WAC 101, Final / partway-through portfolio letter
As part of your final portfolio (and often with a partway-through-the-semester portfolio), your instructor may ask you to construct a "reflective letter," in which you look back over and discuss the writing and other activities you've been involved with, through the semester.
The idea is to touch on every aspect of your work--from the freewriting you've done to the final version of each Writing Project; from your in-class discussions to the readings you were asked to cover; from jotting down notes to your peer-review comments and suggestions to your classmates . . . you want to discuss each aspect of what went on over the course of the semester.
The reflective letters below aren't all perfect, nor all they all "A" quality; however, they are real letters, written in a WAC 101 class by first-semester students; what can you learn from them?
Many thanks to the students below who allowed us to reproduce their work to help other students.
Dear Dr. Glau,
At this point in the semester,
I wanted to be a better writer. I feel that I have improved on both my
writing and organizational skills. I had set goals for myself to become
better at organizing information such as pre-writing activities The suggestions
that I get from my peers really have helped. I had hoped to incorporate
their ideas into my paper, as well as improve on my own ideas, and I feel
like I have done that. I had also wanted to be clearer when coming up with
ideas about a new project.
I worked differently on project two by incorporating ideas and skills that I learned from project one. I also tried the different writing techniques that we had worked on in class, such as idea mapping, which we worked on in class for project one. I also worked on expanding details and description in writing projects two. An example of description in project two would be when I was negatively describing the red couches in the library. I described them as, "The dirty, stained, red couches, are so disgusting. I read all the suggestions that were given to me in the conference. In writing project two, I received a suggestion saying that I should explain what people were doing in the library. I incorporated this idea by describing what the people were doing in the couch area of the library, "Some lazy students fall asleep on the couches and begin to snore." I also added marks and suggestions of my own, in the margins, where I felt I needed to work on. I tried to use most of the suggestions that were given to me by my peer reviewers.
The detail and description that I used in project two illustrates the new skills that I have learned throughout this semester. My invention activities also show that I have learned new information. An example of where I reflected what I learned was learning log six, I reflected on my writing and explained how I felt about writing project one. I have grouped all the work that I did for writing project one including all invention activities. I also grouped all the work for writing project two including rough drafts and invention activities.
The Mid-term portfolio can also be an example of how I have improved on my writing and organizational skills. The pre-writing for this paper was all the exercises that we had already done, put into one paper. The point of the Mid-term portfolio was to explain what I had achieved up to the mid-portion of the year. I included the goals that I wanted to work on for writing project three, in the mid-term portfolio. The goals I mentioned in the paper are as follows," My goals for the next project will be to brainstorm, idea map, use all the suggestions from my peer readers, and free write. I also compared the work that I had done up to the mid-portion of the semester, an example of this would be worked differently on project two by incorporating ideas and skills that I learned from project one. I also tried different writing techniques that we had learned in class." The mid-term portfolio was a good way to see how I was progressing up to the mid-term of the semester.
The goals that I strive for as I complete the last project are to illustrate all the skills that I have learned throughout the entire semester. I want to be able to have a strong and understandable paper. The assignment for project three was to write about a significant happening in your life that has greatly affected you in some way. Learning log fourteen required us to free write answering a couple of questions. A question from this assignment was, "Why do I want to tell it?" My answer was, "I want to show how important my grandfather was to me. I want to tell others not to take their time with their grandparents for granted."
The suggestions that you gave to me in writing project three have helped me to construct a better paper. Some of the suggestions that I had received from you were "Can you work now to show how you're putting into effect on what you learned? That is, you live each day to the fullest, but how and in what way--Inquiring minds want to know!" So, I revised version three, to better explain how the significant the event was in my life. An example of where I used you suggestions is when I answered the question, "How do you now live your life to the fullest?" In the paper I explain, "Now, I try to live my life to the fullest. When I set a goal, I am now more determined than ever to accomplish it. I try to set time aside for myself to just enjoy things that I like to do. "
I can show the differences among various kinds of writing situations by the use of description, details, and the way I organize my paper. I have already written two different papers for this class. The first paper allowed me to problematize a topic. The first couple sentences in writing project one shows how I problematized my topic, it quotes," After all our work is done here on earth, where do we go? Is there an afterlife? Everyone must ask this question many times in their lives. "I learned to illustrate how many issues can be involved in just one idea. I also wrote using positive and negative ideas on one particular place. I learned to use details and description more effectively. In writing project two I had to contrast one detail in both the negative letter and the positive letter. An example of this would be the way I contrasted the resources in Hayden Library. In the positive letter, I said, "There are many resources in Hayden. There is easy access to almost anything you might need to help you study or research. "In the negative letter," I said, "There are not very many resources available. The books are so old, all the information is outdated."
In terms of processes, I can use invention activities, outlining1 free writing, and idea mapping during all stages of my writing. The invention activities that I have done, have helped me to organize the material I need to incorporate into a paper. An example of an invention activity that helped me to get on track for writing project two, was invention activity four. This particular invention activity required me to write down what people were doing, saying, how they were acting, etc. I was also required to report back to the class what I had observed. This class project helped me to organize and get the basic idea of what the paper should entail.
By this time in the semester, I feel that I have accomplished most of the goals that I had set for myself. I feel a lot more comfortable when thinking of a topic to write about, and writing what I am thinking on paper. This course has helped me in becoming more organized before writing a paper. I had never done so many pre-writing exercises. The learning logs, and invention activities have helped me to develop my own style of writing. The peer reviewing was also a big help. Suggestions that I received on my papers, helped me to reflect on my mistakes and make my paper better before I turned in the final draft. I now feel more comfortable going into English 101, with the writing experience I received in WAC 101.
