multi-Modal)
10% : Weekly Journal
10% : Electronic Portfolio & Reflections
5% : Class Participation

Attendance & Participation

Put simply, attendance is mandatory. Writing never occurs in a vacuum. It depends on communication and participation. In college, you will encounter a number of different class structures ranging from large lectures to small workshops. Attendance policies may vary. However, for English 103, we will focus on the small workshop style setting, which absolutely depends on your active participation and attendance. Thus, regular attendance and punctuality are key to passing the class.

Under normal circumstances, you will receive 6 “free” absences during the semester, to be used at your discretion for illness, family emergencies, etc. I do not require any explanation or documentation for those first 6 absences, but please do not waste them. Except in cases of extenuating circumstances, missing more than 6 classes for the semester will result in a lower overall grade or outright failure. In addition, for every 3 tardies accumulated, you will be docked 1 of your “free” absences.

If you know that you will need to miss an extended amount of class due to illness, medical necessity, family emergency, or religious observance, please notify me ahead of time so that we can make appropriate arrangements and agree upon submission of missed assignments.

Formatting Your Papers

Throughout the semester, I will be asking you to submit various papers in both electronic and printed form. Unless otherwise instructed, please format all papers using 12pt Times New Roman as your font. Double space all lines. Margins should be set at 1". Please include page numbers in the upper right-hand corner. For hard copies, single or double-sided printing is acceptable (although I prefer single-sided).


The English Department has developed a formal policy concerning plagiarism to supplement the University statement in the Undergraduate Catalog. This policy is available online. Since plagiarism can jeopardize your academic future, we will review the policy together early in the semester and discuss its implications for us as writers.


We are lucky enough to have each class in the Stevenson Writing Center, with regular access to computers. This class will revolve heavily around the use of those computers. Remember to back up your files in more than one place to prevent inconvenience or even disaster. You need to have your network LOGIN ID, password, and email account operational by the end of the first week of class. Write your username and password down to be kept in a safe place. We will be using the World Wide Web this semester both as a resource and primary electronic environment, so you should visit our course home page and familiarize yourself with the course schedule and assignments at the URL listed above. You may use your own computer if you wish, or you may use the residence hall computer labs or any of the general access labs on campus, but all writing assignments must be saved in a format that is accessible in class. Unless you are otherwise instructed, all work should be submitted both electronically and on paper.


We will schedule two required conferences during the semester (Weeks 9 and 13); you are also encouraged to make an appointment or drop by during my office hours to discuss any aspect of the course or your progress as a writer.

Program Assessment

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 me 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.

Do you enjoy writing?

If you enjoy this class and find it useful, please consider taking additional English classes and/or signing up for a major or minor in English. For additional information about these options, please contact askenglish@niu.edu or come visit the department in Reavis 216!

Schedule & Due Dates

Reading assignments will be posted below. Due dates may be pushed back (another incentive to come to class!), but will never be moved up. Always feel free to turn in assignments early!

Week 1

This I Believe Narrative due Friday

Week 2

Resume & Cover Letter DRAFT due Friday

Week 3

Resume & Cover Letter FINAL due Friday

Week 4


Week 5

Rhetorical Analysis DRAFT due Friday

Week 5

Rhetorical Analysis FINAL due Friday

Week 6

Rhetorical Analysis FINAL due Friday

Week 7


Week 8

Sign up for Conferences
Visual Analysis DRAFT due Friday

Week 9

No Class; Conferences
Rhetorical Analysis FINAL due Friday

Week 10


Week 11

Expanded This I Believe Narrative DRAFT due Friday

Week 12

Sign up for Conferences
Expanded This I Believe Narrative FINAL due Friday

Week 13

No Class; Thanksgiving

Week 14

No Class; Conferences
Electronic Portfolio DRAFT due Friday

Week 15


Week 16

Finals Week
Electronic Portfolio FINAL and graded, paper copies of all assignments due the day of our final exam