English 100: Introduction to College Composition

Multimodal Composition


Instructor: Stephanie Larson
Email: srlarson5@wisc.edu
Section: 003
Location: Helen C. White 2252B
Office: Helen C. White 7173
Office Hours: Wednesdays 10-12 or by appointment

Welcome to English 100, Introduction to College Composition! This course provides a starting point for participating in the university community, contributing to scholarly conversations, and becoming a successfully engaged learner at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In this course, you will learn strategies and skills for critical and creative thinking, communicating through writing and speaking, and seeking out information through research. As you develop these abilities, they will serve you throughout college and your lifetime.

This course has a particular focus on multimodal communication with an emphasis on digital writing. The Digital Age has challenged what composition and written communication mean and can do for us today, and the work you do in this class will encourage you to develop critical thinking and writing skills that are applicable for a vast array of mediums. While we will spend quite a bit of time talking about digital communication, I want you to think how multimodal communication—forms that include digital, textual, visual, aural, and tactile communication—constantly persuade us to act, think, communicate, and even write in particular ways.

Contacting Me

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have questions about the course materials, policies, or assignments. While face-to-face communication in class, at office hours, or during assigned appointments is preferred, I am happy to communicate via email. I try to check my email throughout the day, but my schedule does not always permit me to do so. Do not panic if it takes up to a day to respond, but during the week, I will try and respond to all questions via email within 24 hours.

I’m always happy and willing to meet with you outside of class time to talk about your progress with the course or any concerns you may have. There will be several opportunities to collaborate with your classmates, so if multiple people would like to meet at the same time, we can set up a location that will accommodate our needs.

Access and Inclusion Statement

This class is committed to providing equitable access to the learning opportunities for all students who may learn, participate, and engage in different ways. If formal, disability-related accommodations are necessary, it is important that you register with the McBurney Center and also notify me of those accommodations. We can then work together to best coordinate your accommodations for this course. Whether or not you have a McBurney VISA, if you anticipate any issues related to the requirements, structure, or format of this course, please reach out to me so we can discuss ways to ensure your full participation and success in this course. Finally, this class welcomes a range of different perspectives related to factors such as gender identity and expression, race, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, religion, geographic location, socio-economic status, and other relevant cultural identities. Because we will read and discuss the experiences of people from a range of identity groups, mindfulness and respect are expected in your language choices and communication styles when participating in class.

Course Description

English 100 is an introduction to college composition that begins to prepare you for the demands of writing in the university but also helps you to think about writing beyond the classroom and in a variety of contexts. Writing is both an act of inquiry and communication. With that in mind, this course offers you opportunities to identify, develop, and express concepts; to engage in conversations with the ideas of others; and to critique and construct arguments through original research. Writing is also a process, and this course emphasizes drafting, revising, and editing as critical practices in developing thoughtful arguments and effective communication.

To accomplish these goals, this course places attention on rhetorical awareness in both written and oral communication, asking you to consider questions like these: Who are your audiences and what are your purposes for writing? How do you use different genres or discourse conventions to make your writing work? What can you do to make a research presentation interesting? How can you contribute to a lively and engaged classroom conversation?

Finally, English 100 emphasizes critical thinking, which rests on a process of careful and engaged reading of texts in a variety of forms and the use of writing to explore, express, and argue about ideas as well as their place in the larger world.

Multimodal Communication 

The central question for this course is as follows: What does it mean to effectively communicate in the world today? Answering this question will require critical reflection and analysis on what writing is in the digital age and how it has transformed, challenged, and expanded common assumptions about writing. To be clear, digital communication is just one form of multimodal communication, and while we will engage the topic of digital communication frequently, digital communication and multimodal communication are not interchangeable. (Think of multimodal communication as the larger umbrella under which digital forms fall.) I will also ask you to think of composition beyond non-textual forms as substantial modes of communication. (Some examples of multimodal composition are dance, video or board games, graffiti, map-making, carpentry, photography, computer programming, etc.) Reflecting on multimodal communication largely will help us think deeper about what digital communication can do. Much of the reading, writing, and discussions we do this semester will use this question as a lends through which to develop the skills in the “Course Description.”

