Sample Assignment Response: A Response Essay for ENGL 062 at DeVry University in San Antonio

To follow up on the work of last week and continue what I’ve found to be a useful pattern in other classes, I mean to return to drafting sample assignments to help my students better understand what they are asked to do for the class. I also continue to hope that my efforts will prove to be of both that benefit and others to readers yet unknown to me. In doing so, I narrate my process of composition and present the sample paper near the end of this blog post.

Cat videos are internet-appropriate, right
Image from Giphy.com.

For the week’s assignment, students are asked to compile a first draft of an essay that addresses one of two assigned prompts, both of which respond to themes in assigned readings. The essays are asked to be three paragraphs in length–introduction, body, and conclusion–and to come under a cover page in APA formatting. No requirement for outside sourcing is expressed, so no outside sourcing is expected, though there is specific reference to the assigned readings, themselves, so it might be permissible.

To respond to the exercise, I began by setting up an APA-format document in Word. That is, I set up my document in double-spaced 12-point Times New Roman typeface with one-inch margins on letter-sized paper. I also arranged my cover page, running head, and pagination as prescribed by APA style. Given that I did not expect to need to use outside sources, I did not set up a references page.

That done, I settled on a topic to which to respond, whether responses to homeless persons or a central idea around an inspiring person. The second seemed a better fit for the class and the assignment, so I opted for it. With that done, I had to identify a person I find inspiring, and, with the person identified, I had to settle upon a central impression to convey about that person. (I’d done so in an earlier piece, so I had some experience to help me along, even if the subject differed.)

I typed that central idea into my document, then copied and pasted it on the next line of my document and highlighted the second in green. I tend to do so when I compose essays so that I know what thesis I am trying to support; as I draft forward, I do so behind the highlighted thesis, leaving it as an ever-present goal for my essay to achieve.

With a thesis in place, I worked to offer a paragraph of support for it. I try to draft essays thesis first, then body, so that I know where I am going for my introduction and whence I will proceed for my conclusion. The body drafted, I began to work on my conclusion, since I was already at that point in the paper; I rephrased my highlighted thesis, stripping away the highlighting, and wrote a brief note discussing future implications of that thesis.

After I put together a brief conclusion, I returned to the beginning of the paper to lead through an introduction into the thesis I had constructed. Following a common introductory pattern, I offered some context for discussion before moving to narrow my focus and identify my topic. The thesis I already had in place followed, giving me a complete paragraph that already moved into a body of work.

With that done, I reviewed the piece for readability. I once again applied the Flesh-Kincaid reading level test, which again returned a result in line with what I had hoped to find. I was therefore able to proceed thence to review my document for style and mechanics. After making the adjustments that needed making, given exercise requirements and ease of reading, I put the document into an accessible format, which I present here in the hopes that it will be of use: G. Elliott Sample Essay.

I can always use more support as I work to support my students more.

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Class Report: ENGL 062, 14 January 2019

After addressing questions from the previous class meeting and offering an administrative note, discussion moved in sequence through concerns of definition, genre, paragraphing, and APA formatting. Time was given to upcoming assignments, and students were afforded time to work on their own responses to those assignments.

Students should note that, owing to the MLK holiday, campus will be closed on 21 January 2019. A WebEx meeting will replace the regular office hour at 1800 on 24 January 2019. This schedule supersedes and replaces that announced last week.

The class met as scheduled, at 1800 in Room 114 of the San Antonio campus. The course roster showed three students enrolled, unchanged from last week. All attended; student participation was adequate.

An online office hour was held on Thursday, 10 January 2019, at 1800. None attended. The next will be online at 1800 on Thursday, 17 January 2019

Students are reminded that the following assignments are due before the end of day (Mountain Standard Time) on 20 January 2019:

  • Discussion Threads: Trying out Transitions and Practicing Main Ideas (3 posts/thread, rubric online)
  • Week 2 Quiz (online)
  • Graded Reading Activity (online)
  • Homework Submission: Developed Paragraph (due online as a Word document)
  • Week 2 Pulse Check (online)

Sample Assignment Response: A Developed Paragraph for ENGL 062 at DeVry University in San Antonio

While last week may not have seen the kind of assignment for which I can offer a sample to my students, this week does. Accordingly, I will do as I have said I will do and work to offer a sample of the kind of work I would like to see from my students, hoping that having a concrete example will help them to do better work. I also continue to hope that my work will help others outside my classroom, as well.

A common symbol of achievement.
Image from Time.com

The assignment faced by students in the second week of Introduction to Reading and Writing at DeVry University in San Antonio is to draft a solid paragraph on one of four topics: educational reform, gender difference, family, or discrimination. Each is narrowed slightly from the overall topic heading, and responses are expected to consist of at least 100 words in APA format. The paragraph is asked to make a point, provide illustrative evidence, and explain how the evidence functions to bear out the point.

