First-Year Writing Seminar Program Assignment Sequences

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Most materials in the Assignment Sequence collection have won the James F. Slevin Assignment Sequence prize, a competition sponsored by the John S. Knight Institute for Writing in the Disciplines. Each semester, a prize is awarded to the teacher submitting the best sequence of writing assignments used in a First-Year Writing Seminar. Submissions include a description of several sequenced essay assignments, which are often innovative, for instance in genre and rhetorical situation; a full description of preparatory work for each essay, sometimes including handouts used; and a rationale.


Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 10 of 69
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    Cartographic Essay
    Lasky, Joseph (2023)
    Maps reflect and geographically reify social and political imaginaries. Through them, cartographers structure space with intention. Nationalist entrepreneurs use scale, symbology, and language to solidify ties to people and territory. To understand nationalism as a process and the role of cartography in [re]producing the nation, students were asked to first draft a map (defined broadly). Once complete, the map – now a primary document – served as a lens in an exploration of nation building.
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    Written Approaches to Festival, Ritual, and Carnival
    Horner, Rachel (2023)
    This sequence of three assignments encourages students to approach the class topic of festivals, rituals, and carnivals through three distinct, yet interrelated, written media: an ethnographic narrative, an interview write-up, and a podcast script. Each assignment offers clear parameters in the form of preparatory activities, required readings, and peer and instructor feedback to help students channel their creative instincts toward refined pieces of writing that facilitate the development of their voices as authors.
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    Assignment Sequence for The Braided Essay
    Sang, Stephanie (2022)
    This assignment sequence was created for the unit in latter half of the semester entitled: “Unit 3: More-than-human Creative Non-fiction.” In this unit, students read a range of creative non-fiction essays—a genre requiring both good research skills and narrative storytelling. Collaborating with peers in close reading exercises, consulting course texts as “mentors” for craft moves, and completing multiple rounds of brainstorming and revision activities, students crafted their own braided essay pertaining to the course theme: “True Stories of Lands and Waters.”
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    The Politics of ‘Autonomous Vehicles’: A Collaborative Research Project Responding to a CFP
    Hu, Wanheng (2022)
    This sequence of assignments was centered on a major writing task, in which students were asked to write a collective research paper in groups in response to a real-world call for papers on the topic of “The Politics of ‘Autonomous Vehicles’”. Assigned during the last quarter of the semester, the sequence aimed at helping students practice writing about sophisticated, collaborative research work effectively, as well as apply and sharpen the writing skills and theoretical perspectives previously learned in the course.
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    Close Reading Feminism & Pop Culture Essay Sequence
    Richmond, Kelly (2021)
    How can pop culture help us understand feminist politics? How can feminist theory help us understand media as communicating meaning through not only content, but also form? This sequence of writing assignments is designed to build close reading and analytic writing skills in first year students, prompting them to consider how a variety of media use formal devices (not limited to the literary) to construct and communicate meaning.
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    Grant Proposal
    Dharmasinghe, Geethika (2021)
    Writing grant proposals require particular skills but in the end it is skill in writing that is valued most. Ironically, writing a successful grant proposal is not necessarily about how well one knows the subject of a study. This is because the proposal comes before the actual work or study. Later, one knows a lot about the subject. In applying to study it the most important value is how well one presents it. This requires not only analytical skills, but finding a gap in the object of one’s research, developing one’s own voice and presenting the subject to a particular audience. Ultimately, this involves concise writing and editing, which shows the stakes of writing as it actually has a ‘price’ attached to it. Proposal writing emphasizes the use of active and positive language. A strong proposal needs strong analytical and research skills. Further, it makes students imagine the importance of their research in the sense of contribution to the field.
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    Think Tank
    Aas, Oliver (2021)
    This assignment asks students to work as researchers for a think tank. It first requires students to perform research on a topic that is assigned to them and write an individual research paper. Then, once the individual papers are submitted, students are allotted into their respective “think tanks” (group of students working on the same text) where they are asked to create an academic poster translating the insights of their assigned texts into a poster. The idea is to exceed a strictly academic frame and create something that is accessible for a larger and non-expert audience(s). The final part of the sequence will see the think tanks compete “against” each other in a round of final presentations. The skills that students learn are argument precision, group work, “translation,” public speaking, pitching and writing in a different format than an academic essay. The “think tank” format of the task also emphasizes collegiality and compromise.
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    An Assignment Sequence on Layli Long Soldier’s “38”
    Martinez, Yessica (2020)
    An assignment sequence on Layli Long Soldier’s “38” that engages students in a close reading practice and challenges them to use the evolving thesis model proposed by David Rossenwasser and Jill Stephens. Through pre-writing reflections and exercises, students are encouraged to develop a more embodied, intimate reading of “38” and to draw out broader historical/socio-political implications from their close reading observations.
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    Cultivating Disaster Literacy: Concepts, Ethics, Vulnerabilities, Temporalities
    Lord, Austin (2020)
    This sequence of assignments was designed to help students build critical thinking and writing skills that will help them communicate more clearly about the complexities of disaster, climate change, and environmental uncertainties – within and beyond the classroom. Through these assignments, students developed a unique kind of ‘disaster literacy’ that will help them compose accounts of disaster and climate change that are rigorous, perceptive, socially nuanced, and ethically composed.
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    Grant Proposal Assignment
    Lau, Ting Hui (2019)
    Students were assigned a travel grant proposal as their final assignment. Students had to design a research plan, travel itinerary, and budget for the Southeast Asia Program (SEAP) Engaged Travel Grant. The SEAP Engaged Travel Grant is a one thousand U.S. Dollar travel grant for undergraduate students intending to travel to Southeast Asia for research or study.