Here's another example of an end-of-semester reflective letter:
December 8, 1998
For some people learning
how to write well is a very difficult task. I am one of those people. I
usually learn things faster than most people do, but writing well has been
difficult for me. I do believe I am finally coming around. I am finally
writing papers to the standard I expect from myself. The more classes I
take, lectures I attend, and papers I write it seems the better at writing
It has not been easy to learn my own writing style, but my peers have helped me find my clique. Throughout my English career, I have received many different criticisms about my work. Some of the responses I received were things I could not use. I hated when people would say something was good. In each of the attachments, there are dozens of comments that just say, "Good." That does nothing for me. Yet, it seems that throughout this year in Writing Across the Curriculum my peers have become much better at writing critical responses. In both workshops in which I received revision remarks from my fellow students, I did not receive one vague criticism. On my second revision of writing project three I received various responses such as "I think that at the very end, you should leave out the stuff about punishment and grades. Stick to what you learned," and, "It kind of gets in a serious mood here (at the end) and changes the mood of the paper." These are the kind of responses I would rather have. Because of the criticism about leaving the things out about punishment and grades, I decided to delete an entire paragraph of my paper.
I want people to trash my writing; tell me how bad it was. I really like detailed and correct peer responses. For instance, Chris Cota's response to my writing project two told me what was wrong. He said I did not seem as if I was talking to my audience during the second half of each letter. He said I seemed to be reflecting to myself. I may have only received those kinds of responses about half of the time, but that is better than having no responses.
I am happy with how I am currently writing. I am spending much more time on writing, revising, and revising again. When I was in high school, my senior English teacher gave the class a list of things that were wrong to write. One of the things on the list included pronoun usage. She said never to write, "The students were able to pay for their education." She said to write, "The students were able to pay for his or her education." I have learned to pay attention to these details every time I write. Other things I have learned over the years include when and where to use words, never to write in second person, and always to write in active voice. It was tough to find different words for the word student in project one. I used a thesaurus so the paper would not become so repetitive with the word student. I cannot really show an example of writing in second person, because I have learned not to use second person. There is not a "you" or "we" in any of my three writing projects. I also learned always to write in active voice. I usually write my papers completely, then have the computer do a grammar check. It usually picks up any passive voice. I do not think I write in passive voice until the computer tells me. Then I think, "Oh, yeah, that sounds much better with the person taking action on the object." In writing Across the Curriculum, I have practiced these so much. These details are now becoming second nature. I barely have to think about these details as I write.
I am very happy at how I can give myself choices. I used to think of a topic to write about and I would stick to that topic whether I like it or not. For example in learning log fourteen I thought for sure that I was going to write about a previous experience at my past job. I did much work fleshing out this idea. Then I changed my mind halfway through my preliminary work and wrote about a topic completely different. I consider myself a person who does not promote change, but I am happy that I have now enabled myself to make these varieties of changes.
One of my biggest problems over the years has been learning to write to the teachers' prompts better. Writing project one was an excellent example of this problem. Dr. Glau wanted everything to be problematic. If I had asked more questions in the fourth paragraph of project one about why it should be the business of private enterprises to provide student loans, I could have seemed to be a little bit more problematic. The project asked the writer to ask continuous questions. In my fifth paragraph of the first project, I did not ask any questions. Instead I asked a few questions and then answered them. In the first writing project, I stated what the pro's and con's of the different ways of paying for college. If I had asked what the pro's and con's were, I would have written to the teacher's prompts better, thus I would have received a better grade. I am learning this increasingly as I practice more. I received a "B" on writing project two. I was so proud of myself. The main reason is that I wrote to how my teacher wanted. I spent some time meeting with the teacher and receiving advice from him. I tried hard to understand what he was looking for, and I achieved.
When writing a paper it is best to begin early and work towards perfection. Beginning invention activities early is a key. Then it is possible to revise more and more with extra time left after I write the rough draft. When I finished my rough draft of the first project, I thought it was a great paper. I did minimal revision because I thought it was so good. I was wrong. I received a C on the paper. I knew with writing project two I could not afford another grade like that. When I wrote the second project, I thought it was just as good as my first project. Then I remembered what minimal revising got me on the first paper. I revised until I thought it was perfect. When I looked at a paragraph and thought it was good, I figured out ways to make it even better. This is an excellent technique I have learned in trying to write a great paper.
At this point in the semester, I believe I have met my goals and can only do better. I set out in this class to master the basics of writing. This is why I am in the stretch program. I need to write well before I move on or I will be playing catch up during my entire career. I want to learn my own style of writing and continue to master it. I want to get out of the dotting the i's and crossing the t's part of my learning. As I learn to do this, I would like to move on to writing sentences with feeling and put out papers faster. I am going in to a career in broadcasting. I am going to need to be able to write a paper daily and make it quality writing.
I believe a big part of improving my writing is through all the early invention work. The class answered nine questions to help us begin the midterm portfolio. This made the paper easy to write. It helped prevent writer's block. This early work also acted as a rough draft for the actual project. I was able to take sentences and revise them right off the invention activities and make them appear better on the project.
Writing project three has changed how I think when I write a paper. When I brought in my rough draft to share with my peers, I received a reaction that I have never received before. They laughed. I have never been able to make my readers laugh. I was jumping for joy after I heard the responses from my peers. I believe that I have now achieved the highest honor a person can receive from writing a paper. I struck an emotion from my reader, and I do not think I can expect any more out of myself than that.
