ETAP 655L: Perspectives on Teaching Composition in the Secondary School
Spring, 2008
Guidelines for the Major Writing Assignments









The two assignments described on this page constitute two of the four main assignments you will do for this course (the other two are the summary/response paper and the unit plan); these two assignments will be the focus of your work in your writing group. These assignments also differ from other course assignments in that they will not be graded individually; instead, you will receive a single grade for both assignments, as described below.

This page contains guidelines for each of these assignments:

  1. Assignment 1: Free Choice Writing

  2. Assignment 2: Article Manuscript for English Journal

Please note: You must submit with the final version of each of these two assignments a brief reflection in which you offer your own evaluation of the piece and discuss what you learned about writing and about yourself as a writer through the assignment. These reflections are a required part of each assignment.

You will also find information about the following on this page:

Assignment 1: Free Choice Writing

This assignment is just what the heading implies: you can choose to submit any kind of writing. Ideally, that writing will be nonfiction (for reasons that we will dicuss in class), but you may submit poetry or fiction. You may also submit some kind of document in a digital medium, such as hypertext. The specific genre or form of the assignment is up to you; so are the length, audience, and purpose for the text you write/compose/create.

There isn't much more to say about this assignment, except that you should try to write something that matters to you--something you care about. Also, consider carefully the audience you imagine for this text (which may or may not be your classmates in this course); you should complete this assignment with that audience in mind.

See below for information about deadlines for this assignment.

Assignment 2: Article Manuscript for English Journal

For this assignment, you will write an article intended for publication in English Journal, the main professional journal for secondary English teachers, which is published by the National Council of Teachers of English. Your article should be focused on an important problem or question related to teaching writing that matters to you as a teacher and that would be of interest to readers of that journal, who include secondary school English teachers as well as university faculty involved in preparing English teachers. You might think of this assignment as a kind of research paper in which you examine a specific problem or question that is important to other middle or high school writing teachers.

Your purpose in this assignment, then, is twofold:

  1. to explore a significant question or problem in the teaching of writing in order to understand better the teaching of writing, and
  2. to contribute to the ongoing professional conversations about the teaching of writing.

Selecting a Topic. For this assignment you should write about an issue or problem that interests and/or concerns you as an aspiring or inservice English teacher. Ideally, your topic will grow out of your own teaching or out of your work in this course (including perhaps, the essay you wrote for the first writing assignment described above). The most important point to be made about your topic is that it is one that you want to explore--something you want to understand better.

Submitting Your Proposal. Once you have decided on a topic for this assignment, you will submit a brief, informal proposal in which you describe your topic. In your proposal you should

  • state as clearly as possible the problem or question on which you will focus your article;
  • explain why this problem or question would be important to readers of English Journal;
  • describe the main ideas or information that you expect your article to include;
  • identify potential sources you may need to consult or have already consulted.

Your proposal should be a few paragraphs in length and, though relatively brief, should reflect careful thought on your part about your article.

The deadline for this proposal is listed below.

Exploring Your Topic. Whatever you decide to write about for this assignment, it should be a topic that you want to know more about and understand better. Accordingly, you should expect to do some research on your chosen problem or question. Think of this assignment as an opportunity not only to enhance your own understanding of the teaching of writing but also to contribute to our collective understanding of writing and writing instruction.

You should also use your writing group in this effort by sharing sources, collaborating on research, and seeking advice or feedback as you work through this assignment.

Knowing Your Audience. To do this assignment well, you'll need to become familiar with English Journal. (You can acces the journal online at; however, you must be a subscriber in order to access full-text articles from the journal. The UAlbany library also carries the journal.) Spend some time browsing the Tables of Contents of recent issues to get some sense of the topics and questions that interest readers of the journal. Read several articles to learn about the appropriate style, structure, voice, and focus of articles published in this journal. (Note that several of the required readings in this course were originally published in English Journal; check the list of course readings to see which ones they are.) Also, try to find out more about those readers and about the journal's sense of its audience and its mission.

In writing for the journal, you are in effect joining an ongoing professional conversation among English teachers, English educators, and others interested in the teaching of English. And in joining that conversation, you are becoming part of a wider community of professionals and contributing to the shared knowledge and debates that define that community.

Style, Length, and Related Matters. The style and length of this assignment should be appropriate for an article manuscript that you would submit to English Journal. As noted above, you'll need to become familiar with the journal in order to complete this assignment. You can access guidelines for authors on the journal's website.

See below for information about deadlines for this assignment.

Submission Guidelines

Format. Unless otherwise indicated, all writing assignments for this course should be submitted in electronic format. You should expect to submit your essay as a Microsoft Word file or, if you are using Word Perfect or MS Works, as a rich text file. (Let me know if you have questions about format.) Finished assignments should be sent to Bob Yagelski ( as an attachment to an email message.

Deadlines. Deadlines for these two assignments are as follows:

February 5 A complete draft of the free-choice assignment (Please bring your draft in hard copy to share with members of your writing group.)
February 26 Final revised version of the free-choice assignment
March 4 Proposal for English Journal article (Please bring your proposal to class in hard copy to share with your writing group.)
April 1 A complete draft of the English Journal article (Please bring your draft in hard copy to share with members of your writing group.)
April 22 Final revised version of the English Journal article

Please note that although these dates are firm, you are allowed to revise these assignments up through May 1.

Grading. These two writing assignments will be graded together. They will constitute 35% of your final grade for this course. They will be evaluated according to the goals and guidelines for each assignment and in the context of your own self-evaluations. Since the matter of writing assessment is one of the course topics, we will discuss (and possibly negotiate) the grading of these essays as we move through the work of the course.