Portfolio #3: Good Writing in a Learning Community 32
3.1 A Trip to the Future 33
3.2 Costa Rica vs. India 36
3.3 A Quarter for Learning 43
Faculty Comments on Portfolio #3 45
Portfolio #4: Good Writing 46
4.1 Mom 47
4.2 Ritalin: Today’s Best Alternative 51
4.3 Impromptu (untitled) 56
Faculty Comments on Portfolio #4 59
Portfolio #5: Good Writing (an ESL writer) 60
5.1 My Mother’s Story 61
5.2 The Right to Live 65
5.3 Clothing Is Another Expression of Love 72
Faculty Comments on Portfolio #5 74
Portfolio #6: Problematic Writing 75
6.1 My Dad the Comforter 76
6.2 How Much Is Your Life Worth to Me? 80
6.3 Impromptu (untitled) 84
Faculty Comments on Portfolio #6 86
Faculty Rating Sheet for Portfolio 87
Description of Writing Quality 88
Dear English 101 Student:
SFCC is committed to the idea that students must write clearly and effectively if they are to succeed in college and in the professional world. This institutional commitment, naturally enough, delights the English faculty. For that reason, composition teachers engage in a department-wide form of student evaluation called portfolio assessment. Since 1990, our English 101 students have assembled portfolios of their written work to demonstrate their mastery of collegiate writing. This assessment allows students to satisfy SFCC’s writing requirement on the basis of their best writing, writing they've had a chance to think about and revise, and it helps English teachers to increase the consistency of their grading.
Twice during the quarter—at the mid-point and the end—your work will be read by other English teachers to determine whether your writing meets minimum standards for completing English 101 with a C. At mid-term, we read a single essay as a “dry-run” to inform you of the standards we apply. In the final portfolio, we read three essays: 1) a descriptive, narrative or explanatory essay; 2) an analytic or persuasive essay relying on sources documented in the MLA style; and 3) an impromptu essay to ensure your mastery of focus, organization, and the Standard English idiom of formal writing. Revised papers have a cover sheet describing the writing assignment, what you regard as successful in the essay, and your writing process, that is, the feedback you received and the changes you made in revising.
When English faculty meet to read portfolios, they decide which ones meet the department's standards of competency. To earn a C (2.0) or higher in the course, your portfolio must pass. You may not enroll in an advanced composition class (English 102 or 105) with a C-. If your portfolio passes, you are not guaranteed a C; your grade is affected by other factors such as missing assignments, poor attendance, late or unsatisfactory work. It is therefore essential that you observe the policies your instructor outlines on the syllabus. The English faculty reading the portfolios must be confident that the work you submit is really yours; thus we ask for an impromptu (in-class) essay on which you've had no help. Because instructors will not forward portfolios to other English faculty unless they are confident it is original work, they will insist on seeing successive drafts of your essays and lots of in-class writing.
Although most of us dislike the sword of judgment hanging over our heads, many students have enjoyed the outcome of portfolio assessment: recognition for the papers they have created and polished during the quarter from a teacher who reads them with a fresh eye. Still, students are bound to be a bit nervous about their writing, so we have assembled this collection of SFCC portfolios and reader commentary on them. Most of these portfolios come from traditional English 101 classes, and one is from a learning community in which composition was one of three disciplines taught together. Two portfolios are exemplary, three are good (one written by a student for whom English is a second language), and one has failed. These anonymous portfolios are published exactly as they were submitted—mistakes and all—and with the writers’ permission. We hope you find these examples instructive since they provide local rather than textbook examples of polished writing, a sense of the audience who reads your portfolio, and the criteria used to assess your writing. If you consult page 87, you’ll see the criteria teachers use when they read portfolios; the final page describes the grading criteria many English teachers employ.
Portfolios pass if all essays have a clear focus, organized and specific paragraphs, and clear and varied sentence structure. Portfolios fail if an essay does not do the actual assignment the teacher created. They fail if the focus of the writing is fuzzy, the organization unclear, or several sentences are so tangled the meaning eludes the reader. If an essay has more than a few mistakes in grammar, punctuation, spelling, or typing, the portfolio fails. This level of clarity will challenge some students more than others, but remember, your composition teacher is there to help you meet this challenge. All faculty members insist on this level of clarity because you can achieve it: you have ample opportunity for feedback and careful revision.