Here is another example of an end-of-semester reflective letter:
WAC 101 10:40
Dear Mr. Glau,
At this point in the semester
I have accomplished many goals. First and foremost I feel that I have become
a better writer. Through doing the learning logs, invention activities,
in-class journal writing, and writing projects, my style, structure, content,
and organization has improved greatly. This class has made me think about
my writing in ways that I've never thought of before. For example, in Writing
Project #11 had to write about a problem that couldn't be solved. This
is something that I have never done in the past. Also, in Writing Project
#2 I had to write a paper using descriptive words to portray a positive
and negative feeling of a place on campus. The process I used to write
these papers were much different from writing projects that I have done
in the past. Finally, I have never really thought of myself as being a
great writer. Furthermore, I used to hate going to English class. However,
I'm beginning to have more confidence in what I write and English is much
more enjoyable than it use to be.
To show how I have grown as a writer, in this portfolio I have included copies of my learning logs, invention activities, peer responses to version #1 of writing project #1, peer responses to version #2 of writing project #2, the final version of writing project #1, and the final version of writing project #2. The goals of the learning logs are to get our minds heading in the right direction for a specific writing project. With that said learninglog #3 did just that. In learning log #3 I had to make a list of at least twelve possible questions that I didn't know the answer to. That list of questions was helpful when trying to pick out a problem for writing project #1. In fact, from that list I was interested in the question, "Why isn't Arizona State a non-smoking campus?"
That question eventually led me to the idea of the problem, "Why do so many students at Arizona State smoke?" Which was what I decided to write about in writing project #1. In the past, I would have never taken the extra time to make a list of possible topics to write about. In fact, I use to try and write papers by taking the first thing that I thought of. I would then find out the hard way that I didn't always know as much as I thought I did about a certain subject. Which often led to a lack of supports causing my paper to be short and boring.
Once I found out what my topic for writing project #1 was going to be, I made an idea map which got my ideas flowing on that specific topic. On the idea map I wrote down everything I could think of that related to the problem, "Why do so many college students smoke?" For example, a few of the points I had connected to that problem was, "smoking pollutes our campus." Connected to that I wrote, "cigarette butts are left all over campus." Finally connected to that was, "If caught littering cigarette buffs, students should be fined." One place from my idea map that I was able to elaborate on was the fact that, "cigarette butts are left all over campus." I took that statement and wrote in my final version of writing project #1, "I don't think there's a spot on campus at Arizona State that a cigarette buff can't be found within a ten foot radius." Another example from my idea map is, "walking out of class and it's the first thing I smell." In the final version of writing project #11 was able to incorporate that idea in the opening paragraph. This is evident when I say, "As you are heading out the door everyone in front of you pulls out their cigarettes and begin smoking them. While doing that, a cloud of smoke begins to hover in front of the door. Although you want to avoid walking through the smoke, it's the only exit..."
The idea map is extremely helpful when you are stuck and need more supports for your paper. Furthermore, if you can transfer the information from your idea map to your paper and support them with details like I did above, the reader will get a clear mental picture of the point you are trying to get across. Before taking this class I had very little experience with idea maps. Even when I did have the opportunity to use idea maps, I never really took them seriously. I thought of them more as being busy work. When writing my papers, I often found myself getting stuck and wouldn't even think of using an idea map. Now that I know how helpful an idea map can be, I will continue to use them to make my writing easier and more successful.
After finding a problem through learning log #3 and getting my ideas written down in invention activity #3, I was able to begin writing version #1 of writing project #1. After writing version #1, we workshopped our papers through peer responses. Peer responses have helped me tremendously with improving my work. I feel that by having peers review my work, it makes my writing much clearer for others to understand. Also, having other perspectives on my papers makes it easier for me to know if what I write makes sense. Sometimes the things that I think are well written may confuse the reader. Therefore, I can fix these portions of my papers so my final copy is almost flawless. For instance, one of my peers suggested to me, in version #1 of writing project #1, that I should give more examples of "Why college students begin smoking."
From that suggestion I created a paragraph in my final version, giving my opinions and other questions of why college students began smoking. Some of these include, "Was it because of peer pressure? Maybe their role models (mothers, fathers, older siblings, movie stars) as a child smoked, and they wanted to be just like them. How did these students as children have cigarettes in their possession when they weren't of age?" I think peer review is something that should be done in more classes. This semester is the first time I have ever used peer review and it has made a huge impact on the outcome of my papers. I try to take our peer review sessions very seriously because the more information and help I can get, the better. However, sometimes my peers are too nice and don't criticize my papers enough. I think being more critical is something our class needs to work on, because you can ever get to many suggestions.
Finally, after going through all those steps of learning logs, invention activities, and peer responses of version #1, I was able to construct a well-written final version of writing project #1. In writing project #1, I showed that I thought about my audience and provided descriptions using my rhetorical knowledge. This task was accomplished through being problematic. I stated a problem, supported why it was a problem, and associated other problems with it. For instance, in the fourth paragraph I wrote, "The fourth and probably most important reasons why there's a problem with the abundant number of college students smoking, is because college students are seen as role models for the younger generation. What kind of examples are these people trying to set? That it's cool to smoke? Smoking is fun and relaxing? If college students are smoking, the younger generation will want to follow in their footsteps." This shows that I am able to take something a push it further to get the reader more involved in what I write. Before taking this class, I probably would have just stated a problem. Providing no examples to support why it is a problem. This example shows tremendous growth from my past writing assignments.
For writing project #2 the steps I took were somewhat different from that of writing project #1. In writing project #2 we had to describe a place giving two distinct impressions of it: one positive and the other negative. To get us thinking about using descriptive details for writing project #2, we did a number of learning logs, in class journal writings, and invention activities. For example, in learning log #7 we were given statements then had to elaborate on them using detailed descriptions. One of these statements said, "I was shocked at the messiness of Bill's dorm room." Trying to use more detailed description I wrote, "I was shocked when I opened the door to Bill's dorm room and saw clothes and underwear covered across the floor, old pizza boxes and beer cans scattered across the table, and the garbage can had overflown giving off a rancid smell." Before I knew how effective detailed descriptions are to a paper, my writing was basic and boring. In the past, if I had to write about someone's dorm room, I would have given the basic statement, like the first statement in learning log #7.
