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Sample Syllabus for 15 Week Developmental English Course

(At Eastern Kentucky University, Developmental English students must pass a writing exam at the end of the course. Regardless of the student’s grade in his/her coursework, a failing exam grade means the student must take the class again. Therefore, my main aim in the class was to prepare my students so they would pass this exam. Also, realizing none of my students intended to become English majors, I focused on the types of writing they would most likely encounter in their academic careers: research papers, essay exam writing, and persuasive writing.

This sample is presented to illustrate how use of the internet can assist you in organizing your course.  This syllabus is not worded exactly as it would be if it were placed on the web for my students' access, but it is a fair template.  Observations, notations, or asides are given in parentheses.)

Intoduction to the course
Materials and texts
Grading Policy
Rough Schedule
Short introduction to the papers
Final Word

Introduction to the course:

Inventing + Drafting + Revising + Editing = Writing

(In this section of the syllabus, I place the aims and objectives of the class. It is stressed that the ONLY way to improve one’s writing is to actively write, and therefore there would be much writing done in this class. Refer to the University’s policy on plagiarism.

I give students my email address and phone number, and instructions as to where my office is located, along with advice on how best to make use of these means of communication. I give the URL for my web page, and indicate to the students that all assignments will be posted there, so there is no excuse for not having work ready on time.)

In this section, I also spell out the proper name of the course, its number, which room it will be held in, and the days and hours during which it will meet.

Materials and Texts:

St. Martin’s Handbook is required. Other sources of information will be used, but nothing else will be required to be purchased. (I bring to class examples of the notebooks I require for writing logs and journals, so there will be no miscommunication.)

I also require a separate folder for each paper, in which the student will keep all drafts of that particular assignment.


Should a student have to miss a class, the schedule, assignments, etc. are on the web. Missing a class is not an excuse to miss the assigned work. I prefer to be notified should a student miss class. I prefer email. I understand there are emergencies. I understand you have a life outside my classroom. Nonetheless, rules are there for a reason.

(This section depends on the University’s policy on absenteeism. Often, missing 10% of classes automatically results in a failing grade. My personal policy includes a rule on tardiness, where three tardies count as one absence. I believe it is unfair to the other students to be interrupted by a late student; it is annoying for me to have to repeat instructions, assignments, etc.; and, if a student arrives 15 minutes late on three occasions, effectively that is the same as missing an entire class period.)

Grading Policy:

(This is essentially left up to the instructor’s personal preference.)

Portfolio of papers / essays: 60%  (The terms 'essay' and 'paper' are used interchangebly.)

Journal: 25%

Class participation, writing log, conferences: 15%

Assignments turned in late are automatically lowered one grade.

(Of course, if a student has what I feel to be a legitimate reason for not handing in an assignment, I will work with them provided they work with me. I am easily contacted via phone or email. Assignments can be emailed to me, or handed in at my office. There are options should the need arise, but it is always a good idea to let this policy come to light later on. Best to be stern in the beginning.)

(Also add a word here about the University's policy on Developmental English courses, and how students must satisfy these requirements in order to continue in their academic career.  A word about the withdrawal policy of the University would be helpful, as well.  EKU has an English Composition Handbook which is required reading for all students; refer the students to this handbook.)


(In this section I gave an indication of what assignments would be made and how such assignments should be approached.)

There are six papers assigned during the course of the semester. Each paper will be revised several times. All six papers must be handed in at the end of the semester, or a failing grade will be given, but only five of the six papers' grades count towards the final grade. Students are allowed to submit papers as often as they wish until the final due date, but ALL previous drafts must be submitted along with the final copy each time.

All drafts must be word processed, Times New Roman size 12 font. Doublespaced. One inch margin on all sides. Type on one side only. Papers are to be stapled, one staple in the upper left-hand corner. All drafts of a paper are to be kept in a single folder. Do not use plastic coverings of any sort.

I suggest you save different drafts of your work on a single floppy disk. Use similar names, such as essay1a, essay1b, etc.

Since cut-off dates are well publisized, a paper handed in late will lose a letter grade automatically.

Papers are to be turned in with a cover sheet. I will give you a copy with your syllabus, and it is up to you to make copies for each of your papers. The cover sheet is on the web site, for you to download if you wish.

(The cover sheet has blanks for name, date, draft number, assignment name. It has blanks for me to fill in, indicating the criteria that was used in deciding the grade. It ends with a statement the student did not plagiarize in his /her work.)