We believe that department-wide evaluation benefits you. Students are well served when they learn to write for a particular audience and reflect on that achievement. Students are well served when faculty agree about what constitutes good college writing. Students are well served when Mr. Smith's grade of C means the same as Ms. Jones's C. The enterprise of higher education is well served when the participants talk openly about performance standards and when teachers help learners discover how to meet those standards for themselves. We are happy you share this learning enterprise with us!
Please type or print. What was the writing assignment? (Use your teacher's words or attach the assignment.)
Observation: For your second essay, you are invited to turn your attention outside yourself to some small part of the world you live in. Simply stated, you will observe some event, activity, or a process, and report your observations to your classmates, to help us learn something new or help us think more closely about something we’re all familiar with. You’ll want to be as descriptive as possible, to recreate the experience for your readers, and to make your narrative of the sequence of events lively and easy to follow. Also, you’ll need to pay special attention to essay structure this time, as each body paragraph will need to be clearly focused on some smaller topic related to your subject. You will need to impose order on the event you observed so that your essay is clearly organized. Also, the conclusion of your essay will be important, because you’ll want to develop the significance of what you observed with thoughtful comments that seek beyond superficial generalizations.
Please describe what you consider most successful in this paper.
I chose to write about an innate desire to help others which is common among humanity. I chose 4 separate observations and tied them together with the common thread of this desire to help. I used extremely descriptive vocabulary, which helped the reader to see exactly what I saw. There is also a smooth transition between observations, which enabled me to turn 4 observations into one general observation.
Two students read my essay (rough draft) and suggested making the opening paragraph longer, with more detail. My instructor also made the same suggestion. My instructor also suggested rearranging the order of the 4 observations slightly, in order to help the overall progression and development of my paper. I made these suggested changes, and also added a little more detail to a couple of the paragraphs.
Exemplary Portfolio 1.1
In this day and age, the world often seems fraught with a plethora of crime and suffering. Nightly news reports are filled with recountings of murder, rape, arson, terrorism, natural disasters and many other distasteful events or circumstances. However, I have noticed recently that many people endeavor to help others as much as possible. I have some evidence that the golden rule is still in operation.
Take my friends Georgeanna and Mack, for example. The reception which followed their recent wedding almost failed to be. They were very low on cash, and emphatically chose not to go into debt over any aspect of their marriage. Since the couple didn’t have any money for a reception, two more friends stepped up to assist. Terri and Helen catered all the food and embellished the couple’s tiny apartment with a dazzling array of decorations. A rainbow assortment of table cloths and flowers were brightened by the mid-October sunlight while yellow and powder blue streamers fluttered from every direction and laughter filled the air. Twin wine glasses, waiting to be filled with sparkling cider for the traditional toast, rested on a powder blue table cloth, which was a backdrop for one of three tables laden with sustenance. The kitchen and dining room were wall to wall with every sort of sandwich imaginable, chips, crackers, salads, nut, mints, punch, and a wedding cake which took center stage. No guest went away hungry, thirsty, or sad. The smiles on Georgeanna’s and Mack’s faces were evidence that they were recipients of a deed well done.
Another example of friends helping friends is the case of my friend Tasha and her family. Sadly, Tasha was diagnosed with lymphoma, a form of cancer. After rigorous treatments of chemotherapy, there was a relapse. Tasha’s mother, Pam, and her sister, Dawn, stood faithfully by her side in support. At the hospital and at home, they encouraged Tasha and lavished love and hope upon her. Tasha was distressed at the loss of her thick cascade of auburn hair. The family could not afford a wig. Tasha also needed a bone marrow transplant, which couldn’t be performed in Spokane. Travel to Seattle became necessary. Pam and Dawn both had to quit their jobs in order to go to Seattle with Tasha. Friends, family, neighbors and church goers took up a collection, and the family’s needs were all met. Tasha was even provided with a couple of wigs and many hats. I am now pleased to say that Tasha is home again, cancer free.