The reading and writing in this course challenges traditional conceptions of writing—in particular the standards and expectations of what “good” writing looks like. I encourage you to think radically about your own communication practices and be curious about how to expand writing technology. This course will investigate reader and user experience in a multimodal setting in order to rethink what writing means in the new media age. This course draws from composition that happens in digital, textual, aural, verbal, tactile, visual, spatial, as well as other forms in order to question the boundaries of what counts as academic writing. Students will analyze and produce multimodal compositions, while cultivating a theoretical foundation for how we use, critique, and create new media in multimodal genres.

We will be asking:

  •  What are the available means of persuasion for each of these new mediums?
  •  What shifts are happening to how we write, why we write, where we write, and for whom we write?
  •  What new ethical and rhetorical sensibilities are required by these new mediums?
  •  What considerations must we now take to social convention, authorship, reader and sensory experience, and finally, genre?
Texts and Materials

You’ll need to purchase the following course materials:

  • the course reader: Concepts, Conversations, Critique, 4th ed., Bedford-Martin, 2011
  • a notebook for taking notes in class and drafting paper ideas
  • a folder for collecting your work
  • a copy card for printing and photocopying (approximately $25-30) or your own personal printing

In this course, you will write often, turning something in for response from either your peers or me nearly every week. The goal is for you to write constantly, in a variety of genres, in response to different assignments with different kinds of challenges, and for multiple readers.

The course is organized around three sequences with the following goals: identifying and exploring a concept; engaging the ideas of others; and developing a critical approach through research and argumentation. Each sequence builds upon short writing assignments toward a longer writing project to address the goal of the sequence. (For more details on each sequence, see Concepts, Conversations, Critique, pages 3-4.)

  • Short Writing Assignments: For each sequence, there are several short writing assignments and/or oral presentations. These might include 2-3 page response papers, summaries of research, proposals, short bibliographies, or descriptive narratives. Although usually not as structured as the longer writing projects, these short pieces should still be completed with care and attention, and they should be included in your portfolios, when required.
  • Writers’ Memos: For each major writing assignment you will include a “Writer’s Memo” as a coversheet. In this memo you will describe your purpose and strategy in approaching the assignment, and ask any questions about the writing that you may have yourself. This is your chance to provide some context for your writing but also an opportunity to ask your reader directly about the effectiveness and effect of the piece. Also, because you will have the opportunity to create multimodal compositions, this will give you a chance to reflect on the nature of your medium and purpose. Typically, the memo will be at least a paragraph but no more than a page.
  • Writing Projects: You will be asked to do three longer writing projects for the course. I will provide guidelines, but we might also collaborate to design projects based on the texts and issues we discuss in class.

Your course grade will reflect my assessment of your work over the course of the semester as well as the level of your conscientiousness in meeting course responsibilities and requirements. I will assess your writing through a portfolio system, which is described in this syllabus. Course responsibilities and requirements include attendance and participation. All of these factors will be reflected in your final course grade, weighted as follows:

  • Portfolio 1: 20%
  • Portfolio 2: 25%
  • Portfolio 3: 35%
  • Participation: 20%

Attendance is required. English 100 is a small seminar-like course and the presence of each student matters. You need to be in class, on time, prepared, every meeting. This matters for your own learning as well as for the contributions you make to the learning of others. For those unavoidable times when you are sick or otherwise unable to come to class, the attendance policy allows 3 absences without penalty. I ask that you please notify me in advance if you plan on being absent. If you miss class, it is your responsibility to find out what you missed and to make up any work as required. Excessive or habitual tardiness may be counted as an absence.

The final course grade may be lowered for each absence after the first 3 absences (An A will become an AB; an AB will become a B; a B will become a BC, and so on). An absence beyond 6 absences may result in a student failing the course.

As your instructor, I have the discretion to take into account extraordinary reasons for an absence such as a severe accident or illness, a family emergency or death, a recognized religious holiday, or jury duty. I understand that life gets in the way from time to time, so please come speak with me in advance if any of these issues arise. I may ask for documentation, and I will work with you to create what I see as fair accommodations for your circumstance.

