What Goes on in ENC 1101?
Editor's note: Devan was the first editor, really the originator, of Our Own Words. In this essay she talks about how this guide was created and what our students, when surveyed, said about the First-Year Writing Program.
Welcome to ENC 1101. We surveyed several classes of beginning ENC 1102 students about what they wish they had known before they began--to give us and you the benefit of an informed look back after they'd just completed their first semester adjustment to campus life. Much of what's covered in this essay is based on what they told us.
What can you expect?
"ENC 1101 is a very interesting class. It enables you to find out what you are capable of achieving in writing. It helps you learn more about yourself and the way you treat others."
"I was preparing myself for the worst before taking an English class here at FSU. I wish I had known that it would be interesting and that I was able to express my feelings in writing."
"Now that I have finished English 1101, I feel much better. When I first started I was so scared and so nervous that I was going to fail. I thought that the class was going to be so unbelievably hard because of what my high school teachers told me. They said I would get a mean professor who would mark off for every little thing. Yeah, right! I really enjoyed having that class because I could express my own personal views and feelings and I could also write about interesting subjects. I know that my high school teacher was only trying to prepare me, but she was very unrealistic."
What happens in class?
ENC 1101 is a writing class. The focus isn't on reading or grammar, and that fact alone accounts for a good deal of this class's difference from other English classes you might have taken in the past. As a result, the classroom atmosphere may be more informal and friendlier than you expect. For many students, ENC 1101 is their smallest class; through participating in class discussions and peer response groups, writing together and reading each other's writing, you will probably get to know people in the class--other students and the teacher--well. You'll come to feel at ease with them and will find ways to work together. You'll make your class unique, your own. This is a goal of the First-Year Writing Program: that our classrooms be student-centered. Your writing, discussion, and ideas are absolutely necessary to make the class work. Things like choosing your own topics for writing and being expected to contribute to class discussions are consequences of student-centeredness. Sitting and "hiding" from the teacher, as one student put it, will not help you succeed in ENC 1101. So the class, while being demanding in ways you may not have expected, isn't scary: writing is both easier and more pleasant in a less-tense situation.
What Can You Expect from Group Work?
Group work is a mainstay of most ENC 1101 classes. While some teachers may assign group projects or collaborative papers, the most common--and probably most important--group activity is peer response, also known as workshops. What, exactly, is peer response? It means that you'll be sharing your writing and ideas with fellow class members and the teacher. For this reason, you shouldn't write about subjects that you don't want to share with classmates. Students often hesitate to respond to others' writing because they feel unqualified to "judge" another person's work. But responding does not mean that you are evaluating, but simply explaining what works for you, as a reader. You might find yourself pointing out passages you want to know more about, ideas you don't fully understand, or possibilities for creative change. Realize that writers are not expected to incorporate all of their classmates' suggestions, only to listen with an open mind. Although workshops can sometimes be difficult, your teacher will discuss productive ways to voice your ideas.
"Prepare to share a lot of your work and a lot of yourself with others."
"I learned to express my ideas with my peers and, on the other hand, accept their views and ideas."
"Much of our class time was spent discussing our writing in small groups of three or four people.”
"The group workshops always helped when you were writing an essay. The other students would read your work and give their opinion on it. Whether it was positive or negative, there was always something you could improve in your essay."
What Can You Expect from Class Discussions?
“Don't be shy! ENC 1101 class discussions often play an important role in building a sense of community (getting to know each other), generating paper topics, and exploring what makes writing good."
"I wish I had known more about the world before entering ENC 1101. By this I mean that I wish I had picked up a newspaper more often or listened/watched the news. I could have had much more input in class discussions if I had only taken the time to wonder what's going on 'out there' past the FSU campus."
"I look back and wish I had participated in more class discussions, which would have enabled me to learn more."
"I expected a large class where I wouldn't have to get involved in class discussions. When I got to class the first day, I was a little nervous because I knew that I wasn't going to be able to hide from the teacher. Sure enough, though, I got involved in all my class discussions and actually enjoyed
giving my input."
The Processes of Writing:
From what these students have written, you may begin to understand some of the ways that a student-centered writing class--rather than a teacher-centered reading class--can work. You are now part of the academic community at FSU, and the business of the academy is the making of meanings, the discovery and sharing of ideas. Your peers ask a great deal of you, and you may begin asking more and different things of yourself, too. In ENC 1101, writing is a mode of learning, just as the scientific method is a mode of learning science. Similar to the way in which sciences look at the scientific method, writing in ENC 1101 is approached as a process, an action, rather than a collection of products or things. Of course the process produces pieces of writing, but the process can be just as important in the class than the products. This accounts for another major difference between most high school writing classes and ENC 1101. The free writing, multiple drafting, revising, and portfolio grading that many instructors practice all support writing as a process and emphasize your responsibility to find ways to work with that process. Writing, student-centeredness, and emphasis on process work together to create your ENC 1101 class--with the English department's input, with your teacher's, and with yours.
"Although I was not used to drafting and the whole 'workshop process,' it proved to be the most effective writing system I'd ever encountered."
"I wish I had not been so set in one structure of writing because it made it harder for me to break that habit and try new things."
"My teacher went out of his way to make the whole class (even those who didn't feel they were 'good' writers) feel good about their work."
"I wish I'd had more writing experience from high school. I didn't have to write anything in English class previously."
"In high school, teachers told us what to write about, and in 1101, often a paper topic was to write about anything we wanted. It left a great deal of freedom which I had a lot of fun with. I was able to explore different styles of writing, as well as my feelings."