This basic human goodness, this desire to help others, seems to carry on beyond youth and ability. Ed and Margaret are two of the six residents of Autumn Years, a home for the elderly, in which I work. Not long ago, Ed took a dreadful tumble and fractured his pelvic bone. Since he is 101 years old, the fracture is basically going untreated. At that age, any form of treatment would probably be fatal. Ed sometimes cries out for help. One recent evening, Margaret tried to help him after he let out a wail. She slowly reached her arm towards Ed. Her gnarled, wrinkly hand extended out past the vivid red sleeve of her wool sweater. Concern was etched in her voice as she inquired of Ed: “What can I do to help you?” This was especially touching to me because Margaret herself is bound to a wheelchair; but the kindness in her heart seemed to be the greater than her disability.
This type of support was recently carried out on a much larger scale. After the assault on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Red Cross offices around the nation were flooded with people offering assistance in any way they could. Money, clothing and food donations skyrocketed. On evening news programs, human interest segments relayed stories of many more people than usual offering monetary donations. One local reporter interviewed a woman who gave her entire $300 income tax relief check to the Red Cross. When asked what moved her to do this, she responded “The victims in New York need it worse than I do.” This was only one small drop in an ocean of donations. Every person who gave any amount of money was given a red, white and blue ribbon in return. These symbols are now proudly displayed on lapels and various other items of clothing as well as automobile antennas. Additionally, many blood banks had to put donors on a waiting list because their facilities were filled to capacity with Good Samaritans. News cameras captured images of large open rooms at these banks, with donors sandwiched in like sardines in a can, while more potential donors waited for their turn just outside the door. Still more donors were turned away and asked to make appointments to return at a time when there would be more space and more available workers.
So, as you can see, although there has been destruction and mayhem in our nation recently, there has been good to counteract it. Examples of people reaching beyond their own needs to help others are becoming more noticeable, both on a local level, and on a national level. The situations I’ve recorded here are just a few indications that despite all the bad things that are happening in this world, the goodness and compassion of the human spirit still carry on.
Please type or print. What was the writing assignment? (Use your teacher's words or attach the assignment.)
For your final essay, you will write an informative report of 3-4 pages. Before you begin your research, you will turn in to me a proposal in which you tell me the subject you want to write about, followed by a paragraph which you tell me the subject you want to write about, followed by a paragraph explaining why you need or want to know the subject of your paper. The paper itself will need to be narrow enough in focus for you to be able to develop your report in specific detail; in the length limit of 4 pages, and it must use 2 or 3 outside sources (your sources may be print or web-based sources). Follow all we’ve learned this term about essay structure (intro paragraph with thesis statement, body paragraphs with topic sentences, concluding paragraph the significance and importance of your subject…) . Your audience is your fellow classmates, your instructor, and other SFCC English faculty, so your goal is both to generate interest in your subject and to inform your audience about your subject. You’ll need to provide plenty of information (defined terms, explanations, examples, detailed discussion, and expert testimony), and you’ll need to give credit to your sources by using acknowledgement phrases in the paper and in-text citations with a works cited page, following MLA formatting conventions.
Please describe what you consider most successful in this paper.
I think the 2 most successful things are my opening paragraph and the descriptive content. My first few sentences, I believe, grab the reader’s attention right away and make the reader want to continue reading. I also think the descriptive vocabulary and the content of my paper are thought provoking to the reader.
Please describe your writing process. For example, what editorial help did you have, from whom, what changes did you make?
After my first draft, I had feedback from classmates, my instructor and a friend. I reviewed my paper several times. Each time I corrected punctuation errors, citation errors and paragraph development. My original concluding paragraph was not bringing a sense of conclusion. So added to that paragraph to make another point and wrote a new concluding paragraph.
Exemplary Portfolio 1.2
Documented Analytic Essay
“Can I bring back a dead relative or loved one?” some people are asking about cloning. “Can it reproduce my favorite pet?” is another question which has arisen concerning this new scientific development (Neergaard). Many Americans don’t understand the processes and results of cloning and need to be informed. Cloning is the production of an organism that is genetically identical to its parent. A clone is an exact copy. Clones may be produced by vegetative reproduction or by a laboratory technique. There are many reasons for laboratory cloning, such as scientific research, infertility, and production of replacement organs and body parts. However, cloning may be dangerous and is not always successful.
