Course Information

Course Title: English Composition 1

Section Number: D420

 Class Location

  • We’re meeting in Namm 521 in person.
  • We will be meeting twice a week for this course: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 10-11:40am

Faculty Information

Professor’s Name:

  • Jessica Penner

Online Office Hours/Information:

  • Mondays and Wednesdays, 1-2pm

Contact Information

  • Email:
  • If you email me during the week, you can expect a response within 24 hours. If you email me on the weekend, it may be up to 48 hours before you hear back from me.


Welcome to City Tech and English 1101. We are living through a very difficult time in our city, country, and world, and trying to adapt. In our class, we will prioritize intellectual nourishment, community, and humanity. If you have any concerns about the course or college, or if there is any situation preventing you from participating, please do not hesitate to reach out to me. Know that I am here to work with you.

Course Description:

A course in effective essay writing and basic research techniques including use of the library. Demanding readings assigned for classroom discussion and as a basis for essay writing.

Every City Tech (and CUNY) student takes Composition I, which features reading and writing assignments that will help prepare you for college and beyond. Together we will work on communicating effectively, building an argument, adapting your writing for different needs and situations, interpreting and responding to a text, incorporating and citing secondary source material. We will be reading pieces both for their inherent literary and informational value and also as models for our own writing projects. Sharing your own ideas and experiences and adding your voice to our discussions will enrich our class community.


CUNY proficiency in reading and writing 

Course Meetings:

This course will meet twice a week for an hour and forty minutes. This meeting is required.

Course Meetings & Behavior

  • Attendance and active participation are crucial. I will post a weekly Agenda each Friday that will summarize what we’ll be discussing in the following week, but a summary doesn’t replace the detailed discussion that happens during our meetings. Our meetings are times for me to explain something in depth, for you to ask questions, and for students to interact in a way that fosters comradery and understanding. If you are unable to attend class on a regular basis, please let me know in advance via email–and be aware that your absence doesn’t excuse you from the assignments given on that day. All major assignment due dates are provided in the Course Schedule and the details for the major assignments and smaller assignments are provided on the Agendas for each week.
  • What is “active participation”? If you are present at the beginning, middle, and end of class, ask questions, contribute to the discussion, and show that you’ve read the assigned assignments before class—all those things are active participation.
  • Students are required to show respect to the professor and other students at all times. This includes carefully reading content the professor assigns or a post made by another student, asking questions about the topic at hand, and refraining from name-calling or using inappropriate language (ableist, racial, misogynist, or anti-LGBTQ slurs, to name a few).
  • If you are feeling ill and/or you or a person you live with gets a positive COVID test, do NOT attend class. Let me know ASAP, and be sure to check this website, which will have weekly Agenda pages.
  • If you miss a class (whether for illness or life issues), check this website. Being absent is not an excuse to be unprepared for class. Everything we do in a given week will be here: a summary of our discussion topics and a list of homework with due dates (Agenda).
  • This syllabus is a living document, which means it may change. I will let you know as soon as possible if I make any alterations to assignments or due dates. Be sure to check your email and/or OpenLab on a daily basis to keep up with everything for this class.
  • All assigned reading/writing will be posted on OpenLab–NOT Blackboard.
  • I will publish a weekly Agenda post each Friday, which will provide a detailed guide on what is due throughout the following week, titled â€śWeek 1,” â€śWeek 2,” etc. There will often be two sections: Read and Write, with links to the week’s reading assignments and instructions on what you need to write in response to the assignment.
  • There are deadlines noted in the Course Schedule and Agendas throughout each week. Some assignment deadlines are small, some are large. All of them count toward your final grade!
  • Be advised that if you do not attend class in person and participate in the writing assignments, this will be noted by me. (I’m required to take attendance every session.) If you have not shown up for this class within two weeks of the start of the semester, I will notify the administration and you will be dropped from the class. Please note: If you wait until right before the end of the two weeks to appear, you’ll discover that you’ve lost points for the writing assignments.
  • The responsibility to keep up with assignments rests on you. All the assignments in this class have specific due dates, which means once a date has passed, you cannot turn in the work and receive the points unless you’ve contacted me before a due date and we’ve agreed on a specific due dateIf you have questions about assignments, please contact me before the assignment’s due!

Aspects of a Writing Class

As you’ve probably guessed from high school, a writing class isn’t like a mathematics or computer programming class. Here’s some details about what this class will be like. Throughout this semester, we will:

Discuss – Suzan-Lori Parks once told The New Yorker: “I love my lecture tours. I get up onstage. I have my stack of books and a glass of water and a microphone. No podium, no distance between me and the audience, and I just talk to people and get all excited and tell a lot of jokes, and sing some songs, and read from my work and remind people how powerful they are and how beautiful they are.”

