After over 20 years of teaching college English, VirginiaLynne loves to share tips, teaching plans, and information about the profession.
What is a College English Syllabus?
A College English Syllabus is the contract between the professor and the student. The syllabus helps the students know what to expect by:
- Explaining what the course will teach.
- Telling how the students will be graded.
- Outlining the policies and procedures of the course.
Having taught Freshman English for over 20 years, I've learned that many problems can be avoided by having a syllabus which is clear about what is expected.
However, talking about a syllabus or reading it aloud is a dull way to begin the semester. Instead, I have students take a simple "Syllabus Quiz" in pairs to start the class. After the students have worked together to find the answers, I go through the quiz as a way to talk about the information and answer questions.
No one should have to re-invent the wheel, so I give permission for instructors to use my sample College English Syllabus and Syllabus quiz in their classrooms. If you do, please let me know it was helpful by leaving a comment.
College English Poll
Syllabus Quiz Activity
Nothing is more boring than hearing an instructor drone on about the syllabus. That is why I use a short in-class quiz to make sure students see the aspects of the syllabus I most want them to notice. I have them work in pairs to find the answers for a few minutes. Then I go through the quiz and answer any questions. Here is my sample quiz:
- Name three things you will learn to do in College that you think might help you in college and life.
- Look at the five essay assignments. Which ones have you done before? Which ones are new?
- What is unusual about the final exam?
- How can you make sure you don’t get a lower grade on homework if you can’t make it to class?
- What two things make up the 15% of your grade?
- What could make you fail the course?
- What are 5 things that will be evaluated on your essays?
- Name 3 things you can do to get a better grade on your essays.
- When should you start trying to improve your grade?
- What should you put at the top of your essay?
College English is designed to help students develop the rhetorical knowledge and practical habits of successful college writers. Students will learn to use the concepts of purpose, audience, and genre as they develop their own documents; to generate claims, ideas, supporting details, and evidence; to use appropriate expository structures; to produce drafts and to revise their work as they develop a final product; to produce a prose style that is readable, effective, and free from error; and to develop critical skills through an analysis of good expository writing.
Assignments: Students in College English write five essays and the final exam. The five main essay units are:
- Reading and Responding
- Analyzing and Evaluating
- Problem Solving and Arguing
- Writing the In-Class Exam or Essay
In each unit, students will be:
- Completing reading assignments and homework.
- Do pre-writing exercises and group work.
- Participating in in-class discussions, group work, and writing exercises.
- Drafting, revising and editing a paper which is 750 words or more (3-4 pages).
Students will develop skills in:
- Recognizing and addressing an audience persuasively.
- Finding interesting topics, developing arguments and using supporting evidence.
- Organizing papers effectively.
- Creating varied sentences which are precisely worded.
Essay Format Instructions
All draft and final essays must double-spaced in an easy-to-read font like Helvetica, Times or Courier. Font size should be 12. All final essays must include all pre-writing exercises, drafts, and peer evaluations in order to receive full credit. At the top right-hand corner of the first page include the following information:
- Name, Essay #, Date, and word count
- Time of the class (12:20 or 1:25)
Getting Course Help
Final Examination: All students in College English take the same exam at the same time. The questions are prepared by the Freshman English committee. Each instructor grades the essays for their own classes. For the final you have about 8 topic questions. You will choose one question to write on. You will have two hours to write one essay. In the final exam, students should demonstrate the ability to limit a topic, present a clearly-worded thesis supported by appropriate examples, and effectively organize the presentation. Writing style on the final exam should be precise and effective and also reflect standard conventions of usage as presented in course texts.
Late Assignments Policy: Students are expected to arrange their schedules so that work is turned in on or before the beginning of the class period that it is due. Exceptions will be made only for medical or family emergencies for which you have a note from the health clinic or another responsible party.
Work will not be counted late if you:
- Have another student turn it in during class or under my office door.
- E-mail it to me before class.
Attendance: English 1302 is a lab class with in-class work and discussion. Students are expected to attend class regularly and should not have more than 25% absences. Students receive credit for daily work by attending and participating. If you are absent, you will receive a “0” for that day. Excessive absences will result in a lower grade in the course.
Grading will be assigned according to the following percentages:
- 5 essays: 75%
- Attendance and Daily Homework: 15%
- Final examination: 10%.
- You must turn in all essays to pass the course and you must have a passing average on the final 4 essays to receive credit for the course.
- All essay grades are final and essays may not be revised for a better grade.
- Late essays will be reduced by at least one full grade. Students without a completed draft essay on peer editing days will also receive a lowered final grade (20% of the grade is based on the quality of your draft and the quality of your editing comments on other people’s drafts).
Essays will be evaluated using questions like the following:
- Does essay follow the assignment guidelines?
- Does it have a title and introduction which engages the reader and clearly presents the thesis?
- Are the ideas thoroughly developed? With good use of sources?
- Are sources quoted, paraphrased, summarized and documented correctly?
- Is thinking logical and analysis thoughtful?
- Is there appropriate supportive detail for ideas and arguments?
- Is essay unified and coherent?
- Are there effective transitions within and between paragraphs?
- Is there a satisfactory conclusion?
- Are sentences clear, concise and varied?
- Is word use appropriate for audience and subject?
- Does essay use correct grammar and punctuation?
An An essay demonstrates excellence in fulfilling the specific assignment and in the majority of listed criteria.