Because of the dangers involved, there is a great deal of controversy surrounding the issue of cloning. Many scientists are at odds with one another in regards to the cloning of humans. According to Lauran Neergaard, of the Associated Press, “Some mainstream scientists are already furious” at those who are advocating research and development of human cloning. Neergaard’s research has indicated that “most animal clones die during embryonic development. Many are stillborn with monstrous abnormalities.”
The process of laboratory cloning begins with a single egg cell. Scientists remove an egg cell from an animal and surgically remove the nucleus with a microscopically small needle. The nucleus is a sac in the cell that contains DNA, the substance that controls development (Starr). The removed nucleus is then replaced with one from a cell from the animal they wish to copy. The egg is then tricked into dividing, as if it had been fertilized with a sperm. This is usually accomplished with a jolt of electricity or some other stimulus. Lastly, the multiplying cell cluster is implanted into a surrogate mother’s uterus, where it is intended to develop and grow (Travis).
However, this process is not always successful. In order for this process to work, genes that drive embryonic development must begin to turn on, each one at exactly the right time (Travis). Rudolph Jaenisch, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says that “for the first 100 attempts [at cloning], expect about five live births” (qtd. in Neergaard). This is a tiny ratio. Most animal clones result in miscarriages. One reason for that, according to Jonathan Hill of Cornell University, is “abnormal placental development. The placenta is not supplying nutrients, and the fetus starves.” Another common defect of cloning in animals is what scientists refer to as large-offspring syndrome. This syndrome is characterized by enlarged vital organs such as lungs, hearts, kidneys, etc. Some offspring even have enlarged limbs. Many of these newborn clones which survive the birthing process are unhealthy and die soon after. Also, some clones suffer skeletal abnormalities. Some suffer heart and lung malformation. Hill deduces that “25 to 50 percent of clones are oxygen deprived at birth.” Of the relatively small portion of animal clones that survive birth, many are not genetically sound. Jaenisch has reported that “even apparently normal clones have an abnormal regulation of many genes. Completely normal clones may be the exception” (Travis).
Although cloning is a rich source for scientific research and advancement, it would be a traumatic antidote for infertility in humans. A hopeful mother-to-be, who has possibly suffered many disappointments and failed attempts already, has a 95 percent chance of being disappointed yet again. And if her fetus is one of the few that become viable, she still has a bumpy road ahead. Her fetus likely would suffer deformities. Or, imagine the trauma she would experience with a miscarriage. Given the odds thus far, she is more apt to miscarry her child full term. Research indicates that the mother herself may be placed at risk during delivery (Travis).
Cloning is also not yet an adequate source for replacement organs. Many terminal patients, who are candidates for transplants, are placed on waiting lists. Sometimes they wait on these lists for a period of a few months up to several years. If a replacement lung or kidney could be cloned, one might think, this would cut down on the waiting time. But if the cloned organ were not genetically sound, which is likely, according to Jaenisch, it may develop abnormalities after a transplant. This could cause complications and possibly death for the patient (Travis).
The majority of us have heard of Dolly the sheep, who was the first successful animal clone, but Dolly was an exception (Travis). Most clones don’t survive. Even though the few who do survive are genetic copies of the original, personality cannot be recreated. Development of personality and memory is based on individual experiences. These experiences cannot be copied or reproduced. So no, we cannot revive deceased loved ones. A clone would not have the same experiences, memories, likes and dislikes. A clone, therefore, would not be the same person (Travis).
It’s important for us to understand all these things because according to a trusted source of mine in City Hall, Congress is currently drafting a bill for legislation which authorizes “federal funding of stem cell research using any human embryos deemed to be in ‘excess of need.’” Stem cells are ones that are not yet specialized; they can grow into any organ or body part. Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Senator Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) have created Initiative HR 2059 IH, also known as the Specter-Harkin bill. This bill supports federal funding for the type of research that requires the killing of human embryos. Meanwhile, Senator Sam Brownback (R-Ks) advocates placing a ban on all human cloning (National). As this paper was being written, a team of scientists in Boston announced that they have successfully cloned human embryos. Though none of these human clones have made it past the stage of four to six cells, development of human cloning may rapidly progress without any guidelines, because many Americans are uninformed in regards to this issue.