"In my first semester, I came to college and into college English a five-paragraph essay writing machine. My high school teacher had emphasized structured and traditional writing. My 1101 teacher was very much into taking risks in writing and going against the structured style. I had to work very hard to break some writing rules that had been implanted in my head all through high
Drafting and Revising:
"I wish I wouldn't have been so afraid of revision."
"The only thing that was new to me was the drafting and revising, which I got used to quickly."
"I should have known that doing more than one rough draft helps a paper develop. I used to do only two rough drafts. I never kept going back through my paper to revise more. I discovered through my teacher's advice that the more drafts you do and the closer you look at the paper, the better it will be in the end."
Portfolios, Journals and Grammar:
Portfolios, journals or exploratory writing, and grammar are three areas that students addressed frequently in their surveys. Portfolios and exploratory writing aren't commonly found in high school writing classes, and their unfamiliarity may make you uneasy at first. Ask your teacher for clarification and discussion, and don't worry--neither is terribly complicated. Grades are naturally an area of concern for you as a new college student, and grading policies in your ENC 1101 class may differ from those you knew in high school. Read your teachers' course information sheet carefully and take advantage of opportunities to ask questions about things that confuse, puzzle or surprise you.
Nuts and Bolts--Keeping Up in Class:
The First-Year Writing Program has an attendance policy, and your teacher's basic attendance policy is just like the next teacher's, though the fine points may differ a little. The bottom line is that attendance is required and affects your grade.
"The first time I took ENC 1101, I wish I [had known] how drastically absences affected your grade. I wouldn't have missed as many classes as I did. I probably would've gone to all the classes. It wasn't that I didn't like them, because they were fun; it was just that I like to stay up late and my classes were early."
"As far as absences go, I feel the department is somewhat lenient. There is no reason to miss more than four or six classes. If you are going to, there is no place for you at FSU! Attendance, I feel, is the first step to success. After that it is every man (or woman) for himself (herself)."
"I feel that the attendance policy in English classes at FSU is beneficial to the student. You need class time to discuss your work with your peers."
"My first writing assignment in college I thought was going to be a breeze. After all, I had taken AP English in high school and made A's. When I got my paper back, however, I was shocked--a C+! I didn't know what to do or how to change it. My old English teacher liked it--why didn't my professor? I learned that while I should use the background I had learned in high school, I could no longer write like I was in high school, but COLLEGE! In college your writing has unlimited
"I wish I had known that every single grade counts big time, that there was no room to slack."
"When entering my ENC 1101 class, I really didn't want anything except an A. As days passed in the class and I read my peers' writings, I realized that their writings were so much more sophisticated than mine. So that was one thing that I tried to work on and my instructor also helped me with."
Tips on Time Management/Procrastination/Stress:
Getting adjusted to the working pace of the university (along with everything else) isn't easy for most students. As one student commented: "You think you have nothing to do, and it's all under control, and all of a sudden you have everything to do."
A lot of problems that can cause you trouble and stress can be easily avoided. Often, students' problems are related to being new to campus and not really knowing what college classes will be like. As teachers we can verify that problems with typing, computers, printers, photocopies, and so on--mechanical problems--continually come up. Many of us deduct for lateness, too, so it's in your best interest to turn in your writing on time. And no matter how wonderful your excuse, it's pretty safe to say that we've heard it before and will hear it again. Further, not having mechanical problems--no lateness, papers typed, correct number of copies--will make you look really good, which is what you want. Listen to what the students below have to tell you:
"For me, being the terrible typist that I am, I wish I would have had better typing skills. Also, I wish I would have bought extra printing cartridges for my printer so when my old one ran out I wouldn't have to turn in my paper late."
"I wish I would have known where the computer lab was."
(A list of campus computer labs appears at the end of this introduction.)
Passing off someone else's words as your own or turning in a paper from a previous class are both very bad things to do in ENC 1101 and 1102. You can be kicked out of school for plagiarizing. If you're lucky, you'll only receive an F for the course. Most of the time, however, students find themselves plagiarizing because 1) they didn't know the difference between borrowing a source and plagiarizing or 2) they ran out of time, felt the pressure, and tried to get by with a little cheating. You can avoid both of these situations by working ahead and talking to your teacher about how to quote sources (your handbook or The Curious Researcher is a good place for help, too). You can always try asking your teacher for an extension when you have a time crunch. But even if she can't give you more time, you're much better off turning in less than fabulous job and handing in YOUR OWN WORK. This student's guide is possible because so many students work hard and honestly to improve their writing. Your teacher would much rather see you drafting and revising and working hard to improve than to see perfect papers. If you do "accidentally" hand in something that is not your writing or you did not originally write for this class, confess to your teacher before she confronts or accuses you.
Other Worthwhile Advice from Students:
"I wish I had known about the Reading and Writing Center."
(As noted earlier, the R/WC is located in 230 William Johnston. It is staffed by English Department teachers who can help with writing for ENC 1101, as well as other courses. You must make an appointment 24 hours in advance by calling 644-6495. There is no charge, so it's a great way to get additional feedback on your writing.)
"Read the policy sheet."
"The factor that I had not drawn upon was that of the TA office hours, to grasp their knowledge on a person-to-person basis and improve my own writing."
(We'd particularly like to reiterate what this student said: take advantage of your teacher's office hours! That time is set aside to talk with you, the student, about the course and your writing.)
"The last thing I recommend is a good attitude and an open mind. Expression of opinions was encouraged."