Course Description

This is a college entry course that prepares non-native speakers for academic and real world writing.  The course emphasizes advanced ESL grammar, vocabulary, and comprehension skills to improve English fluency as well as the critical thinking, reading, writing and rhetorical skills required in the college/university and beyond, including citation and documentation, writing as a process, and audience awareness.

Students who successfully complete this course should be able to:

  • demonstrate improved fluency in English through reading comprehension, written essays, and oral presentations.
  • develop and organize ideas to support a thesis.
  • accurately quote, summarize, and paraphrase, and integrate quoted, paraphrased and/or summarized material into an academic essay.
  • express written thoughts for several audiences & purposes.
  • select appropriate rhetorical strategies to use in analysis and argument.
  • edit to correct errors in grammar, punctuation, spelling, and usage.

The Assignments


  • First Words, “Bad” Words: Write a narrative about any recent or childhood event you have had that involves your experience with language. Use one of these questions to get started: When did you realize the power of profanity? Or, when were you judged for the way you speak, read, or write? Or, when did you first recognize the relationship between languages and identities? Use the techniques of literary nonfiction to tell your story.
  • The Animal & You: Write a detailed account of a time you encountered a wild animal. What did you learn about both the animal and yourself? The animal you choose can be as common as a cockroach or something almost mythological as long as you stay within the boundaries of the literary nonfiction genre and work to broaden your feelings and thoughts about the animal into a theme that concerns humanity.
  • From a Distance: Write a narrative about a natural or man-made crisis that you did not directly witness or experience. Perhaps you read a tweet or saw a Facebook post, or heard about the crisis on the radio, or watched it unfold on television, or someone called or texted you about it. Explore these questions through your narrative: Where were you and what were you doing when you learned of the crisis? What thoughts did you have about the people who were directly dealing with the crisis? How did the medium through which you witnessed the crisis and your actual environment affect your experience of it? What’s the value or importance of the indirect witness?

Reading: “Reclaiming the Power of Personal Narrative,” TED Talk by Robert Tercek; “Dickhead” by Tony Hoagland; “Me Talk Pretty One Day” by David Sedaris (YouTube); “Death of a Moth” & “Living like Weasels” by Annie Dillard; “The Fourth State of Matter” by Jo Ann Beard



  • Profiles may still use elements of literary nonfiction (such as sensory descriptions and narration), but they are more analytical and informative in nature. Instead of looking inward for the autobiographical significance of personal experience, profile writers look outward in order to present “thought-provoking portraits” of people, places, or activities that have significance within a community. Choose a person, place, or activity of intrigue in your community. You will need to conduct and interview and make time to record your observations about the person, place, or activity. We will discuss guidelines for conducting interviews, but you should always put your safety first. While interviewing people in person is ideal, it is also acceptable to conduct interviews via telephone and email. Once you’ve closely observed your subject, write an essay that presents what you have learned in a way that both informs and engages your audience.

Reading: “A Gringo in the Lettuce Fields,” by Gabriel Thompson; “Serving in Florida,” by Barbara Ehrenreich; “On Dumpster Diving,” by Lars Eighner; “The Ugly Tourist,” by Jamaica Kincaid; Humans of New York; Listening Is an Act of Love (Story Corps)



  • To communicate effectively and efficiently about a particular subject, you need to be able to use and explain concepts clearly and compellingly. Concepts include principles or ideals (such as equality, justice, or the American Dream), theories (such as relativity or evolution), ideas (such as commodification or states’ rights), conditions (such as state of flow or paranoia), phenomena (such as quarks or inflation), and processes (such as high-intensity interval training or socialization). As you can see, concepts are central to the understanding of virtually every subject. You can think of your purpose as an argument of definition or as an analysis of a particular concept. 

    Write an essay that explains a grammatical conflict that exists between English and your native language. Consider what your readers are likely to know and think about the concept, what you might want them to learn about it, and whether you can research it sufficiently in the time you have. Use appropriate strategies of analysis to develop your explanation. These strategies include comparison-contrast, classification, process analysis, and cause-effect analysis. Remember to think about the question “so what?": What's the larger importance of your explanation?

Reading: “How to Tame a Wild Tongue,” by Gloria Anzaldua; "Aria: Memoir of a Bilingual Childhood," by Richard Rodriguez; additional research is expected



  • Position Argument: Think about America today. Does America meet the promise declared in the second paragraph of The Declaration of Independence?
  • Position Argument: Research the recent emphasis on standardized testing in public education through initiatives such as No Child Left Behind. What are the arguments for and against the increased use of standardized testing? Take a position on the issue and make an argument that either supports this increased testing or opposes it.
  • Cause-Effect Argument: Do some research into the literacy rate in the United States today. How would you characterize the situation? Write an argument about the causes and consequences of illiteracy today.
  • Proposal Argument: Why might some people object to Peter Singer’s proposal (“The Singer Solution to World Poverty”) for solving the problem of poverty? Considering such objections, write an argument that convinces people to give more money to charities?
  • Response Argument: Is there, as Stephanie Ericsson writes, “a world of difference between telling functional lies and living a lie” (par. 35)? Regardless of your opinion of Ericsson’s claim, write a counterargument to that claim. Considering the source “How to Spot a Liar,” what is the strongest argument you can come up with against untruth? How can you use it to counter Ericsson’s argument?

Reading: “The Declaration of Independence” by Thomas Jefferson; "Learning to Read and Write," by Frederick Douglass; “Singer’s Solution to World Poverty,” by Peter Singer; “The Ways We Lie,” by Stephanie Ericsson; TED Talk – “How to Spot a Liar” by Patricia Meyer; additional research is expected

Fifteen Minutes of Form

The first fifteen minutes of every class meeting is dedicated to the examination of the grammatical and stylistic elements of Standard (and non-standard) English. Elements include but are not limited to: adjectives & adverbs, articles, capitalization, clauses, comma usage, comma splices, conjunctions, coordination, fragments, incomplete constructions, interjections, misplaced & dangling modifiers, mixed constructions, nouns, parallelism, phrases, plurals, point of view, prepositions, pronouns, punctuation, run-on sentences, subordination, syntax, verbs (agreement, infinitives vs gerunds, irregular vs regular forms, participles), and voice.

The Writing Process

The online discussion forum is used to review and discuss students' writing as it is produced within the context of the writing projects. Forums target different genre requirements in addition to writing process and rhetorical strategies.

9 - Explaining a Concept: Synthesis & Avoiding Plagiarism   

10 - Outlining the Explanation

11 - Explaining a Concept: Drafting & Peer Review

12 - Argument: The Warrants of a Claim

13 - Argument: Refutation & Concession

14 - Argument: Revising for Rhetorical Appeal

15 - Argument: Final Peer Review

16 - Metacognitive Reflection

1 - Analyzing Narratives   

2 - Exploring Autobiographical Significance

3 - Titles & Introductions

4 - Revising Paragraphs

5 - Writing a Profile: Invention, Research, & Planning

6 - Conducting Interviews & Observations

7 - Outlining the Profile

8 - The Profile: Drafting & Peer Review