Click here for example assignment sequences from our instructor archive.

Activities, Outcomes, and Example course Descriptions & Sequences

In order to lead students through the types of assignments and activities listed above, you will want to scaffold each assignment and activity. Letting the outcomes drive both your sequence design and your assignment design helps ensure that students are prepared to not only write each major assignment but also to compile their final portfolio and effectively argue in the critical reflection how they’ve demonstrated each course outcome in their selected body of writing. We will briefly connect some of the practical reading, research and writing tasks with the outcomes that call for them. Under each outcome are examples of tasks that you could incorporate into a more fully developed assignment, assignment sequence, or in-class lesson. Of course, these are not all the possibilities, but hopefully these ideas can guide you towards developing the assignments you are most comfortable with and most invested in exploring with students. In addition, you might wish to consult the corresponding chapters in Writer/Thinker/Maker, which not only provide useful readings for your students but also in- or out-of-class activities and exercises applicable to the learning goals.

Outcome 1: To compose strategically for a variety of audiences and contexts, both within and outside the university

  • Explicit reflection on students’ own strategies throughout the quarter
  • Writing journals
  • Reflection memos accompanying assignments
  • Daily/weekly end of class reflections on lessons learned
  • Writing in different genres

Outcome 2: To work strategically with complex information in order to generate and support inquiry

  • Annotating
  • Summarizing
  • Close reading
  • Critical reading/Reading against the grain
  • Reading rhetorically
  • Rhetorical analysis
  • Applying theoretical concepts
  • Quote integration
  • Observing, making surveys, and conducting interviews
  • Developing research questions
  • Identifying “conversations” to enter
  • Putting texts in “conversation” with one another
  • Complicating readings through new evidence

Outcome 3: To craft persuasive, complex, inquiry-driven arguments that matter

  • Understanding argument versus opinion
  • Making concessions and counterarguments
  • Complicating claims through increased and diversified forms of evidence
  • Ethical communication across difference
  • Understanding the consequences of your own and others’ arguments from diverse communities
  • Examining assumptions
  • Introductions
  • Conclusions
  • Paragraph development as it follows a line of inquiry
  • Adding stakes—the so what?

Outcome 4: To practice composing as a recursive, collaborative process and to develop flexible strategies for revising throughout the composition process

  • Reflective memos
  • Peer Review Workshops
  • Writing that responds directly to feedback (rather than just passively incorporating it)
  • Writing Center visits with reflective write-ups
  • Rhetorical grammar exercises


On the following pages, you will find some select course descriptions and assignment sequences that have been successful in 131 classrooms. In addition to these materials, you can refer to the following for additional materials and samples:

  •  The PWR Instructor Archive: an open-access archive of instruction materials for all 100-level PWR classes (including, but not limited to ENGL 131). Materials are organized by topic and are tagged by course. Since all PWR 100-level composition classes share the same learning outcomes, you can often borrow and adapt material from course sections other than 131. The Archive is accessible at this link (you will need to log in with your UW NetID and password).
  • On the archive, you can find full length curricula (including assignment prompts, readings, and lesson plans) titled “Race and Pop Culture,” “Borders and Migration,” and Indigenous-Centered Curricula developed for incoming instructors by various research clusters supported by the PWR Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Grant.
  • The Program in Writing and Rhetoric website: hosts specially curated materials which have been peer-reviewed for rigor that you are welcome to use and adapt.
  • We offer regular workshops and professional development activities hosted in partnership with the Program for Writing Across Campus where instructors share resources, workshop lesson plans, and troubleshoot classroom dynamics in community with other members of the PWR community.
  • The Odegaard Writing and Research Center as well as the Center for Teaching and Learning are both available for curricular consultations with writing instructors and will assist you with developing your sequence and sharpening your assignment prompts on an appointment basis.
  • The PWR Director, Faculty Mentors, Associate Director of Writing Programs, and Assistant Directors all hold regular office hours and are always glad to assist in developing, troubleshooting, or revising curricular materials (as well as supporting you in a wide range of other ways).


Your course description should introduce the course goals and expectations in language that is accessible and clear. The PWR outcomes can help you develop and articulate course descriptions that give students a clear sense of how you will be defining, approaching, and teaching rhetoric/composition/writing in the context of your classroom. Using the specific language of the outcomes (stakes, assumptions, rhetorical analysis, and so forth) in your course description can help you set student expectations, as well as push against or disrupt students’ preconceived notions of what “good” college-level writing looks like. The outcomes can also help you ground your own philosophies in the PWR course goals.

As one example, if you wanted to challenge the assumption that form and content are separable, you could do so in your course description by articulating writing as “understanding and accounting for the stakes and consequences of various arguments for diverse audiences and within ongoing conversations and contexts” (Outcome 3). This highlights that writing doesn’t occur in a vacuum; it is always mediated and shaped by the material conditions out of which it is emerging; and it produces material impacts that are distributed and felt unevenly.

Your course description can also serve as a place to set the tone for the course, begin to establish your teaching persona, and introduce a course theme (if you choose one) through which you will teach writing (e.g., citizenship, environmental issues, public writing, exploring Seattle politics, etc.), among other things.

