STUDENT SUPPORT SITE
First-Year Writing Program
What will I learn in FCW?
Foundations for College Writing provides an introduction to college-level writing and will help you develop the habits of mind, practices, and processes that are associated with writing successfully in college. This does not mean learning how to follow simplistic “rules” or organization patterns, such as the five-paragraph essay. Instead, you will learn what it means to write effectively and meaningfully for a specific purpose, and you will develop strategies to help you meet the demands of various writing situations.
When students are asked, “What makes successful college writing?”, they often respond with a list of criteria, such as “perfect grammar,” “a strong thesis statement,” and “cites good sources.” However, the First-Year Writing Program recognizes that successful college-level writing does not result from memorizing grammar rules or quoting lots of facts. Writing successfully at the college level means that you can demonstrate careful, critical thinking about a topic or idea. It means that you can adjust your writing to meet a variety of purposes for different audiences—academic and non-academic. And it means that you are continually re-thinking and developing your ideas and how you are presenting them.
Instead of holding up a checklist of skills or tasks that will presumably make you a “good writer,” FCW focuses on helping you understand and develop new ways of thinking about writing, as well as the practices and strategies that will help you be successful in future writing situations. We refer to these ways of thinking as the 5 Core Values. Your ability to demonstrate that you understand these values is what will determine your success in the course.
Why is this class pass/fail?
FCW’s pass/fail structure removes the pressures of grades and GPA from your experience of the course. One of the main goals here is to encourage you to explore new ideas, new approaches to composing, and new strategies of generating and organizing your ideas—without the fear of damaging your GPA.
Like all of the First-Year Writing Program courses, FCW is portfolio-based. Instead of being graded one essay at a time, you will spend all semester working on a series of essays, which are submitted at the end of the semester in a final portfolio. You will submit multiple drafts of each essay over the course of the semester, and you will be able to continually improve these essays using peer and instructor feedback and class periods devoted to essay revision. Whether you pass the course will be determined by the improvement of your work over the course of the semester, and your ability to demonstrate that you understand the habits, processes, and practices that will contribute to your success in future writing.
What ARE the “foundations” of college writing?
The First-Year Writing program has identified a variety of reading and writing practices that will contribute to your success as a college writer. These include concrete skills, such as assembling a paragraph or introducing a source, but they also include ways of thinking about reading, writing, and the various stages of composing.
By way of analogy, you might imagine the thought process of athletes who hope to improve their performance in a particular sport. Getting better at a sport involves improving skills and fitness, but it also requires a thorough understanding of the rules of the game, and an understanding of how different plays work, and how to execute them.
If athletes want to be successful, they are not just going to wait until game day and hope for the best. They’re going to put in weeks, months, and even years of training to improve their strength, stamina, skills, and understanding of the game. This training might include scrimmages, but it’s also going to include:
Improving strength and endurance at the gym
Studying the playbook and past games
Developing specific moves and skills
Working with a coach and teammates on strategies and plays
Practicing different scenarios and problem-solving
Increasing mental endurance, motivation, and focus
In the same way, successful writing requires a commitment to developing the different skills and habits of mind that you will need to meet the demands of different situations.
These skills are outlined in the Five Core Values.