I refer to my lectures as discussions, because that’s how I look at them. I’ll passionately “talk” at length at times, especially when I’m introducing a topic, but I’ll also prod you for your reactions to the information via Discussion Boards, because each of you have a point of view that is unique and needs to be heard.

Read/Analyze â€“ William Faulkner once wrote: “Read, read, read. Read everything—trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write.”

You will be asked to read material, analyze the work, and think about how you can use the example to benefit your own writing. I recommend you read the assignment at least twice—once for basic comprehension, the second time for details. If English is not your first language, you may need to read the assignment three or four times.

Write/Revise â€“ Octavia Butler once wrote: “You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.”

You will use what we have read as a jumping-off point for your writing. On a specific date, we will have a “peer review/self review” (see below). After the peer/self review, you will be given time to revise, edit, and type a second draft. I will evaluate this draft. Be sure to keep the second draft once it’s evaluated! Don’t just delete it, because you’ll have an opportunity to revise one of your drafts for your Writing Portfolio at the end of the semester!

Peer Review â€“ Isaac Bashevis Singer once wrote: “The waste basket is the writer’s best friend.” I add: “The peer reviewer is the writer’s next best friend.”

On occasion, the class will be divided into two to three students. They will be given another student’s work and have time to read, fill out a peer reviewer’s worksheet, and discuss the work. You may be tempted to be “nice” and write nothing but glowing reviews during this process—please ignore this temptation. This is a time for you to work together for your common goal for this class: to become better writers.

Course Tools and Required Materials:

  • All readings for our course are Open Educational Resources/Zero Textbook Costs (OER/ZTC), which means instead of buying a textbook, students will use materials that are freely or openly available–at no cost to students–not only throughout the semester but after the end of the semester. These materials are linked from our OpenLab course site in the schedule and the weekly assignments.
  • Several of the texts we’ll read in this course are part of Core Books at CUNY, a CUNY-wide initiative funded by a Teagle Foundation grant. Reading these texts will help us engage with broad humanistic questions that we will use to inspire our writing
  • The New York Times (create a free Academic Pass account with your City Tech email).
  • You must join OpenLab and this course. Not only in order to keep up with readings/assignments, but to pass this class! Don’t know how to do this? Click here!

Grading Breakdown:

Unit 1: 20%

You will submit two drafts of this writing project. The first draft will be not be evaluated, but reviewed by a peer or yourself; you will receive 50 points if you simply have a draft present to work on during class. The second draft will be evaluated by me; this assignment will have 100 points possible.

Unit 2: 20%

You will submit two drafts of this writing project. The first draft will be not be evaluated, but reviewed by a peer or yourself; you will receive 50 points if you simply have a draft present to work on during class. The second draft will be evaluated by me; this assignment will have 100 points possible.

Unit 3: 20%

You will submit two drafts of this writing project. The first draft will be not be evaluated, but reviewed by a peer or yourself; you will receive 50 points if you simply have a draft present to work on during class. The second draft will be evaluated by me; this assignment will have 100 points possible.

Final Reflection: 10%

There’s no Final Exam in this class, but you’ll need to turn in a Final Portfolio of the final drafts of the previous three units; plus you’ll be writing a Final Reflection. The Reflection will consider various questions, all with the goal of you sharing what you’ve learned this semester.

Low-stakes Writing (Homework and In-class Exercises): 30%

You’ll see that “low-stakes writing” counts for 30% of your grade in this class. What does this mean? What is “low-stakes writing?” How is this calculated? Why is this such a high percentage?

In this class, you’re graded almost as much on your weekly low-stakes assignments as you are on your high-stakes essay assignments. A lot of this is the stuff we do in class as well as the less formal stuff you do at home. This means you have to be in class to get credit for it, and you have to keep up with the day-to-day to get that 30%

This is because in this class, you’re not learning how to write one particular paper, or how to do one particular thing, you are learning about the process of writing (and reading—and researching) and all of those things are the behind-the-scenes work.

How will low-stakes writing be graded?

More or less, if you do it, you’ll get the credit.  You have to do it thoroughly and thoughtfully, and you have to do it in a timely manner. (If you’re having trouble with getting things done on time, please let me know.) Writing is largely about discipline and routine, so this is a good way to learn that–and to earn 30% of the credit for this course.

Late Paper Policy:

I do not accept late papers unless you have a legitimate excuse (a documented family emergency or a documented severe illness). I will only consider taking a late paper if you speak to me BEFORE the due date (not the day of or at 11pm the night before) and we agree on a new deadline in writing.

Revision Policy:

You may revise one of major units for your final portfolio for a higher grade. Your new grade entirely replaces your old grade. Please come see me during office hours if you’re confused about my comments or you’d like additional feedback.

