Designing Your Course

R&C courses are distinguished by the fact that the study and practice of the activities of reading and writing are themselves central components of the course.  This means that substantial time in class, as well as assignments to be completed outside of class, are devoted to that study and practice.  Specific ideas and suggestions for the many forms this work might take can be seen in the teaching resources below.

Course Design/Creating a Syllabus

The key for any syllabus in a writing course is to balance writing instruction with reading and discussion of works. A good R&C syllabus should include “scaffolding,” that is, a series of shorter assignments that lead to a larger paper, as well as ample opportunity for revision. In addition, a strong component of an R&C course will be in-class writing/editing/peer review; a good rule of thumb is that about 30% of class time, or one hour a week for a three hour class, should be spent on these activities.

Developing Writing Assignments

In writing assignments, there is always a tension between being too open (“Write an essay about something that interests you”) and too directive (“Pick three themes and three subthemes in the book, and examine each in terms of the main character, being sure to bring in at least four other things we’ve read this semester”). The following will help you think through your goal with a writing assignment and how to craft those that will produce the best papers.

Teaching Critical Reading

The “reading” part of the Reading and Composition requirement is often taken as a given, when in fact many students are not as effective readers as we expect or as they need to be—especially in their ability to read critically.  Instructors often need to practice “close reading” with their classes to give students a sense of “active” reading strategies that lead to engaged, critical reading.

Teaching Research

The second semester of the reading and composition requirement also focuses on the development of students' research skills and ability to incorporate source material effectively.  The following resources will assist you in approaching the teaching of research.

Dealing with Plagiarism

Most academic writing involves writing about texts, so the R&C course should teach students how to integrate sources into their own writing appropriately and smoothly.  In addition, while we don’t want to downplay the prevalence or seriousness of plagiarism, we can say that writing instructors can go a long way towards preventing it by carefully crafting assignments to be 1) integral to the theme and readings, 2) engaging to students, and 3) contain scaffolding assignments so that you can see the various stages students have gone through.  Some instructors ask students to submit a packet of all preparatory materials, the final paper, and a “reflection” piece on the writing of the paper.

Sample Handbooks and Syllabi