Once I got the idea of how to explain using descriptive details I had to start thinking of a possible place for writing project #2. I did just that in learning log #10. The place I decided to visit was the weight room in the Student Recreational Center (SRC). While observing the weight room I tried writing down everything I saw, heard, felt, and smelled. For instance, when explaining what was around the weight room I wrote, "You see numerous machines and weights organized neatly against the wall and in rows throughout the room. If you walk to the center of the room and go down two steps you can see the cardiovascular machines (bikes, Stairmaster, and treadmills)." I was able to elaborate on that description and write in the final positive version of writing project #2, "As I walked around the room, I saw people puffing the leg machines into great use near the north end of the room.. Finally, I walked down two steps in the center portion of the room and found all the cardiovascular machines. These included: Bike machines, treadmills and Stairmasters." From learning log #10 I was able to incorporate many ideas, and elaborate on them greatly to form the final version of writing project #2. Before taking this class I probably would have just jumped right into the final version of this project. Providing little description and details. I feel that by going to the weight room and writing down everything I saw before even starting this project helped me more with being a descriptive writer.
After learning how to write descriptively in learning log #7 and actually puffing that knowledge to use by observing a place in learning log #10, I was able to begin writing version #1 of writing project #2. After writing both the positive and negative description of the weight room, we workshopped our papers through peer responses. Unlike writing project #1, for writing project #2 we had group conferences for the second version. I really found the group conferences helpful because I got well thought out responses from five different people at the same time. The advantage of group conferences are, when I didn't understand a comment I was able to ask right away, rather than try to figure it out myself. Like I stated before peer review has helped my writing tremendously. For example, during my group conference I was told to "Make sure there isn't one thing in one letter and not in the other." I used that response and found that the sounds I heard in my negative letter were not included in my positive letter. For instance, my negative letter stated, "The overall sound of weights 'crashing' and 'clanging' against each other and the constant hum of the cardiovascular machines were somewhat of an annoyance in the weight room. Furthermore, from the center portion of the room a loud and obnoxious 'beep' could be heard from the cardiovascular machines almost every thirty seconds..." However, in my positive letter the only thing I stated about what I heard was, "The weight room is a place that is never quiet.. The overall noise is coming from the machines as each person is trying to push to their maximum level." After the comment from my peer I was able to change my positive letter to state, "The weight room is a place that is never quiet. The overall sound of this facility comes from the weights falling to the ground and the constant hum of the cardiovascular machines. These noises kept others motivated to keep pushing through to finish their workouts..." After fixing that minor problem I was able to give the reader a positive and negative feeling of what was heard in the weight room.
Finally, after going through all the steps of learning log #7, learning log #10, anpeer responses of version #2, I was able to construct a well written final version ofwriting project #2. In writing project #2 I showed that I thought about my audience by providing two distinct descriptions of the weight room. I was able to accomplish this task by visiting the weight room at the SRC and through observing what I saw, heard, felt, and smelled, give my audience a negative feeling or a positive feeling. For instance, in mypositive letter I wrote, "As each individual pushed to get stronger, their bodies began to glisten with sweat. I dripped down their faces and legs. It was kind of a distraction for them, but you could see how satisfying it was when they completed their work out."
However, my audience is given a negative feeling when I wrote, "While observing them I noticed the sweat that was pouring out of each individuals body. I was an awful sight. Their clothes and hair were saturated with sweat. It dripped slowly down their faces, arms, and legs onto the floor. Traces of sweat were left behind each person as they finished using a machine. These sweaty bodies brought about an awful odor across the room. Making me want to vomit with every breath I took." Through these two statements I was able to clearly give the reader a positive or a negative feeling. Before taking this class I probably would have had a difficult time with this assignment. I wouldn't have given hardly any details, which wouldn't have impacted the reader at all. This assignment show tremendous growth from my past assignments, including writing project #1.
Although I have already improved tremendously as a writer through the course of this year, I still believe I have a long ways to go before perfection. One thing that I think I need to improve on for future projects is to continue the idea of using details to elaborate on certain ideas, situations, people, etc. Also, I think I could do a better job of pushing things further. This will give the reader a clearer picture of what I'm trying to say. Furthermore, I would like to be more organized. Sometimes I feel that my papers don't "flow" as nicely as they should. Finally, I feel my papers could use a different variety of vocabulary. My papers can often get a little redundant, making it boring to read.
In the future I plan to use my rhetorical knowledge and composing skills to help me through my academic, professional, personal, and civic life. For example, academically, I will be able to use my rhetorical knowledge when reading and writing. My rhetorical knowledge will allow me take certain ideas or situations beyond the simple concrete facts. In addition, I'll be able to understand my text better if I think and try to understand why something was constructed one way and not the other. My composing skills will help me academically because I will have the knowledge of different ways of approaching my writing assignments. My professional life is another area in which rhetorical knowledge and my writing skills will be helpful. I think if I can understand why someone thinks one way but not the other, I might get along better with my fellow employees. Furthermore, my composing skills will always be something that I'll need for my professional life. In situations where I have to bring up new ideas about something, I will be able to use different methods, such as, the idea map to get my mind on the right track. In my personal life I plan to use my rhetorical knowledge to understand society better. For instance, the reasons why certain things are one way but not the other. In addition, I can use the different composing skills to help me think and get through any personal problems I face. Finally, my rhetorical knowledge and composing skills will help me understand and deal with my civic life.
For instance, it might help me understand more why a certain politician has strong beliefs in one thing but not the other. Basically, the knowledge that I have grasped thus far in the year will help me tremendously in the future.
