First-Year Writing Courses (W1s)

Our first-year writing courses are small, writing-intensive courses taught by faculty across the curriculum.  These courses are designed to introduce students to the rigorous culture of writing at Colby and to provide practice with expository writing, careful reading, and critical analysis. Designated W1 in the catalogue, these courses fulfill the first-year writing requirement and introduce students to the processes and tools they will need as writers throughout their college careers.

Faculty and Students:
You can search for W1, W2, and W3 courses in
Curriculum Search
using the “W1/ Writing-Intensive” drop-down menu.

To that end, W1 courses share several features:

  • strong emphasis on drafting, argument development, and revision;
  • frequent writing in a variety of forms;
  • rich professor and peer feedback;
  • sustained exploration of ethical, critical, and formal expectations for college-level writing

See the W1 student learning outcomes and W1 Common Understandings (shared faculty guidelines).

Upper-Level, Writing-Intensive Courses (W2s & W3s)

Upper-level, writing-intensive courses introduce students to field-specific writing and research practices and use writing to investigate issues in the disciplines. In these courses, writing and research practices appropriate to the major field(s) of study are taught, not simply assigned. For pedagogical reasons, the recommended course cap for W2s and W3s is 18 students.

See the W2/W3 Common Understandings (shared faculty guidelines).

W2 courses are intermediate, 200- or 300-level courses that introduce students to the methods, key questions, and common forms of writing in the discipline or interdisciplinary area for their major(s).

W3 experiences are 300- or 400-level courses or approved projects that provide practice in advanced writing and research and build on the goals and understandings for W1 and W2 courses.

Even across departments and majors, W2s and W3s share several common goals. At a minimum, students in these courses will:

  • learn the purposes, forms, and conventions of writing in the field;
  • write regularly throughout the semester;
  • discuss their writing in class and with peers; and
  • revise in response to feedback from professors and peers.

Colby Writing Program Courses

Writing Program faculty include professors Stacey Sheriff, Paula Harrington, Ghada Gherwash, Meghan Hancock, Bess Stokes, Elizabeth Ketner, and James Barrett. These faculty members teach a variety of writing-intensive courses in the Writing Program and the Department of English.

Writing Program Courses (WP course prefix)

WP 111 Communication in Context: Offered in the fall for international students who are not yet taking their first-year writing (W1) course. Introduces students to the needs and expectations for written and oral communication in American academic English. Students will read and reflect on a variety of nonfiction texts. Includes classroom discussions, reflective journals, essays, and an oral presentation. Students will write three multi-draft papers that focus on different topics. Thus, the primary goal is to hone students’ communicative skills in English — both spoken and written. Previously listed as “Expository Writing Workshop.” Three credit hours. GHERWASH

WP 112 Individual Writer’s Workshop: An individualized, weekly tutorial session with a trained peer writing tutor from the Farnham Writers’ Center. Meets weekly for 1 hour during the time of your choice for a total of (at least) 10 hours per semester. Open to students from first-years to seniors. Students usually take WP112 with a W1 (first-year writing) , senior thesis, or other writing-intensive courses. Meetings may focus on writing assignments, reading assignments, grammar, professors’ feedback or anything else related to writing or research for any courses. May be repeated for credit. Nongraded. One credit hour.  HARRINGTON, SHERIFF

[WP 114]  Global English: Contemporary Expository Writing across Media: An examination of “global English” to gain a better understanding of successful written communication, especially expository writing. We will review grammar, with a focus on the most common linguistic differences from other language groups; examine traditional rhetorical forms, from argument to advertising and from polemic to parody; study new media forms such as blogs, websites, Facebook, tweets, and graphic narratives; and explore these questions: How does language construct, reflect, limit, and transcend cultural meaning? How does usage change and why? What are the arguments for and against such changes? Students with working knowledge of more than one language especially welcome. Four credit hours.  W1. HARRINGTON    

WP 115A First-Year Writing: Rhetoric, Writing, and Social Change: Focuses on effective writing, rhetorical analysis, and communicating with different audiences–including the Colby community. Writing projects will include three analytical essays and a final, public writing project in which each student identifies an issue in the Colby community, researches the situation, and develops a realistic proposal to improve it. Each week, we focus on a different aspect of college-level academic writing (e.g., paragraph development, sentence-level editing, analyzing research sources, making sound arguments, etc.) Readings are diverse and include non-fiction essays, newspaper journalism, videos, and scholarly writing on rhetoric, identity, and literacy. Previously listed as English 115. Four credit hours.  W1.  SHERIFF

[WP 115B] First-Year Writing: Truths and Fictions: Poem. Short Story. Essay. As we read materials from these domains, we will ask what kinds of truths fiction can tell and what sorts of fictions may pass as truth. Ongoing and sustained focus on writing forms the backbone of the course. Closely tied to the readings, frequent writing assignments–formal, informal, and creative–are directed toward developing critical thinking, persuasive argumentation, and a mastery of grammar and style. Previously listed as English 115. Four credit hours.  W1. BARRETT    

WP 115C First-Year Writing: Reimagining the Essay: Reconsiders the essay’s potential for self-expression and analytical argumentation. Students read powerful essays of the past 70 years, write five essays, and reimagine their relationship to the genre. Of particular emphasis are clarity of expression, development of ideas, logical organization, and effective and correct use of research to support claims–both to prepare for future writing assignments and to appreciate the form as a means to express ideas complexly, gracefully, and persuasively. Previously listed as English 115. Four credit hours.  W1. KETNER