To address the exercise, I began by setting up my APA-style document. That style guide asks for black, double-spaced 12-point Times New Roman with one-inch margins on letter-size paper, with running heads, page numbers, and title page in prescribed places; I set my document to those standards.

That done, I settled quickly on a broad topic, opting to treat class discrimination. The topic had been on my mind as I had been working on other writing, so it was an easy choice to make. Focusing more narrowly was a bit more of a challenge; a paragraph will admit of but one instance, and there are entirely too many instances of class discrimination. I opted to take what I think is an unusual approach; most pieces on discrimination treat the discrimination against those in perceived lower positions by those in higher, but there is discrimination by the perceived lower against the higher, as well–or, rather, concerns not unlike covert prestige apply. That is, eminence in areas other than are commonly recognized as conferring eminence are prized, and the commonly prized derided. Again, such matters had been on my mind already, so arriving at an example to treat was easy.

Having made the decision about the topic, I began to draft my paragraph, opening with context to aid readers in understanding my approach. From context, I moved to pivot into my specific topic, an instance of discrimination leveled at me, presenting it as the central point of the paragraph. I then moved to offer specific illustrative examples to support that point. Those provided, I connected the information I had offered back to the central point I meant to make in the paragraph, and I then offered a concluding sentence to wrap things up.

With that done, I reviewed the paragraph for readability. Applying a fairly common test, the Flesh-Kincaid, returned a result in line with what I had hoped to find; I know I have a tendency to wax verbose in ways that are not always helpful, and it was a relief to find that I had not done so. I was thus able to proceed thence to review my document for style and mechanics. After making the adjustments that needed making, given exercise requirements and ease of reading, I put the document into an accessible format, which I present here: G. Elliott Sample Developed Paragraph January 2019. May it and its successors prove of benefit now and in time to come!

Care to help me keep it going?

Class Report: ENGL 062, 7 January 2019

For the first class meeting of the session, introductions were made to the discipline, course, and instructor. The materials provided in the course shell were expanded upon, assignment guidelines were reviewed, and time was afforded to students to work on their assignments.

Students should note that, owing to the MLK holiday, campus will be closed on 21 January 2019. A WebEx meeting will replace the regular class meeting on that date; it will begin at the regular class time.

The class met as scheduled, at 1800 in Room 114 of the San Antonio campus. The course roster showed three students enrolled. Two attended; student participation was reasonably good.

An online office hour will be held on Thursday, 10 January 2019, at 1800.

Students are reminded that the following assignments are due before the end of day (Mountain Standard Time) on 13 January 2019:

  • Discussion Threads: Introduction, Reading and Writing: My Strengths and Weaknesses, and Time Management Strategies (3 posts/thread, rubric online)
  • Week 1 Quiz (online)
  • Graded Reading Activity (online)
  • Week 1 Pulse Check (online)

What Would Have Been a Sample Assignment Response

As I’ve moved into a new session of teaching, I had meant to begin developing sample assignment responses again. They seem to have helped my students in the past couple of sessions, and I do want to help my students succeed, despite what many of them seem to have thought over the past however many years I’ve taught. But when I went to look at the current session’s assignments for the first week, thinking I would get a head start on developing those new examples, I found that they are online quizzes.

blog post image

I cannot offer examples of such things. For one, I do not know how limited the quiz bank is from which the students are asked to work; were I to address questions from them, I would be giving students answers, and while I approve of giving models, doing the assignments for them passes lines I am not willing to cross. For another, I am relatively certain I would get into some kind of trouble for posting the questions directly. And were I to try to write an independent example of such a quiz, it would require more work than I am willing to do without additional compensation. (I enjoy writing essays; I find the work of doing so meditative, and I often learn things from it. Quiz-writing is much more meticulous, and while it can be remunerative, I am not likely to draw extra pay for providing supplemental materials to my already-enrolled students. I do the job because I need money, after all.)

For now, therefore, I will have to defer what should have been an example of an assignment response, waiting until next week, when actual written responses begin to be asked of the few students enrolled in the current session. Because there are few, I will be able to attend to them more closely than larger classes permit, which should be to the good for the students and for me. For when I have to assess work at speed, I find myself looking for different things than I would prefer to seek but which I can only work to uncover when I have time to spend–and that is not the case with over-enrolled writing classes that have institutional deadlines I must meet. That seems not to be an issue this go-round, and I am grateful for it. I hope I have cause to continue to be.

Can you help me keep it going once it actually starts back up again?