Here is another end-of-semester reflective letter written by a WAC 101 student:
When I first started this semester I believed that
my writing skills were up to par and that this class was a waste
of my time. But ever since that day I have been proven wrong, over
and over again. I started to realize this right after the first peer review
on writing project number one. In this paper I wrote about how college
could be more enjoyable. When I got my paper back from the other students
there were numerous remarks about how I did not use any examples
of how college could be fun or just the opposite. I just had many reasons
of why college is miserable "college is so different from high school.
A disrespectful person thinks it is funny to pick on you. They are not
attending college on their own free will." But I did not give examples
of how these things ruin college. Also they pointed out how I only saw
my topic from this point of view and could have brought up many more questions
for the paper. Like I later inserted into my paper "Some students do enjoy
college. Pick majors with easier classes. Or maybe they make it miserable
Also when doing this paper along with all the others this semester I have learned some new methods of going about my papers. First you should make a list of things to write about under your topic. Which is exactly what I did with invention activity number three. First I made an idea map on how school could be more enjoyable. It included things like "Do majors have anything to do with it, can it be enjoyable, is it up to you how enjoyable school is, if school is more enjoyable do we learn more." Then I started to write about a separate topic about how well the city takes care of the streets, but this idea was later dropped. From here you may just find something better to write about, but if not then you have a whole list of things to include in your paper. Then the first couple of
times when you write the paper the whole thing could change if a better view is found while writing. But at this point do not worry about grammar and spelling. There are many other steps and pointers but I can not list them all here, the point I want to make is this method works for me. It is a night and day difference between the way I use to write and my new strategy.
Another important thing I have harnessed in this first half of the semester is the value of descriptive words in writing. Just the descriptive words themselves tell a whole story. But when added to other articles of writing they bring it to life, and give it color. It is unbelievable how much a few words can change even just one sentence. Like when I described my laboratory the words I used gave a very good image to the reader. For example "as you walk through the big wooden swinging doors you see bright red metal book bag rakes. Or the lab room is a mad house with people fooling around, even the TA gets in on the games and makes fun of people." Then I went into detail and said how we all fool around and the fun things we do. Next I used the same place and physical description as before only this time I put a negative spin on things. "The heavy wooden swinging doors. Or students fooling around breaking things. Also someone in the room plays with the vacuum lines making a high pitch squeal making it even harder to think, also the TA fools around making fun of everyone who is not there so when I am not there I know he is making fun of me." I really enjoyed this project because it showed me the importance of words in my papers and it was done in a creative way.
So far this semester everything has seemed to be helpful but the learning logs seem to be the most important. What they really are to me is a first draft of my papers. Like the learning log where we came up with topics for paper one under "civic, personal, academic, and professional." That is when I put down all my ideas and why I think they should be used for the paper. Like in learning log number three where we were to come up with twelve ideas. Some of which I wrote down where "Why do they not have better parking at ASU? Why is tuition so much? Why do they not have smaller classes?" Then from here I chose one of the topics and started the next step. This is where I start to organize my topic, and from there it turns into a bigger list and reasons and so on. Which brings us back to invention activity number three again, where I made an idea map of the topic I picked. Next I started to write my first copy of "How college could be more enjoyable." Then it changes throughout the paper numerous times until it starts to look like a paper. Next I go through and put in descriptive words and make sure it all flows well for the reader and many other tests, until finally I have something worth others reading. So as you can see the learning logs are really the most important activity we do every time.
Later in this semester I hope to grasp the lessons as I have the first two, because they have improved my writing skills immensely. If I can understand what we do from here on out as well as I have so far I will be in very good shape. But most of all I would like to leave this class with some new writing skills that I will be very comfortable with. To do this I believe I need to interweave all the skills I have learned so far this semester along with anything else I will learn. Like descriptive words and using your topic to open new doors for the reader and making them think. This in turn would make writing that much more enjoyable and it would also flow a lot easier. I believe having a good setup to follow that you are comfortable with is the most important part of writing. otherwise the paper just does not seem to turn out the same.
Now that I am well into the third writing project I believe that my use of all the skills from previous lessons are really starting to show up in my writing. I have grasped the idea of these most useful tools and am beginning to put to work for me. When in the process of writing this paper I realized how much the learning logs and invention activities really do help us get started. So when we were getting started on project three and you told us "write about something that would remind us of our room twenty years from now." I tried to relate this to the upcoming project. What I come up with was that this short journal type writing project was to get us to think about what is important to us and stands out. At first I could not really think of anything that meet this criteria. But then as I started to describe my room I wrote this "Spare hard to find and expensive Volkswagen parts in my cloths drawer" or "how I have to put a great deal of my cloths on the green lazy boy chair because the draws have so many parts in them." From this I began to realize how much I learned during the years of working on my bus. And this is where my project started.
From here I started over the process that I have become comfortable with like I mentioned earlier in this paper. This is to "make an idea map and from this a list of things that go with my topic" like I did with the first project on the topic of "how school could be more enjoyable." This is where I made a list of things that I did to my bus and how they affected me. For example "bought the bus, painted the bus, built engine for the bus, and searched for many parts." Then the lessons "Got a real job, value of money, patients and hard work, and thinking things out." From this my paper started to take a life if its own. As I turned this rely rough draft into a first draft I came up with many new ideas. Like when I was writing about how hard it was to figure some things out and how "I could not have done it without my dad," this brought about the fact of "how close the bus brought me and my dad."