Finally, I expect that everyone speak at least once every class session. While speaking is important piece of active participation, simply talking constantly will not earn you full remarks in this area. Participation also includes listening attentively to your classmates even if you feel you do not have anything to say, arriving full prepared, giving thoughtful feedback to peers during peer review, and being willing to seek me out during my offices hours with any questions you may have concerning your work. If you’re someone who s not comfortable speaking in class, please come see me. I am very happy to work with you to make class seem less stressful or intimidating, and we can figure out a way for you to still participate. I want this course to be enjoyable and productive, but I cannot help you unless I know about your situation, so please feel free to speak with me.

Email, Class Listserv, and Computer Policy

Just as email is the best way for you to get in touch with me, it’s also one I will use frequently for contacting you. Please check your account regularly and read all emails related to class carefully. Often I will send important instructions about preparing for class via email (how many copies of a draft to bring for workshop, reading questions, changes to the reading/writing due for a given meeting, etc.), so it is imperative that you check for and pay attention to these emails.

I use the class listserv to send emails. You can also use it to contact each other – emails send to english100-49-f13@lists.wisc.edu will go to everyone in the class (including me). By default this sends them to your UW address. If you use an alternative email account as I do, ensure that you have your UW emails forwarded to this account. In addition, you must send emails to the listserv from you UW account.

I will allow you to bring your computers to class on days when we will be using the Internet (I will email you and let you know when those days are coming). Much of the work we do will allow us to immerse ourselves in digital communication, and I encourage you to expand your traditional computer use to new mediums. With that said, if you do choose to bring your computer to class—it is not required—you must NOT use if for personal use during class time. This is incredibly distracting, and if I find you using your computer outside of the task at hand, I will ask you to leave class, resulting in an absence. This is a strict policy of mine.

Feedback and Portfolios

A central philosophy and practice of English 100 is that writing is a process. Your learning depends on engaging in that process fully. As a process, writing requires planning, drafting, revision, and editing. As part of the process, you also must consider the purpose, audience, and effect of your writing. In English 100 you can expect to write several drafts for your longer writing projects, to share your writing with other readers, and to respond to the writing of others. In paying attention to this process as both writer and reader you will develop your ability to provide useful feedback and advice for others and for yourself.

Because the emphasis is on your development as a writer—something that cannot occur without trial and error—your work will be assessed in a variety of ways. For early drafts, you will receive comments intended to help you improve your writing as you work through and form your ideas. On later drafts, you will receive comments that address more specifically the development of ideas, the effectiveness of your argument or writing goal, and the quality of writing. Some of this feedback will come from me. Some of it will come from your peers.

You will not receive individual letter or numerical grades on each assignment or draft. Instead, you will turn in a portfolio of your work at the end of each sequence, which will be assessed as a whole. The content of each portfolio will typically include short writing assignments, your writing project(s), and draft work for these pieces. Your portfolio will receive a traditional grade. These grades will take into account your development as a writer and your ability to meet course expectations, including the expectation that you will take part in writing workshops, participate consistently in other ways, and complete work on time.

For each required portfolio you will collect your writing to submit for review and a grade. The content of each portfolio will typically include short writing assignments, your writing project(s), and draft work for these pieces. Guidelines for portfolios will be provided. The grade breakdowns listed above are meant to serve as a guideline and not a hard-and-fast rule. I will take into account the progress you make throughout the semester during my final evaluation. If you give this class and your peers the attention they deserve, you will improve with each revision and assignment. I will also consider revising pieces from your earlier portfolios at the end of the course to further demonstrate your progress, but you must discuss this with me.

Guidelines for Formatting

Unless otherwise noted, all of your work, including drafts – whether submitted in hard copy or electronically – must be typed, and should follow MLA formatting guidelines. These include the following features:

  • Double-spacing
  • Times New Roman 12-point font
  • 1-inch margins on all sides
  • Single-spaced header in upper-left corner of the first page with each of the following on separate lines: your first and last name, English 100-XX, date, assignment name (including draft number)
  • A title, centered and printed in normal style font (no italics, no underlining, and no font size changes). Please do not use a separate title page.
  • Last name and page number in the upper-right corner of every page following the first page.
Writing Workshops and Peer Response

Research suggests that a sole teacher might not always be the best reader for student writing. All writers benefit from hearing the responses of trusted readers. In English100, we use Writing Workshops at all stages of the writing process to provide feedback on ideas, to generate or answer questions related to research, and to provide responses for drafts.