Students must keep a journal and a writing log. There are to be three entries in the journal each week. In the journal, quantity and not quality is the focus. Journals will not be graded on grammar or mechanics, although these mistakes may sometimes be marked. The writing log is to be used for the student to keep track of persistent errors. When an error is marked on the paper, the student should look at the relevant section of the St. Martin’s Handbook and learn how to correct the error. In the writing log, the student notes the error and indicates how s/he has made progress in correcting it.



(I only give out a rough schedule, preferring to keep it fairly open to accommodate any problems that may occur during the course of the semester.  Don't forget to take into account any holidays.)

Week 1:    Introduction to the class. Get to know the students. Give diagnostic exam to see if any of the students should be moved to a higher level of English class. Require they obtain email addresses.  Assign journal topics and paper 1a.

2.    Paper 1a due. Use peer review. Meet in the computer suite, introduce students to the word processing software and the Internet. Divide students into ‘teams’ of two each; have them exchange email addresses (and give me their address as well). Assign paper 1b. Assign new journal topics.

3. Peer review paper 1b. Assign new journal topics, journals due. Consolidate two papers into one.

4. Assign second paper. First paper due. Assign journal topics. Lecture on comparison / contrast essays, such as different ways to handle the essay, samples of outlines, explanation of criteria. Individual conferences begin.

5. Peer review of second paper. Begin working on means of approaching essay exams in earnest. Samples of poor, fair, and good papers. Assign new journal topics. Introduce students to using the Internet.

6. Second paper due. Assign third paper. Assign journal topics. Lecture on persistent problems noticed in class writing.

7. Assign fourth paper. Focus on persuasive writing. Arrange teams into groups of two teams each. Assign journal topics. Journals and writing logs due.

8. Present third papers to the class. Practice exit exam. Assign journal topics.

9. First draft of fourth paper due for peer review. Assign fifth paper and journal topics. Lecture on research sources, citing sources, plagiarism, relevancy.

10. Fifth paper due for peer review. Work in teams to collaborate resources. Assign journal topics.

11. Assign sixth paper. This will culminate in a debate in the 14th week. Work in teams. Assign journal topics.

12. Lecture on test-taking techniques. Mock exit exams. Assign journal topics. Sixth paper due.

13. Individual conferences. Working in teams on debate based on paper 6. Assign journals.

14. Mock exit exams. Work in teams. Journal assignments.

15. Journals due. Debates. Writing logs due. All final drafts due.


This is an open schedule. For example, if teams are not actively working with one another on readying themselves for the debate, I will have a lecture ready on a topic such as invention techniques or punctuation.


These are short outlines of what is expected in each paper.  More detailed instructions will be linked at a later date.

Paper 1a: This is simple, beginning paper. Tell me about your major and what you hope to do after graduation.

Paper 1b: Pretend you are your parent. You have just read your son or daughter’s paper and you are horrified. Write an argument against your major and your aspirations.

Final Paper 1: (This counts as the first paper in the Portfolio.)  Consolidate the two papers into a strong, coherent persuasive paper in favor of your chosen field.

Paper 2: Comparison / Contrast. For this paper you will be given examples of poetry from famous authors: Robert Frost, Langston Hughes, Emily Dickinson, Carl Sandburg. You will also be given the lyrics to songs. You will bring in a copy of the lyrics to one of your favorite songs. This will be the material you will use for your comparison / contrast paper.

Paper 3: This is an process paper. The student will teach a topic to the class. A written paper will be handed in, and the topic will be demonstrated to the class.

Paper 4: These last three papers will be persuasive. A single topic will be assigned to two teams, one team will be designated pro and the other con. For paper number four, each team will argue its designated stance. Each student will do his / her own essay for credit. No outside resources are required in this paper, but students are advised that doing so will make their paper, and therefore their argument, stronger.

Paper 5: This paper requires each team to argue the opposite stance. This paper requires the student to use outside resources in making their argument.

Paper 6: This will be a consolidation of the two previous papers. Each team will argue for their designated side, but incorporate the arguments against. These three papers culminate in a debate between the two teams.

A Final Word:

There will be a variety of assignments during the semester in order to incorporate a diversity of interests.  Generally I will not censor your choice of topic.  Bear in mind, however, you are now an adult in a University setting, and will be expected to conduct yourself in an appropriate manner.  I will not accept language, written or verbal, which is inflammatory.  In other words, remember that not all persons share your point of view; therefore respect their beliefs, opinions, and feelings, as you would have them respect yours.


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