The First-Year Writing Program @ CCNY

Sample Assignment Descriptions

Essay Assignments

The Self-Reflection and Final Portfolio assignments are standard across all sections. Instructors have flexibility with regard to the other assignments. The grade weights are suggestions, but the portfolio and self-reflection must carry at least 20% of the total grade. It must be clear to students that this is not a throw-away, last-minute assignment.

Suggested Assignments
The assignments in this section are based on the Norton Field Guide to writing. With the exception of the final portfolio and self-reflection, these are not required assignments, but please feel free to use them.

Rhetorical analysis assignments should be a feature of every reading and writing assignment you give; it provides a vocabulary and structure for thinking about reading and writing in composition. How you shape the rhetorical analysis will depend on the specifics of your course. You can use CCNY’s OER textbook as a guide; the rhetorical analysis assignment is based on material housed at the Purdue OWL.

Literacy Narrative (10%). (Chapter 10) (2-3 pages) and Literacy Narrative Reflection (1 page)

Exploratory Essay (15%). Analyzing Texts (Chapter 11) OR Reporting Information (Chapter 12) OR Abstracts (Chapter 14) OR Annotated Bibliographies (Chapter 15) OR Evaluations (Chapter 16). This assignment has multiple purposes. It introduces students to research and citation practices and asks them to interpret and summarize the text. This essay is less concerned with critical analysis, though in practice (and in the examples that the text provides) the separation between analysis/interpretation (a neutral summary) and critical analysis (an interpretation with an opinion attached) is hard to find. Critical analysis is mainly located in the next assignment, but it’s almost inevitable (and may be desirable) for it to be a part of this essay. Exploratory Essay Reflection (1-2 pages)

Researched Critical Analysis: Extending the Theme of the Exploratory Essay (20%). This assignment can be based on any of the chapters listed for Exploratory Essay assignment (except for Annotated Bibliographies); it could also be based on Arguing a Position (Chapter 13). This assignment extends the work of the Exploratory Essay. Students will have the opportunity to revise the exploratory essay again (after having already revised a first draft) and they will be able to develop and express an opinion about their subjects. They may also want (or you may want them to) expand their research.

Researched Critical Analysis Reflection (2-3 pages)

Final Portfolio (15%) Self-Reflection (15%).

The Self-Reflection should be both a rhetorical analysis of their own work that should include references to genre, audience, purpose, stance, rhetorical situation, media/design, and exigence. Students should also use this opportunity to demonstrate that they’ve achieved the course learning outcomes. The portfolios will be collected by the first-year writing program, so they must be in a digital format. The simplest method for students to create the portfolio is to collect their body of work into a single .pdf document. A more comprehensive approach would be to ask students to create a Website using a free site. If you do this, however, you must be careful to explain (and document your explanation in writing) the available privacy protections. The CCNY Writing Program has video guides that students can use to create a WordPress site (search for “CCNY Writing Program” in Youtube).

Discussion Board Posts and Peer Reviews (15-20%)

Exams and Quizzes (5-10%)

Essay page count: 17-22

Reflection page count: 4-6

Supplemental Writing Assignments

Reflection Assignments (brief reflections after every assignment, leading to a Self-Reflection essay at the end of the semester)

The goal of the course is for students to reflect on their writing in order to heighten their awareness of what they know about writing and to give them a vocabulary for discussing it. In these reflections, students should make use of the rhetorical terms introduced in Part 1 (3-24) to describe their own work. For each reflective assignment, they should describe their own essays in terms of its genre (what are its characteristic features), exigence (what need motivated the writer), purpose (what did the writer hope to accomplish), audience (who is the potential audience for the essay), context (what is the writer’s rhetorical situation? what is the relationship between the writer, her audience, and the medium?). They should also describe how each assignment has helped them to achieve the Course Learning Outcomes. These short reflections will prepare students to write the final self-reflection.


Students should be encouraged and in some cases required to use visuals in their essays and to consider design principles. Consider assigning Chapter 53: Designing Texts in order to provide some instruction and a basis for grading.

Encouraging Reading and Writing without Increasing Workload

Blackboard allows you to ask students to write a great deal more than you can read carefully. You could have them respond to more than one sample essay as they prepare to write, but then just participate in one of the discussions. These can be low- or no-stakes writing assignments (though they should be assigned a point value–even if the result is not ultimately included in the final grade–so that students take them seriously). One of the main ways students learn to write is by writing a lot. These low-stakes assignments provide them opportunities to practice in writing in low-stress contexts. They also help build community.

Reading and Writing Assignments (in addition to the essay): Online responses to assigned readings and comments on each others’ posts; peer review. Chapters in the Norton provide heuristics for peer review.

Tests and Quizzes. Build tests and quizzes in Bb to introduce students to CCNY’s Community Standards or the policy on Academic Integrity. Structure the tests so that they’re self-grading; your involvement with the results will be minimal.