WP 115D First-Year Writing: Food for Thought: The food we interact with is an expression of our humanity, our many cultures, our selves. This peer-review and process-oriented course combines reading across genres with the development of writing skills that can be applied in all disciplines. Students will practice personal narrative, argument, synthesis, and research-based writing and read work by both new and established authors. Four credit hours.  W1. STOKES

WP 115E First-Year Writing: Writing through the Multicultural Lens: We will use the theme of multiculturalism/multilingualism as our framework to analyze a multitude of non-fictional texts that are composed by writers from a variety of cultural/linguistic backgrounds. The primary goal is to encourage students to question, interrogate, and challenge the stereotypes that have prevailed in the news and social media, aiming to foster cross-cultural communication. Students will write four papers that center around a topic of their choice. Students from underrepresented contexts, domestically and globally, as well as those with a functional knowledge of an additional language(s) are especially welcome. Four credit hours. W1. GHERWASH

WP 115G First-Year Writing: Rich and Poor in American Fiction: Invites you to examine an American literary movement–social realism–through the lens of class extremes, looking at how fiction has helped create and reinforce cultural notions of “rich” and “poor”. We will read canonical works as well as contemporary popular literature with an eye toward fictional representation of class division. We will also apply class theory, such as that of Thorstein Veblen, to narrative and will contextualize texts through New Historicism. In the process, we will explore, even deconstruct, our own views of class identities. Assignments will include a short position paper, a longer research paper, a blog, a group project, and a midterm. The Presence of the Past humanities lab. Four credit hours.  W1. HARRINGTON

WP 115H First-Year Writing: Writing about Writing: Covers writing theory by inviting students to explore their own and scholars’ conceptions of how writing gets things done, what “good” writing is, and how writing tasks and genres are defined by specific contexts, rhetorical situations, and communities. Students will think about themselves as composers–what processes work best and how their past experiences shape their writerly identities. Major assignments include a definition paper on a writing concept, an auto-ethnography exploring students’ writing processes, a research paper on the ways in which a discipline of interest circulates knowledge through writing, and a remediation project that transforms a previous work into a digital medium for a new audience. Four credit hours.  W1. HANCOCK

WP 120A Language, Thought, and Writing: Literary Conversations: Individual works of literature take part in a larger literary conversation that transcends time and space. Writers join the conversation by replicating existing literary forms and conventions. They also respond to perennial themes that have sparked writers’ imaginations. Literary scholars also engage in ongoing conversations about the purpose and meaning of literary texts. We will enter these conversations by reading, writing about, and discussing literary texts. We will have regular opportunities to respond creatively and analytically, in speech and writing, to some amazing poems, plays, and novels. Previously listed as English 120. Four credit hours.  W1. KETNER

WP 151 Reading and Writing about Literature: Dark and Stormy Nights: Why do we love ghost stories? Why do haunted houses and castles and secrets and scary things fascinate and thrill us? We will trace the origins and patterns of the Gothic in literature and explore the human appetite for the sublime and the supernatural. This peer-review and process-oriented course combines reading across genres with the development of writing skills that can be applied in all disciplines. Four credit hours.  W1. STOKES

WP 214 Tutoring Writing in Theory and Practice Listed as English 214. Four credit hours.    HARRINGTON

WP 310 Professional Writing: How to respond to rhetorical situations in the professional world. Emphasizes principles that can be adapted to any professional context. Students will learn how to assess the needs of rhetorical situations in the professional world, how to develop an understanding of the purposes and audiences of professional genres, how to prepare for the complexities of working in group settings, and how interrogation of issues of privilege, prejudice, and access to information allow us to design professional documents that are more inclusive. Prerequisite: W1 course. Four credit hours. W2, U.  HANCOCK

English Courses (EN course prefix)

EN/WP 214 Tutoring Writing in Theory and Practice: A pedagogy and training course for writing tutors and writing fellows that focuses on peer review and collaborative learning in both theory and practice. Readings include essays and articles on peer review, learning styles and differences, multilingual student writing, strategies of revision, and writing center pedagogy. Assignments include writing, readings, grammar review and practice, a reflective blog, mock tutorials, and supervised tutorials to prepare enrolled students to help their peers improve as writers and to work with faculty as writing fellows. Students completing the course may apply for work-study positions in the Writers’ Center. Prerequisite: W1 course. Four credit hours. HARRINGTON

EN 397: Advanced Writing and Rhetoric: Introduction to rhetorical theory and the writings of major figures in the history of rhetoric and composition, such as Aristotle, Isocrates, and Kenneth Burke. We will learn about persuasion and what’s essential for using rhetoric to change the opinions of others. Writing assignments will be varied and include rhetorical analysis, voice essays, and formal proposals. Conducted in a seminar style that emphasizes close reading and active participation. Prerequisite: W1 course. Four credit hours. W2. SHERIFF

EN 491/492: Independent Study in Rhetoric & Composition: Individual projects exploring topics for which the student has demonstrated the interest and competence necessary for independent work. Prerequisite: Permission of a project advisor and the chair of the department. One to four credit hours. FACULTY


Please consult the college catalogue for current descriptions and schedules.

Are you a faculty member interested in proposing a new W1, W2, or W3 course? Please go to “W Course Designations” for more information.