A Letter to the Writers in my Summer Composition Course

Hello Everyone!

One of the biggest problems for students in my online classes is that they fail to READ CAREFULLY. The world bombards us with texts, and we are getting used to always skimming. I’m guilty too!  Take the time to read this letter, the syllabus, and watch the tutorial videos on the course website. None of the videos is over 10 minutes long.  That’s a much shorter lecture than many of you are used to.  :)

I’m writing you because you are currently enrolled in the Summer I writing course I am teaching. In order to take this class, you will need a willingness to try new things, have regular access to the internet, and the desire to keep up with your work and stay in communication with me. This course will be over before you know it! Time flies in summer writing.

As you’ll soon see, I believe college is a place to try new things, to stretch yourself intellectually, and to get out of your comfort zone. Why just jump through the same old academic hoops you’ve been jumping through for years? You’ll do most of your work on a WordPress blog this semester, and I have some experiments planned when it comes to Facebook and Twitter. I realize some of you might have good reasons you object to social media, and if that’s you, just be in touch with me as the course moves along.

William Torgerson Writing Teaching College Composition

The Course Webpage / Click on Pic to Check it Out

You should know that just about everyone in the class thinks they aren’t a very good writer and is embarrassed to have others read their work. If that’s not you, please be sensitive to your classmates’ fears!  Once you start reading each other’s work, you’ll see we all have our strengths and weaknesses.  I really admire those of you who are writing in English as a second language. That is so much work, and I admire your intellectual ambition! Writing is something that happens in process.  We can write a bad first draft just to have something to work with and then we can go about making it better. You’ll be graded on keeping up with the work and the work you do to make the draft better as the class goes along.  You will not be graded on the quality of your first drafts.

I’m attaching the syllabus.  You can print it out and read over it, but it is also available online. I’ll give you the course website at the end of this email. The syllabus is going to look very long.  Don’t be afraid!  I think it is long because I explain what you need to do in great detail.  I hope you’ll find everything explained clearly.

This is important: Once you are on the course website, you will occasionally need a password.

(Password Information section removed)

I used to be a basketball coach, but I was converted to writer by some life experiences I had in the way of meeting people and reading texts that changed my life. Watch out. The reading and writing you do may change your life. Be on the lookout for that.

The course begins on Tuesday, May 29. I’ll respond to any email questions you have before then, but I’ll respond to your work the day or two after it is due. Like you, I’m pretty tired out from the year and getting this course ready for you all.

If any of you are in places where YouTube is blocked, you won’t be able to access some of the tutorial videos. If that’s the case, you and I can write back and forth if you have trouble setting up your work.

The course website is below.  I look forward to meeting you through the work of this course!



Write With Me Wednesdays: Create Your Writing Territories


(Click Here If You Prefer the Podcast)

Writing lesson teaching ideas research

Directions:  Respond to the following prompts to create your writing territories.  Perhaps you want to copy and paste these prompts into your blog and post your responses.  If you use this activity for your writing, I invite you to leave your blog address via a comment to this post.

  1. Make a list of topics you know a lot about, or if that puts too much pressure on you, make a list of things you know something about.
  2. List the main parts and/or roles in your life.  For example, I’m a professor, a novelist, a husband, a father, a runner, and much more.
  3. Make a list of places you know well.
  4. What are you working on right now?  What projects/work do you have going that might make for good writing topics?
  5. Make a list of topics that you wish you knew more about, or list some things you’d like to be trained in.  You could go out and learn (maybe interview others) and bring the news of your learning back to your audience.
  6. Do a sample schedule of your life.  Try out a weekday, a weekend, summertime, or a holiday.  At 8:00 a.m. you….  And then you…  The idea is that there are topics buried everywhere in each minute of your life.  You just need to be on the lookout for them.
  7. List some political/social issues relevant to your life.

So You Created the Territories, Now What?

  1. Look over the words and phrases you’ve listed and use them to come up with projects for writing.  You might see something that reminds you of a story or you might find a word or phrase that triggers an idea for what you can tell your readers about.  If it’s something you want to know (Why do I keep ending up in these relationships or how do I enter a film in a festival?) then you can take your readers on a journey with you.
  2. Do you want to post your writing territories?  You could explain that you are going to write along with us and that you are posting your writing territories as a blog post.  You could also probably post them as a comment to this post.
  3. After completing the territories, I’d love it if you would post a reflection as comment here about how the activity went for you.
  4. You might want to just jump right to the writing. I suggest that you tell us a story or tell us about one of the words or phrases that you have listed while responding to the prompts.
  5. If you’ve already got a project underway, (as I do) then post an excerpt from that work on your blog and show how it comes out of your territories.  I plan to post something that comes from my writing territories next Monday, November 21, 2011.
Access the handout here.

Write With Me Wednesdays: The Proposal

Here’s the plan:  for an undetermined stretch of Wednesdays (how long can I keep it going and do any of you care?) I’m going to try and share some element of my teaching that invites some writing on your part.  I’m going to start with a listing activity I call writing territories.  From those territories you’ll tell me ABOUT one of the words or phrases you’ve listed, or you’ll tell a STORY that comes from the territories.  From there we’ll work into some experiments trying all sorts of strategies for writing first sentences.  It’s an activity connected to the idea that some of our best teachers can be the texts that surround us.  I call these mentor texts.

William Torgerson Love on the Big Screen Torg Write With Me Wednesdays

Below you’ll find the video version of this blog post, and once I get to a spot where it makes sense to post a handout (perhaps to be used by a teacher in a classroom) I’ll make that available to you on my website at TheTorg.Com.

Next Wednesday Nov. 16th,  I’ll post the writing territories and invite you to post your responses to the prompts on your own blog.  Once you have that up, you can leave a comment to my blog post and link us up to your answers, perhaps with a brief summary or reflection of how the activity worked.  If don’t have a blog and want to set one up, I have a tutorial video here.  Of course all you have to do is ask Google, “How do I set up a WordPress blog?” and you’ll have more help than you know what to do with.

These Write With Me Wednesdays won’t be just me telling you how I teach.  I hope you’ll critique or otherwise add to how these activities might work for a variety of purposes.  I suspect those who might be willing to give this a try will be those who want to write, perhaps some bloggers I’ve met in the past year attending two Blogworld New Media Expo Conferences, and also teachers who teach writing and those who are looking to collaborate with other writers and teachers on the craft of their work.

What do you think?  Are you up for this?  Suggestions for my plan?