Reflective Comments for the November 2018 Session at DeVry University

Continuing a practice I most recently iterated at the end of the September 2018 session at DeVry University, and following closely the patterns established in previous practice, comments below offer impressions of class performance among students enrolled in my sections of ENGL 135: Advanced Composition and ENGL 112: Composition during the November 2018 session at that institution. After a brief outline of each course and selected statistics about it, impressions and implications for further teaching are discussed.

ENGL 135

Students enrolled in ENGL 135 during the November 2018 session were asked to complete a number of assignments in quick succession. Many, and the weightiest, related to the overall course project; others were homework meant to practice skills used in the workplace and in later stages of the course project. Those assignments and their prescribed point-values are below, with relative weights shown in the figure below:

ENGL 135 Grade Breakdown November 2018

  • Course Project
    • Topic Selection, 50 points
    • Research Proposal, 50 points
    • Annotated Bibliography, 100 points
    • First Draft, 70 points
    • Second Draft, 80 points
    • Presentation, 100 points
    • Final Draft, 170 points
    • Career Planning, 50 points
  • Discussions, 280 points
  • Homework, 50 points
  • Total, 1000 points

As before, most assignments were assessed by means of rubrics provided by the institution or amended from them for ease of use. Some few were assessed on a percentile basis from standardized testing conducted as part of University-wide course requirements.

The section met online, with office hours generally taking place Monday evenings at 6pm Central time. Its overall data includes

  • End-of-term enrollment: 18
  • Average class score: 730.925/1000 (C)
    • Standard deviation: 210.112
  • Students earning a grade of A (900/1000 points or more): 5
  • Students earning a grade of F (below 600/1000 points): 3

Numbers of students receiving each of the traditional letter grades are indicated below:

ENGL 135 Students by Grade

Comments about the session will follow in Impressions and Implications, below.

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ENGL 112

Students enrolled in ENGL 112 during the November 2018 session were also asked to complete a number of assignments in quick succession. Most concerned a series of short papers, presented in planning sheets before submission as full essays; a final essay additionally went through an intermediate draft before final submission. Those assignments and their prescribed point-values are below, with relative weights shown in the figure below:

ENGL 112 Grade Breakdown November 2018

  • Papers, 690 points
  • Discussions, 310 points
  • Total, 1000 points

Assignments were assessed by means of rubrics provided by the institution or amended from them for ease of use.

The section met in Room 111 of the San Antonio campus Wednesdays at 6pm, with office hours generally taking place Monday evenings at 6pm Central time. Its overall data includes

  • End-of-term enrollment: 9
  • Average class score: 610.9611/1000 (D)
    • Standard deviation: 299.4946
  • Students earning a grade of A (900/1000 points or more): 0
  • Students earning a grade of F (below 600/1000 points): 2

Numbers of students receiving each of the traditional letter grades are indicated below:

ENGL 112 Students by Grade

Additionally, since the class met physically, it was possible to take attendance. All students in the section missed at least one class meeting; some missed quite a few more, as indicated below (with the figure being classes missed, students missing that many classes, and percentage of students falling into that category):

ENGL 112 Students by Absence

Comments about the session will follow in Impressions and Implications, below.

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Impressions and Implications

I confess to feeling some dismay at the lower performance of the November 2018 session against the September 2018. While ENGL 135 had more A-earning students than its earlier counterpart, it also had more students fail–and ENGL 112 had no students earn overall As, though it also had students failing. In each case, the lower grade was due to non-submission; many students got many zeros for work because they simply did not submit it. I have to wonder what else I could have done to chivvy them along.

Matters were complicated by a data loss I experienced late in the session. I typically keep my teaching notes and materials in a USB drive; the one I had been using ceased functioning. In retrospect, I had some indication that such would be the case, and I did not act upon it; I suffered as a result. Student grades were not affected; those I had recorded in the school’s system remained in place, as did my comments about them, and materials I had uploaded to this site also remained in place. Still, having to reconstruct information at the speed I did did not make things easier for me. How it affected my students is not as clear.

I feel, however, that my earlier-noted resumption of example-writing was helpful for my students. At the very least, I know that people were looking at the examples I posted; I have access to readership statistics, so that, while numbers were not as good as they were in August, they were still generally up. Enough students’ work mirrored the examples that I am confident some of the lessons made it through, which is good. Unfortunately, I am not teaching either ENGL 135 or ENGL 112 in the coming couple of sessions, so the examples will be let alone for a bit–though I mean to continue the practice with the next class I teach.

Moving forward, I also mean to follow another practice that I had in place for ENGL 135 but not ENGL 112. In my record-keeping, I more narrowly divided storage and commentary for the former than the latter; it ended up making grading easier and commentary clearer, despite having more assignments and more students in Advanced Composition than Composition. Though it requires more initial work from me, it makes for less work while I am amid work; I think I’ll continue to do it.