To develop as a writer, you need to practice writing for a variety of readers, especially readers who are not also evaluating you. That means you need to cultivate good intellectual relations with your classmates. You need to practice listening to others’ readings of your work; you need, also, to practice giving the kind of thoughtful and honest feedback that you want to receive as a writer.

On days when we are having a Writing Workshop, your presence is especially important. Therefore, an absence on a workshop day or failure to participate in a workshop will lead to a reduction in your grade for that sequence’s portfolio. Attendance on workshop days is vital.


Each of you will meet with me in my office at least twice during the semester to discuss your writing and your progress in the course. These conferences help me get to know you and your work and also are a place for us to focus, in detail, on your writing and revision strategies. I will talk to you in class about how I would like you to prepare for conferences. Failure to attend a conference at the appointed time will count as a class absence.

Late Work

You will do a lot of writing and revising in this course and a lot of work with your peers, which means that all work must be turned in on the date specified. Work turned in late, including drafts, can result in grade penalties on your portfolios. Work more than a week late will not be accepted. While emphasizing the importance of turning work in on time, I want to also emphasize the importance of talking to me right away when problems arise.

If you find yourself in crisis or panic the night before a paper is due, I much prefer if you contact me via email and explain the situation rather than resort to plagiarism. If you foresee yourself having trouble meeting a deadline, speak with me before the due date passes. I will use my own discretion in negotiating an extension if I see fit.

If you talk to me and explain your situation, I am happy to work to help you. If you panic and turn in a paper that is not your own work, there will be much less I can do to help you limit the damage. Do not choose plagiarism over lateness.

Academic Honesty and Plagiarism

The University of Wisconsin-Madison and the English 100 Program expect students to present their work honestly and to credit others responsibly and with care. University policy states: “Academic honesty and integrity are fundamental to the mission of higher education and of the University of Wisconsin system” (Wisconsin Administrative Code 14.01).

Plagiarism is a serious offense, and it can occur in drafts as well as in final papers. Because this course relies heavily on sharing knowledge and information in the learning and writing processes, it is important that students learn how to work with sources without plagiarizing. Plagiarism includes any of the following:

  • cutting and pasting from another source without using quotation marks and citing the source
  • using someone else’s words or ideas without proper documentation when quoting and paraphrasing
  • copying any portion of your text from another source without proper acknowledgement
  • borrowing another person’s specific ideas without documenting the source
  • having someone rewrite or complete your work (This does not include getting and using feedback from a writing group or individual in the class.)
  • turning in a paper written by someone else, an essay “service,” or from a World Wide Web site (including reproductions of such essays or papers)
  • turning in a paper that you wrote for another course, or turning in the same paper for more than one course, without getting permission from your instructors first

For more on the University’s plagiarism policy, you can refer to pages 7-8 in Concepts, Conversations, Critique.

To emphasize again, please come talk to me if you’re feeling panicked or pressured about your work to the point where you’re considering plagiarism. I will work with you to avoid that outcome. I want you to succeed in this course and am willing to help you do so, but should I discover that you have plagiarized, I will report it. At that point, the issue will quickly pass out of my hands into someone who will be much less understanding of your situation. Always ask me if you’re having problems.


There are many resources available to you at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Please see Concepts, Conversations, Critique for full descriptions of the following:

Course Directors

The course directors encourage you whenever possible to meet with me to address any questions you have about the course. However, if you have a question about the course that you think can only be answered by someone other than me, you can contact one of the directors for assistance:

Morris Young, Director of English 100 and Professor of English
6187C Helen C. White Hall, (608) 263-3367, msyoung4@wisc.edu

Mary Fiorenza, Associate Director of English 100, Assistant Faculty Associate
6183 Helen C. White Hall, (608) 263- 4512, fiorenza@wisc.edu

Anne Wheeler, Senior Assistant Director of English 100
6189 Helen C. White Hall, acwheeler@wisc.edu

Annika Konrad, Assistant Director of English 100
6189 Helen C. White Hall, konrad@wisc.edu


See course schedule.