EXAMPLE 1: Belle Kim

Writing is a deeply political act. The production of discourse has never been divorced from entrenched structures of power and oppression that have historically guaranteed death and devaluation to targeted and marginalized groups deemed expendable, disposable, and exploitable. Given this premise, I will expect you to ask of each text that you read: what are the stakes and urgencies motivating this particular project? For whom are they writing and to what end? What is the specific historical context in which they are writing and how does that inform my reading of the text? The insights you gain from being critical readers who practice such strategies of rhetorical and critical analyses will help you generate complex, stake-driven arguments of your own that can contribute to ongoing academic conversations. As you do so, you will be expected to be accountable critical writers who consciously reflect upon the assumptions undergirding the argument you’re making, as well as the ethical and political implications of your argument and the material impact your argument might have on those whose social locations and access to privilege look different from your own. Ultimately, the writing skills that we develop in this class will be useful across academic disciplines no matter where you end up. After all, the courses that you take from now on will have varying expectations and requirements when it comes to the style, tone, structure, and organization of your writing, but the core components of successful academic writing will remain the same. That’s where this class comes in. English 131 will equip you with the necessary tools to…

  •  write for different audiences and contexts using conventions appropriate to each situation
  • carefully analyze the writing of others in ways that allow you to build off of their thinking
  • enter into academic conversations with a purpose-driven and persuasive argument that displays an understanding of relevant conceptual frameworks
  • revise your writing successfully.This section of English 131 will read a variety of academic and non-academic texts that are centered very broadly around the theme of “citizenship.” We will read texts on immigration, policing, the prison industrial complex, US imperialism, and how the intersection of race, class, gender, and sexuality affects those who are excluded from the privileged status of citizenship. As you will come to find, citizenship is a complex concept that, in its uneven distribution of wealth, resources, and power, profoundly impacts how our society is constructed—from how we organize communities to how we think about our culture, legal system, and ways of life. Part of your challenge in this course will be to discover ways in which you can become personally invested in this theme: you will be asked to think critically about your own ideologies and assumptions and you will begin to articulate to yourself and others why it is important for us to develop a deeper understanding of this subject matter.Please come to class prepared to carefully examine and unpack the readings, which will at times be challenging and difficult. I expect you to be ready to participate in respectful, informed conversations and, of course, to write. In return, you will leave the class armed with a host of skills and strategies that will help you to be a successful, analytical, and critically engaged writer capable of entering into ongoing conversations about citizenship and the complex political realities of which it is a significant part.

EXAMPLE 2: Taiko Aoki-Marcial

English 131 is a course that will help prepare you to be an analytical, effective writer at the University of Washington and beyond. Together we will practice developing and communicating complex ideas in writing. We will use our collective and individual knowledge, our experiences and the experiences of our communities to form and support claims (or arguments) in different genres (or types) of writing, for varied audiences. We will engage in research on topics of importance to us and our communities as we learn writing skills that will transfer to contexts at this university and in other settings in our lives.

In this class we will work together on building writing skills by examining the nature of language, language equity and the relationship of language to power and privilege. Throughout the quarter, we will be reading several pieces that explore how the language we use (or don’t use) shapes our human experience and how it connects to broader social structures. We will read and interact with multiple text and multimodal sources to broaden our perspectives and enhance our understanding of language as an act with consequences. In addition, we will analyze texts and sources considering qualities of responsible academic writing and put these qualities into practice in our own work.

As we read, discuss, and write about these ideas in class, we will also reflect explicitly on our own composition processes and decision making. At the end of this quarter, we will create a portfolios to represent our most successful examples of revised writing that show evidence of the following PWR course outcomes:

  1. Recognizing different rhetorical situations (or communication contexts) and making informed choices to write effectively in varying situations.
  2. Researching, analyzing, responding to, and citing support for your ideas in writing
  3. Crafting organized arguments that matter to your context and community
  4. Collaborating and revising your writing and ideas according to feedback from your instructor and your peers

I hope that as a class we can deepen our appreciation of language and its relationship to equity as well as our understanding of each other and ourselves in ways that will help you achieve personal and academic goals, both in and out of school.

EXAMPLE 3: A.J. Burgin

English 131 is designed to prepare you for your academic career. Regardless of the path you are considering, be it Political Science, Engineering, Biology, or Pre-Law, you will require the ability to think critically about the world around you and to articulate that thinking in writing. Your coursework, both now and in the years to come, will require you to produce writing that varies greatly in tone, style, research methods, complexity, and organization. The ability to clearly articulate your ideas, however, will always be necessary regardless of framework. To that end, this class seeks to prepare you with the tools necessary for a successful academic life:

  • the ability to thoughtfully analyze texts, materials, and the arguments of others
  • the techniques of successful research and how to incorporate that research into your arguments
  • an understanding of how to articulate your own complex claims 
  • the ability to successfully revise

This section of 131 will use popular culture as a vehicle to engage with the specific strategies of rhetorical analysis and writing discussed above. Non-traditional literary texts such as television shows and movies can serve as accessible mediums for discussion and critical analysis, as well as the ability to create complex, stake-driven claims of your own. In addition to giving you the opportunity to choose texts that interest you, popular culture allows us to use a topic that you are already thinking about critically to explore strategies of articulating that critical thinking on paper. Popular culture shapes our thinking in overt and subtle ways, and by using writing strategies to break down how that shaping occurs, we can become more astute and engaged citizens as well as writers.