At the end, though, I am glad yet again to have had yet again the chance to teach, and I look forward to having it at least one more time as I move forward.

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Initial Comments for the January 2019 Session at DeVry University

I have been offered a class for the January 2019 Session, a section of ENGL 062: Introduction to Reading & Writing, and I’ve accepted the assignment. It’s a class I’ve taught several times before, though it seems to have changed a bit for the upcoming term. (That’s good, because there were some things that needed adjusting, but it does also ask me to re-learn some things. But that’s also to the good.)

It can be a fun thing, indeed.
Image from Giphy.com.

I am likely to continue to offer samples of the work I expect my students to do, as I have noted that the students in classes where my examples are ready to hand do better on the tasks assigned them than those who were not. Too, I’ve not generated examples for the introductory students yet, and it can easily be argued that they are in the most need of additional assistance; I have been lax in not doing so previously, and I will address the lack. And it will help me negotiate the changes that have gone through since I last taught the course, which is also set to be to my benefit and my students’.

The class is set to meet in Room 111 of the San Antonio campus on Mondays at 6pm, beginning on 7 January 2019 and running through 2 March. It’s scheduled to run until close to 10, but how much of that gets taken up will depend on enrollment; keeping two students in for four hours is a bit much. And I will have to negotiate the MLK holiday, which will interfere with the class meeting. But that will be a relatively minor challenge–I already have plans in mind for how to proceed–and I am happy to be once again in a position to face it, to do again what I have long done and even longer trained to do.

Class Report: ENGL 112, 19 December 2018

Class was given over entirely to the completion of eighth-week work: student evaluations (if not yet done) and the reflective postscript. It met as scheduled, at 1800 in Room 106 of the San Antonio campus. The class roster listed nine students enrolled, a decline of one from last week; four attended. Student participation was reasonably good. An online office hour was held on 17 December 2018; no students attended.

Students are reminded that the reflective postscript is due online as a Word document no later than the end of day (Mountain Standard Time) on Saturday, 22 December 2018. The session closes at that time, so no late submissions can be accepted.

Reflective comments are forthcoming.

Sample Assignment Response: A Reflective Postscript for ENGL 112 at DeVry University

To conclude from earlier work (here, here, here, here, here, here, and here), I will carry out the assignment my students are asked to complete for their final week of the session: a brief reflective postscript. Considering work that has been done and what work is yet to be done is a useful thing, and I nourish the hope that the example I might offer will help my students and others do find such use in their own work.

Memory is a tricky thing.
Image from Psychology Today.

For the exercise, students are asked to address a series of University-provided prompts in short paragraphs that should total some two pages of text when typed in double-spaced 12-point Times New Roman on letter-sized paper with one-inch margins. The prompts ask students to consider their work and advancement during the course, especially as pertains to the commentary essay of the last few weeks of class. It is a fairly common exercise, both at the University and in colleges more generally, so it is likely students will encounter it again–and, as noted, reflection is good practice, in any event.

For my own work, I began by setting up a document in line with the expressed formatting standards. That done, I copied the prompts over from the University into the document, highlighting them in green so I could easily see what I would be addressing and would remember to delete the copy-over before completing my work.

At that point, I moved directly into drafting my responses, considering my answers to the questions posed as I went along. The questions are open-ended, but not so open-ended that they demand much delimiting. As such, answering them proved relatively easy to do–which makes sense, given the time I’ve spent on the project reflected upon and its topic.

The content made ready, I deleted the imported prompts and reviewed my document for style and mechanics. After making the adjustments that needed making, I put the document into an accessible format, which I present here: G. Elliott Sample Reflective Postscript. May it and its predecessors prove of benefit now and in time to come!

This session’s done, but other classes await; help me help them, too!

Class Report: ENGL 135, 17 December 2018

Following up on the previous report, students were asked to comment on issues of design for their final papers (focusing largely on images and their integration into the text), as well as concerns of APA formatting. They were also asked to complete and submit their final papers; the present week asks for reflection on their work and its connection to their future plans.

The course roster showed 18 students enrolled, one fewer than last week; 16 participated in online discussion during the week. No online office hour was held on Monday, 10 December 2018, owing to other concerns.

Students are reminded that an office hour is scheduled for tonight, Monday, 17 December 2018, at 6pm CST. Students are also reminded that the following assignments are due before the end of day (Mountain Standard Time) on Saturday, 22 December 2018:

  • Discussion Thread: Looking Ahead
  • Course Project: Career Connections (due online as a Word document)