UPCOMING COURSE: Essay Writing C for Summer Stretch

I have the fortune of working with the Robinson Center for Young Scholars (RC) at the University of Washington.  The RC provides “programs that serve highly capable young pre-college and college students.”  I will be teaching Essay Writing for Summer Stretch, which offers courses for 7th to 10th graders.  I am reprising a course I taught a few years back for UW and adapting it for younger (but highly capable) students:


Essay Writing C
MTTh 9:00 AM-2:20 PM
Gould 100

John McPhee, Pulitzer Prize winner and grandmaster of literary nonfiction, said about writing, “The first draft [is] an unreadable thing.  And you would not want to show it to anybody because it’s just full of entrails hanging out with loose ends . . . You belch it all out on paper.  When you’ve got something on paper, you then have something to work with . . . and turn into a piece of writing.”  Writing is all about guts, gas, gross anatomy, and getting down to business.  Writing isn’t a check mark, a destination vacation, a graduation requirement.  Rather, it’s a practice, a process, an extreme sport.  This course will take up McPhee’s writer’s heroic journey—from unreadable thing to piece of writing—by engaging what it means to be a good writer and reader, how to recognize and develop the skills and strategies to write, read, and analyze, and why good writing and reading are central to everything you do.  Be prepared for a term of high-impact, low-stake, high-risk, creativity-freeing, genre-tripping, word-playing, workshop-intensive writing, reading, and thinking.  This will be hard, but it will be fun.  You will hate it, but you will grow to love it.  We will trek, tromp, jump, crunch, sweat, and swear through academic, expository, persuasive, and creative writing challenges.  We will set high goals and meet tough benchmarks.  We will hone the tools and muscles you already have and push, stretch, and dream till you’re one lean, mean writing machine.  Are you ready?  Let’s do this.

Essential Questions

What is good writing?  What makes a good writer?  More importantly, how do you develop a strong writing process?  Specifically, what is academic writing, expository writing, creative writing?  How might different forms and genres of writing overlap and connect?


Students will understand . . .
Different forms and genres of writing, reading, and analytical thinking, particularly academic and expository.
Students will know . . .
How to ask, complicate, and develop meaningful lines of inquiry for the purposes of writing and reading.
Students will be able to. . .
Develop, produce, and revise successful essays and other writings based on personal experience, class texts, contemporary issues, and popular culture.

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