As fun as popular culture can be to work with, it is important to remain critically engaged as much as possible. You should come to class ready to carefully unpack complex meanings as well as the strategies that produce them. It is important that you be prepared to examine texts, engage in respectful and informed conversations, and, of course, write, write, and then write some more. If you are willing to put in the effort, you will leave this class with the tools to be a successful academic writer and critically engaged member of society.

This course is also a computer-integrated course, which means we will use technology on a daily basis to develop rhetoric, analysis, and writing skills. It is your responsibility to use that technology responsibly, which means staying on task at all times, not typing while your peers or your instructor are talking (the keyboards are not at all quiet), and following general lab rules.

EXAMPLE 4: Kelsey Fanning

In this course we will center the writing and perspectives of those people who have been historically marginalized and oppressed in the United States. Taken with our course theme—topics in university studies—this means that we will investigate writings that engage with issues of race, class, gender, sexuality, and religion and the ways in which these categories intersect with the U.S. university as an institution. We are beginning with the premise that the university functions as a core gatekeeping institution to participation in public and economic life in the contemporary U.S. and will investigate together materials that reveal how uneven access to universities maintains entrenched forms of power, privilege, and oppression in our lives and communities. Histories of violence, dispossession, exploitation, and exclusion cannot be overcome through tokenistic engagement with the work of minoritized people. Therefore, please understand that the decision to limit readings by white male authors does not reflect “reverse discrimination,” but is in fact informed by a scholarly and ethical commitment to resist tokenizing, fetishizing, stereotyping, or otherwise uncritically incorporating texts written by individuals experiencing myriad forms of violence and marginalization within our society.

Keep in mind throughout the quarter that the argument of an individual cannot stand in for an entire group but that these arguments do have something to teach us about the systemic and institutionalized nature of inequality. The writing we investigate in this class reflects various authors’ sophisticated rhetorical strategies. If you find yourself reacting defensively to a text, recall that it is very likely the author’s purpose to evoke just such an emotional response. Remember to stop and analyze WHY the writer would use this kind of rhetorical strategy in order to execute an argument and HOW such a strategy creates a rhetorical experience for the author’s readership.


The purpose of this course is to help you develop your skills as an academic thinker, reader, and especially writer. As a university student, you will find that the questions, problems, and concerns raised at the university level become increasingly complex—so much so that they often do not have a single, straightforward answer. In fact, one of the hallmarks of academic inquiry is that the best questions inspire many thinkers and writers to respond in order to reveal the complexity and nuance of an issue. In this course you will continue develop your critical thinking abilities in order to recognize and formulate the kinds of questions that fuel academic conversations. You will also hone a variety of strategies that writers use for developing purposeful, stakes-driven texts that matter to readers. In assignments for this course, students will learn to compose robust and complex claims and persuasive arguments informed by your sensitivity to and awareness of the various genres and rhetorical situations required by a unique writing context. Furthermore, you will utilize revision and reflection to strategically improve your texts based on the specific contexts to which you are writing.


Generally, instructors have designed their 131 sequences around a particular thematic focus, such as cultural inquiry, rhetorical inquiry, or genre inquiry. These foci are all based on the overall premise that academic argument develops through close and critical analysis. All three of these foci culminate in a 5-7 page argument paper for each major sequence, based in a claim that has emerged from a line of inquiry. Any number of readings from Writer/Thinker/Maker can function equally well in any of these foci, and we encourage you to be as creative as you want when combining readings with other readings or with outside fieldwork and research. In the past, some 131 instructors have found it useful to vary the types of sequences between the first and second half of the quarter. Because 131 aims to teach rhetorical awareness for entering different writing situations, the hallmarks of academic writing across disciplines, as well as flexible strategies for revision, varying the assignment types ensures that students work both on the meta-awareness of the relationship between writing and context (genre and/or rhetorical analysis) and the specific hallmarks of academic writing such as analysis, synthesis, research, and development of arguments that emerge from a line of inquiry (cultural/textual analysis).

Linked are five sample assignment sequences. As you read through them, it may be useful to note the kind of scaffolding each instructor employs and how. Following the explanation above of different kinds of scaffolding, Jeff Johnson’s sequence is serial in nature, Chelsea Jennings’ and Xuan Zheng’s are examples of cumulative courses, and Belle Kim’s and Ashley Alford’s sequences are primarily serial (though it contains some cumulative aspects as well). The first sequence, which includes teacher commentary, is designed for one four-week chunk of time, and drew its readings—rhetorical and otherwise—from both an older edition of the PWR textbook called Context for Inquiry and outside sources.

These sample assignment sequences begin with the instructor’s description of the rationale behind the sequence, followed by the assignment prompts that were distributed to students.

Click here for example assignment sequences from our instructor archive.



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2023 English 131 Instructors Manual Copyright © 2022 by kersch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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