The B essay also fulfills the assignment and presents a thorough treatment of the subject but may lack the mastery of all writing skills as demonstrated by the A essay.
The C essay reflects writing competency in addressing the assignment but may offer superficial development of content, weakness in meeting several criteria or contain mechanical and grammatical errors that obscure content.
The D essay marginally fulfills the assignment but fails to demonstrate competency in a number of areas.
The F essay does not fulfill the assignment and/or is so deficient in areas of content and mechanical proficiency that it fails to communicate ideas clearly and coherently.
How to Improve Your Grade
Frequently, after receiving their first grade on an essay, students decide that they are not satisfied with their grade and want to do better. The time to decide that you want to improve your grade is after the first essay, not after your final. Your best chance to improve your grade is to work diligently to improve your writing. Here are the steps you can take to do that:
- Attend class on time and be prepared for class by doing homework.
- Read essay assignments carefully and write out homework assignments completely—showing that you not only read the material, but also thought about it.
- Draft essays:
- Make sure you give yourself enough time to write a complete essay and to do a spell check and other revisions before taking it to class.
- When you get the comments back from peer editing, be sure to read them carefully and follow the instructions in the textbook and How to Revise Your Essay for a Better Grade.
- Go to the Writing Lab for help.
4. Final Essays:
- Revise your essay for content first.
- Then spell check and grammar check your essay.
- Next, read through your essay out loud to “listen” for any error you missed (since most of us read more slowly out loud, we can often catch errors that way that we miss when reading silently).
- Check your paper carefully for “proof-reading errors” like commas (look up the rules!), using the same word to start two sentences in a row, and other errors we discuss in class.
- Use your grammar book to check your grammar.
- If you still have a question about something after looking it up, write the page number you looked up in the margin of the paper, and ask the instructor in class or go to the Writing Lab.
- Finally, have at least one other person proofread your paper.
- If you find a last-minute error, it is all right to write the correction on the final copy if you do not have time to re-do it on your computer.
- Be sure you have all of your pre-writing, drafts and peer editing ready to turn in with your final essay.
5. Graded Essays: Grades of essays do not change once they have been given, but you can do a number of things to improve the grade of your next essay.
- First, carefully re-read your essay (important!) as you read all of the instructor’s comments and write down a list of the things you need to improve in your writing.
- Second, go through the essay and correct all of the grammar/spelling errors marked. Write down on your list any errors that you realize you need to learn (for example you confused “there” and “their”).
- Third, look in the grammar handbook to find pages, which would help you, improve in your areas of weakness. Do the exercises in the book for practice.
- Fourth, go to the Writing Lab for help on these areas (show them your essay and the list of things you want to improve).
- Fifth, you can memorize the rules and tips in Mrs. Kearney’s Writing Effective Sentences and Punctuation Rules (on Hubpages_ and apply these to your sentences. One way to do this is to take one suggestion at a time and go through the paper, looking for places that you can improve your sentences or punctuation.
The bottom line:
If you do not follow the above steps, you will probably not improve your grade!
amdouutg1@hot mail.com on August 15, 2017:
I thank you so much for this wonderful English Syllabus. I had always wanted to develop an English Syllabus for my department @ the Law faculty. That's a good guides for me. You have my appreciation and admiration for this guidance.
Mr. Amadou O.S.Camara
Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on June 08, 2017:
You can use my syllabus Yolace. I also have many articles on this site and the associated website of Letterpile about writing and teaching writing. I encourage you to send your students to my website for help. I am in the process of putting together an outline that links to all of my articles. You can find many of them by looking at my profile page.
yolace ortiz on June 08, 2017:
hi.. can i ask a copy of your syllabus.. i am new to this and i really don't have any background in making one
Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on July 01, 2014:
Thanks so much grand old lady. I decided to post this after I was asked to teach a different class and I found there was not much on the web to help me decide how to write a syllabus for it.
Mona Sabalones Gonzalez from Philippines on June 30, 2014:
Congratulations on your HOTD, it is well deserved. This is very useful for English college teachers and many academics would benefit from a syllabus like this.
theBAT on April 10, 2014:
Hi thanks for sharing this. English is considered as a secondary language in our country. What you wrote here would help us a lot in learning the English language. Again, thanks.
Mary from Cronulla NSW on April 09, 2014:
Congrats Virginia..well deserved I have to say as most of your hubs are worthy of HOTD..Cheers
FlourishAnyway from USA on April 09, 2014:
Congratulations on HOTD. Nicely done. I recall one of my college English classes was taught by a graduate TA. She was superb and even better than some of the full professors.
RTalloni on April 09, 2014:
Congratulations on your Hub of the Day award for this interesting and useful post!
icv on April 09, 2014:
great hub. very interesting hub. thanks for your great effort
Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on October 01, 2013:
Thanks so much Billie. I originally posted my writing information mostly for my own students, but I got so much traffic from all over that I realized many people needed this information. I'm so glad the Internet allows us all to connect and share to help other people learn.
Billie Kelpin from Newport Beach on October 01, 2013:
Excellent. Very useful, especially for college Freshmen who might never have been exposed to the word or concept of "syllabus". And if only those of us who've been there and those of us who are there would keep looking BACK at the syllabus, live would be a whole lot easier. These hubs are sooo useful, I'll reference them with links back to you on my languagerocks website (under new construction at the moment. Thank you for this wealth of information VirginiaLynne
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on September 16, 2013:
Virginia, you do a really great job. Bet your favorite teacher for many students. You have my admiration and my vote up!