Composition & Rhetoric Prompts 

My typical first-year writing course assigns 4 or 5 papers in individual units with scaffolded assignments leading to draft and revision. In recent years, I've been ending with a social justice essay and a research paper on NYC, both of which I teach the teachers how to teach in Practicum. You can find my syllabus here (pdf). 

Paper 1 on Let the Great World Spin (the freshman book for AY 2012-13) Write a 5-page paper that answers this question: What is the significance of McCann’s choice to have Philippe Petit’s walk between the Twin Towers as the organizing coincidence of his novel? Your paper must discuss, quote, and analyze the novel and at least one other source.

Paper 2: Food as culture Write a 5-7 page paper on the cultural significance of a dish that is important to you. Your finished argument should engage with multiple sources—written and oral—and should combine personal experience with research. Please include a recipe as an appendix.

Paper 3: It’s not fair! Lots of movements for social justice begin with people noticing small moments of personal unfairness and then noticing that they are, in fact, symptoms of a larger social problem. Choose one such problem and write an essay that describes the problem and proposes a direction for a solution. Your paper must engage with three secondary sources.

Paper 4: New York City research paper Choose a place in New York City (a building, an intersection, a park, a monument) that no longer serves its original function (or seems to serve no function at all). Research the history of the place and write an essay in which you make an argument about the object’s survival in spite of the changes around it and to it: what does it say about the particular location, and the city as a whole, that this object still exists?