Once I got into the paper and it was tome to go back and put in some descriptive words to make it more colorful. First I went back and described the bus itself to try and give the reader a picture of my bus. I went about this by saying things like "I found my nineteen sixty-one Volkswagen bus on the side of a house. Where the trees had grown around it and through the bumpers." How it was "painted an old dingy white, with brown plaid interior" Then I described it as I worked on it, "painted it bright shiny silver and red, and the gray and red interior." This is where I used descriptive words to brighten up the story and give the reader a good picture of the bus. Also I made the bus appear to be kind of old and Out of fashion before I started working on it by the use of the out of fashion color schemes. Then turned around and said how the way I fixed it up made it so appealing and interesting. To get the feeling like I mentioned later in the paper "how when I drive it peoples eyes light up and just love it."
As the semester has gone on I have seen my technique improve with each paper. Like the way I went about doing project one and two. When I did project one I was still just trying to meet the criteria, and not really getting into it. In paper one I just came up with as many questions as I could. "Is it possible there is one main reason college is not enjoyable." "Students come up with many other excuses." "Other people ruin college for them." I came up with many other reasons just to meet the criteria. But in the second paper I put more feeling into it when writing it. Like when I described the TA" he is always making fun of people and when I am not there I know he is making fun of me."
So far this semester I have grasped all the lessons and still continue on the use of these tools. It just keeps improving my writing that much more. And nest semester I hope to improve these skills that much more and intertwine them any new techniques I pick up then. Like I referred to earlier in this paper where I said "I would like to interweave any knew skills I learn later in this semester." Like in project three " learning the value of money was only the tip of the iceberg" is an example of using some of the skills I have acquired this semester. I believe I have a least started to accomplish this goal and hopefully will do the same with all my new goals.
Some instructors ask their students, as part of the end-of-semester portfolio, to include a revision plan--a "plan of attack," so to speak, on how that student would go about revising one of his or her papers. Here's an example of one:
WAC 101 10:40
Dear Mr. Glau,
For my revision plan I am going to discuss writing project #1. I feel that I did a
pretty good job with writing project #1, however, there's always room for improvement.
In writing project #1, I tried to problematize the question, "Why do so many students at
colleges and universities smoke?"
In this writing project I mentioned how peer pressure could be one reason why
people smoke. To give my audience a clearer understanding of what I'm trying to say, I
could have given a more detailed description of what peer pressure actually means. For
example, I could have stated the definition and showed how peer pressure affects
different people. Furthermore, I could have included the different affects it has on
women vs. men and how maturity plays a role in the decisions people make through peer
pressure. Finally, I could have complicated this situation better by including how one can
over come peer pressure. I think if I would have included these different issues about
peer pressure in my paper, it would get my audience to understand why smoking is such a
Another portion of my paper that I could have improved on is the section of my
paper where I mentioned that non-smokers are really bothered by the smokers. I think if
I pushed things further like, why and in what ways the non-smokers are bothered by the
smokers it would have made my paper more problematic. Another issue that I could have
brought up in this portion of my paper is how and why non-smokers lives are threatened
by cigarette smoke.
A third point I could have elaborated on to make my paper better is the affects
second-hand-smoke has on people. I feel my paper would be much stronger if I would
have supported the issue of second-hand-smoke by explaining in detailed description the
dangers. Then I could have supported the dangers with facts about second-hand-smoke.
The final improvement that I could have made to better problematize my question
would be to raise issues of power and control and personal choice. I could have raised
questions like, "Does the government have a right to say people can or cannot smoke?"
By raising such questions, I'm not only including my personal views on this subject, but
I'm also getting governmental issues involved.
I feel that if I would have pushed things a little further with what I mentioned
above, my problem would have had a better impact on the reader.
Here is another reflective letter:
Lisa Brooke Konstanzer
November 7, 1998
Wow! !! This first semester
of WAC has just flown by. I feel I have accomplished and learned many skills
in all my classes, especially WAC 101. I truly mean this sincerely. First
of all, the setting in the class plays a major role. The atmosphere that
I am faced with every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 9:40 am is energetic
yet comfortable. My peers in the class are open-minded, diverse, and supportive.
You as a teacher are represent teaching as more as a vocation rather then
a profession. All of these combined create a class that I look forward
to three times a week. In this class I have learned how important it is
to look at something from as many viewpoints as possible. I have found
this useful when reading and critiquing papers of my peers. I have also
learned how important it is to be open-minded when my peers evaluate my
own paper. It is so beneficial to get advice from my peers because the
many see the same thing in a different light. This helps me create a well-rounded
paper. As for the 4 c's, I believe that many objectives have been accomplished
just in the short amount of time I have been in WAC 101.
Rhetorical Knowledge has definitely been present in WAC 101. The major papers that I have written in the class all have completely different writing situations. One paper was a problematic question that I had to write in a essay form. Another paper was a descriptive assignment that had to be written in a letter format. The other was a significant event paper that was written as a narrative. Even though these papers we both for WAC 101, they had a completely different set-up. This helped me recognize the difference between different writing situations. This is important because I need to understand what's appropriate in one piece of writing may not be appropriate in another piece of writing. This recognition is beneficial not only for this class, but important to anything I ever write in the future. Out of the three major papers that I wrote, I found that writing in letter for was the most difficult because I felt like I had to write from a more personal stand point. The letter was addressed to my best friend and I felt that it was hard to combine a well written paper into a letter that my friend could actually read and not get board. The significant narrative was the easiest for me to write because It happened directly to me. I wrote it straight from the heart. For me it is not difficult to put my feelings on paper. But when I do feel neutral about a subject, that's when I have a hard time writing on it.