The road to human cloning is laden with pitfalls. This process is dangerous, has produced hideous deformities, and in some instances has proven life threatening to surrogate mothers. We need to gain a clearer understanding of this issue in order to protect our rights, as well as the rights of unborn human beings, and those of future generations.
National Right to Life Committee. “Update: U.S. Senate to Act on Human Cloning and
Other Human Embryo Issues.” 2 Nov. 2001. Paragraphs 1 and 2. 27 Nov. 2001
Falls Community College Library, Spokane, WA 8 Nov 2001 <http://proquest.umi.com/pdqweb >.
Exemplary Portfolio 1.3
Assignment: Two things are happening simultaneously in our class. One, we’ve started to write our observation essays, and we’re discussing how to develop and structure such an essay. Two, the tragic events of September 11th continue to play in our minds and to affect our lives. For this impromptu essay, let’s join the two: I’d like you to reflect on the changes you’ve observed in your own life or the lives of others as a result of the terrorist strikes against our nation. You are free to observe the impact those events have had on you personally, and/or you may observe the impact those events have had on people you know (friends and family, young and old), on campus life at SFCC, on the news, on the citizens of Spokane, and/or the citizens of our country. No matter how you choose to focus your essay, be sure to present your observations in a multi-paragraph essay with a clear introduction with a thesis statement, body paragraphs with topic sentences, and a concluding paragraph. Write your essay for me, your instructor, and for other SFCC faculty, to help us appreciate how the events of September 11th have impacted you, our students, and your perceptions of the world we all share. A new day of infamy “I’m afraid to fly now,” has become a common cry among air travelers in America. “I’m afraid to go downtown to work,” is surely a resounding cry in NYC. “Nuke ‘em” is a remark that is more noticeable in the crowds lately. “Peace! Peace!” cry small masses huddled outside malls and various other places of public gatherings. “Help me God!” one can imagine must have echoed through the corridors and stairways of the twin towers of the World Trade Center just before it collapsed. The recent conflict with Afghanistan and Osama Bin Laden has had tremendous impact on the occurrence of Americans speaking out their beliefs and opinions. This war has caused most people to come the fence, so to speak, and make a stand for what they believe in. It has also caused fear to take hold of our hearts.
The fear of flying the American skies has become quite prevalent. American airline companies gross between millions and billions of dollars per day on corporate travelers, as well as pleasure seekers. This industry ground to a sudden, painful halt for several days after the recent hijackings. Security measures were increased to ensure safety, but many had fears that were not assuaged. They preferred to travel by bus, train or rental car rather than airplane. Its seems the friendly skies are not so friendly any more.
Also, more people are speaking out on their beliefs in God and prayer. The events of September 11, 2001, specifically the collapse of the World Trade Center, have caused many people to come to terms with their own mortality. Church attendance, generally speaking, has gone up and some government officials are allowing and encouraging prayer in their congressional sessions.
Another aspect where greater contrast is becoming more defined is people’s views on international involvement. Many are questioning whether or not America has the right to be as domineering as we are over third world nations in the Middle East. Every class I am in here at SFCC has spent at least a portion of class time discussing this issue. Such discussions often result in heated debates, with opinions being clearly delineated. Many who were once afraid to let their opinions be known are now outspoken.
And lastly, this disturbance has driven many people to decide whether or not they support war as a conflict-solving method, or whether passivity would be more beneficial to bringing about peace. I have noticed several peace rallies in downtown Spokane and on the north side of the city. I have also been involved in many discussions, and overheard a few, where people are supportive of war and/or some military police action.
War and violence wreak permanent changes. Acts of terrorism cannot be erased. The results of such acts will stand forever. A building that’s been bombed can never be brought back, though it can be rebuilt. Lives lost can never be restored, though new ones will be born. Ways of thinking and responding to situations are permanently changed in people who have suffered devastation. The events of this new “day of infamy”, as President Bush has described it, has changed all of us in some way forever.