University Policies:

Accessibility Statement:

City Tech is committed to supporting the educational goals of enrolled students with disabilities in the areas of enrollment, academic advisement, tutoring, assistive technologies, and testing accommodations. If you have or think you may have a disability, you may be eligible for reasonable accommodations or academic adjustments as provided under applicable federal, state and city laws. You may also request services for temporary conditions or medical issues under certain circumstances. If you have questions about your eligibility or would like to seek accommodation services or academic adjustments, you can leave a voicemail at 718-260-5143, send an email to:, or visit the Center’s website at for more information.

Academic Integrity:

Students and all others who work with information, ideas, texts, images, music, inventions, and other intellectual property owe their audience and sources accuracy and honesty in using, crediting, and citing sources. As a community of intellectual and professional workers, the College recognizes its responsibility for providing instruction in information literacy and academic integrity, offering models of good practice, and responding vigilantly and appropriately to infractions of academic integrity. Accordingly, academic dishonesty is prohibited in The City University of New York and at New York City College of Technology and is punishable by penalties, including failing grades, suspension, and expulsion. The complete text of the College policy on Academic Integrity may be found in the catalog.

If I discover you have copied someone else’s work and claimed it as your own, you will fail that assignment (whether it’s large or small) and not be able to turn in a new assignment. The point of this course is to improve your writing skills and ready you for higher college work and your future career. If you plagiarize, you are not only lying to me, but you’re setting yourself up for future self-harm!

Support Resources:

College Writing Center:

Online and in-person writing tutoring is available through the Writing Center at City Tech! I encourage you to utilize their services. Keep in mind you’ll need to make an appointment ahead of time. It’s unlikely they’ll be able to squeeze you in at the last minute, especially during busy times, so plan ahead!


The transition to college is challenging for everyone. It is helpful to periodically reflect on how you are doing in your classes, and how your anticipated area of study (major) is progressing, as well as to plan next steps. Once advisement begins, you will be assigned a faculty advisor. During this period, if you have not been emailed and/or you do not see your advisor/appointment on CUNY First, go to your major’s homepage; there, you will find advisement details that will include contact information, as well as dates and times.

English 1101 Learning Outcomes  

Departmental Learning Outcomes:

It is expected that at a minimum, students in ENG 1101 will:

Read and listen critically and analytically in a variety of genres and rhetorical situations: Identify and evaluate exigencies, purposes, claims, supporting evidence, and underlying assumptions in a variety of texts, genres, and media.

Adapt to and compose in a variety of genres: Adapt writing conventions in ways that are suitable to different exigencies and purposes in a variety of contexts, including academic, workplace, and civic audiences. When appropriate, repurpose prior work to new genres, audiences, and media by adjusting delivery, design, tone, organization, and language.

Use research as a process of inquiry and engagement with multiple perspectives: Learn to focus on a topic and develop research questions that lead to propositions and claims that can be supported with well-reasoned arguments. Persuasively communicate and repurpose research projects across a variety of contexts, purposes, audiences, and media. Demonstrate research skills through attribution and citation gathering, evaluating, and synthesizing both primary and secondary sources. Learn how to use appropriate citation styles depending on disciplinary and situational requirements (MLA, APA, Chicago, etc.).

Use reflection and other metacognitive processes to revise prior assumptions about reading and writing and transfer acquired knowledge into new writing situations. Students write reflections of their own reading and writing process from the beginning and throughout the semester with the intention to transfer their acquired knowledge about genre and composing practices into new writing situations.

Demonstrate the social and ethical responsibilities and consequences of writing: Recognize that first-year writing includes academic, workplace, and civic contexts, all of which require careful deliberation concerning the ethical and social ramifications concerning fairness, inclusivity, and respect for diversity. Write and revise for academic and broader, public audiences accordingly.

Compose in 21st– Century Environments: Learn to choose among the most current and effective delivery methods for different composing situations. Students learn to compose in new media environments, including alphabetic texts, still and moving images, sonic, and mixed media compositions. Use digital media platforms appropriate to audience and purpose.

CUNY Pathways Learning Outcomes:

A course in this area must meet all of the following learning outcomes. A student will:

  • Read and listen critically and analytically, including identifying an argument’s major assumptions and assertions and evaluating its supporting evidence.
  • Write clearly and coherently in varied, academic formats (such as formal essays, research papers, and reports) using standard English and appropriate technology to critique and improve one’s own and others’ texts.
  • Demonstrate research skills using appropriate technology, including gathering, evaluating, and synthesizing primary and secondary sources.
  • Support a thesis with well-reasoned arguments, and communicate persuasively across a variety of contexts, purposes, audiences, and media.
  • Formulate original ideas and relate them to the ideas of others by employing the conventions of ethical attribution and citation.
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