Through general reading, writing, and thinking skills, I have been able to obtain a better understanding of the importance of recording, exploring, organizing, and communicating my thoughts. My problematic paper depicts all of these processes. In the early stages of this paper, I used clusters and freewriting techniques to gather my thoughts and ideas. This eventually tied in some more ideas, which helped me then to organize my thoughts and ideas. I then commented my thoughts and ideas with my peers, which helped me explore other ideas and viewpoints. I then had my peers record their opinions so that I had them for future reference. In the narrative I had my peers give me advice on how I could make the paper more interesting. They told me that if I expanded my dialogues in the paper, it would help the reader of my paper understand what I was trying to get across. Sure enough they were right. My significant paper was much more significant when I included more dialogue. It became more personal and interesting.
Processes have contributed largely to my learning success in WAC 101. Multiple drafts have done wonders for my papers. Time plays a major role when I write. In WAC 1011 have never felt rushed. I feel like I have been given many opportunities to make my papers the best that they can be. Because I have chances to have numerous rough drafts, I am able to constantly view my points. When I rewrite, these points have been improved because I feel like the more times I revise, the more my paper improves. My problematic paper is a good example of this. I had two rough drafts for this assignment and I have learned the more rough drafts that I have, the better my paper is. My proof is from my peers. My peers were impressed by the improvement that I had made. In the significant narrative, I also had two rough drafts. The first draft was real week and lacked major turning points and dialogues. However, when I received advice from my peers, I wrote the second rough draft and included these major points. I found that the second draft was so much better. The more processes that I undergo for a paper, the more I will recognize areas I need improvement on. It was all due to the time I was given to complete these papers, which allowed me more room for multiple drafts.
Multiple drafts are not only beneficial for gathering more complete thoughts, but they also help to recognize improvement for conventions such as spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Because I have had the opportunity to have multiple drafts, I have been able to control my grammar mistakes that I would normally overlook if I had not gone though numerous drafts. My spelling is naturally disgusting. And because it is so awful, I have had to resort to the dictionary many times for all three of my papers. This is nothing new to me, but I am more open-mined about it now because this class has motivated me to be a better writer in and out of class.
Another major influence that I believe has helped me improve my writing skills is the Allyn and Bacon Guide to Writing. This text book has helped me dramatically because it is very detailed and easy to understand. Its written in "English". It doesn't use complicated words of sentences to get information across. It is very explicit and to the point. I can't tell you how many time I refer to it for help on my own papers. The examples the book contains helps me understand how I should set-up my own paper. Its a great reference and has contributed to the class immensely.
There is always room for improvement for me. Looking back on all my papers, I feel like I need to increase on my vocabulary skills. I think this could bring a better understanding on what I want to get across. I also think that I could be less wordy. I feel like my problematic paper was too long due to the fact that I repeat ideas and thoughts. For the next semester, I want to also improve on paragraph structure. I found that when I was writing in dialogue in my narrative paper, I was at times confused as to were and when I need to start a new paragraph. Never the less, I will improve over time and effort. I can't wait to begin second semester.
Here is one more example of a student's reflective letter:
6 December 1998
Portfolio Final Version
Dear Mr. Gregory Glau,
I feel that this semester
of English has been a great way for me to keep up on my writing skills.
After finding out what class I was placed in and hearing people talk about
it, I was worried. Especially, because I have always been placed in honors
English classes and Track A. I guess finding out I was in WAC 101, hurt
my feelings and pride more than anything. However, after being in the class
for a week I decided to work with what I had. Therefore, I set myself goals
to reach since I thought passing this class would not be a problem. Hence,
I planned on fine tuning my writing techniques and dabbling in others.
Which we have done in both projects, with two different techniques. The
technique used in WP#1 I am used to, and the other technique in WP#2 was
new to me. In WP#2 we wrote the positive and negative sides of a topic.
This helped me take Manzy Square, and look at it in both the positive and negative aspects. For instance, we also took part B of this project to reflect on our writing. This was definitely different at first, but once I knew what our teacher was looking for it was much clearer. In part B I reflected on my writing when I said, "You are able to read a letter saying how much you enjoy something, then you read the other and see the negative side of the same thing. For example, in my positive paper I explained how Manzy Square has sparkling glass doors. However, in the negative letter I said the glass doors were smudged." This was what part B was about, looking back and seeing how you changed both paragraphs to become positive or negative. I feel with the work I have done, and the grades I have received, I have reached my writing goals for this semester. Not to say that there is no room for improvement, but for the first half of the semester I have accomplished my goals.
The projects we were given was a great way to accomplish all the goals set for myself. The projects themselves were not the same, however the way we worked on them was similar. One project dealt with Problematizing, and the other dealt with positive and negative aspects. Therefore, when writing the two pieces we approached it in different ways. However, when writing it we didn't work on it differently in the aspect of revising it and so forth. The only revising difference was that we had group conferences, which may have helped with the first project. I feel we prepared for both projects in the same way, and revised them the same as well. The only difference was what the two papers were about, and the fact in WP#2 that we had to look back and reflect our writing. This aspect was really weird for all of the students because we are not used to doing this. It was very interesting to step back and look at what you did and explain it. Other than these aspects I feel the preparation, of the paper, itself was not different.
I think I am enjoying WP#3 the most of all the papers written. I like this paper because, it allows us to tell a story that is significant. It allows us to show a side of us that are class may not know. I feel it is a great way for us to view important lessons others learned, that might benefit us in some way. I feel it is important to learn about others views and opinions, and this paper really allows us to experience this first hand. I can't wait to read more papers from the other students, because so far the ones I have read were pretty good. I hope to do well on this paper, and hopefully write more like them next semester. I also hope to get a lot of help from my peers so that my paper can become a better one. I love to receive comments, because they truly help the writing process.
The peers responses and comments, I feel were a big reason for my paper's success. I have used peers' responses throughout both projects. I feel another's view is highly important, especially in writing. Therefore, saying when another looks at your writing they may notice something you may have looked over. In WP#l we did not have a one on one conference. However, we workshopped our papers and I got some good comments that helped improve my paper. For instance, my first draft of WP#l had a long introduction and needed to be shorter. So without getting rid of the information I had, I added it somewhere else in the paper. I also got ideas on how to see the other side of what I was getting across. It is easy to write about what you believe in or view is the right way, and sometimes do not see the other side. Therefore, saying my paper was much better once I reworded some of my sentences and rearranged some of my paragraphs. In WP#2 I felt the conferences worked extremely well. If it hadn't been for the conferences I would not have added people to my letters. I was explaining my place really well, however I didn't add people and when T did it added more to the paper and created a whole new outlook. I also liked having one on one time to understand what you are missing. When workshopping you don't know who is writing the comments and sometimes they are confusing. If you are confused in the conferences, you can ask the person face to face or talk to him later. Therefore, I do think peers' help improve your work.
I am striving for a higher grade on WP#2, because I feel we got enough help from classmates. However, if we didn't, we had enough places to get extra help with our paper. Therefore, since we couldn't receive an A on our first project I hope to get an A on WP#2. If I don't receive an A, I will work for a better grade next time. I will also keep trying to improve my grades and papers until I receive an A. I will also work to improve my writing in any way possible that will help my grade improve. I just really find grades to be very important, and I find it hard to settle with a grade that I know can be higher.
Excerpts from my projects that illustrate what I have achieved is as follows: In WP#l when I wrote my first draft and it was workshopped by other students. Of course since it was my first draft you see that there was changes to be made, like in my first paragraph. First drafts are never perfect and they shouldn't be, cause no one is perfect. However, by the final version you see that I achieved success in my writing from getting comments from my peers. Therefore, my final versions of every piece of writing especially from WP#1 show what I have achieved. All writing should be revised, and if it is you will achieve a better piece of writing. Therefore, my drafts will illustrate what I needed for success in WP#1, and by the final version a better piece came from the ideas and comments from others.
Pieces that I feel I did well on, or that were better once they were workshopped I have attached to this letter. I have included pieces from LL#8, LL#1O, LL#1 1, IA#2, WP#l Version 1, and the final version of WP#l. The WP#l Version 1 was my first draft that was workshopped by my peers. I feel in writing that another's view is important to your success. Therefore, when I had an extremely long introduction my reviewers pointed this out and this allowed me to change my introduction. It also helped me to rearrange my paragraphs into one, and place ideas from one paragraph to another. I really feel that the reviewers help the writer see things the writer himself may overlook. My other four pieces are ones that were looked over and graded by my teacher. I feel I did the pieces well, and they reflect that by their grade I Just thought that I should include excerpts from pieces I did well on, because it is important to see that a student can do well on the other assignments that were not workshopped. Therefore, I have effectively arranged my assignments together to show you my progress and achievements.
Another thing I feel is important to writing is to see the reader's point of view, and meet their needs. I feel when writing WP#l I met the readers needs when I took the advice of my reviewers. They gave comments that I was sure to incorporate in my paper. I also feel that I anticipate what others may feel on a topic I write about, before I write it. Therefore, I brainstorm before actually putting together my paper's rough draft. I feel it is important to be a versatile writer, and this is shown by the way I take comments and ideas and inforce them to my writing. I did this well in both writing projects, as you can see in the attached pieces.
Not only does brainstorming help your writing, but ideas given to us from our text helped as well. I feel it is important to record, explore, and organize your ideas when preparing to write a paper. One example of the way I can use writing to record and explore is with the idea map and freewrite. We did this as an assignment, and I have used this technique before. As my assignment shows these techniques help you write down what you need without worrying about punctuation and grammar. It really allows writers to write and express more, without being grammatically correct. For example, I used this technique to begin writing WP#3. This allowed me to get important ideas on paper that I felt I might use in WP#3. When ideas start to run through my head I will write them all down, and then I will revise it later or add the things that are needed. I feel this is a great way to express your writing and I like to use this technique frequently.
Using the appropriate strategies when writing is important. I have always tried to use the appropriate strategies when I write. However, this class allows us to take the time to look over our writing, and spend more time with revising. In WP#l we workshopped our paper many times. Therefore, it made it easier to get more comments than I usually do. You will notice that after my first draft, reviewers noted that I should rearrange my paragraphs and make my introduction shorter. Then my next draft was arranged better, however the reviewer focused on things that were overlooked the first time my paper was workshopped. I got some ideas that would expand my paper, as well as comments on what I may want to change. This helped me understand what I needed to do once again to make my piece better.
Then after I revised my second version I had my roommate look over it for the punctuation errors and things my reviewers missed. This helped my revising one step further, before making my final version. Then when I went to type my final I also re read it over a few times before printing it. The writing process is long, but it is well worth it when your paper comes out as an A when it started as a C. All these strategies are important to the writing process, if you want your writing to be decent. Therefore, in every writing situation you should take the steps to revise and organize your paper. Especially, if you want the piece to good. You will never see a famous writer publish his first draft. Therefore, if they are famous and still revising their pieces then all writers should. It will only make your writing better, as you can see through my two drafts and my final version. Writing should not be quickly done, at least be sure to take the time to go through the writing process. That is if you want your paper to be decent, and I sure as hell want mine to be the best possible. Therefore, you will never see me taking a shortcut when writing anything. Considering, I want my paper to be well worth the time it takes you to read it. I really hope that this explains my feelings on my writing, as well as the process and progress of my papers. It has been a great first half of the semester, grade wise and I hope to keep up the great work, and push myself to do even better.
Sincerely Your English Student,
A Nicole Soper (AKA Nikki)
Click here to return to the assignment page for the partway-through reflective letter
Click here to return to the assignment page for the final portfolio
Click here to go to the main WAC 101 syllabus