Fall 2006

Dr. Tara Weiss

ESL 91 D04C (3-4) (T218)

Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday

Office Hours:By Appointment

C219/L219 ______

There was once a town in the heart of America where all life seemed to live in harmony with its surroundings.

Rachel Carson,Silent Spring

Course Description and Goals

Welcome to ESL 91 D04Cfor the fall 2006 semester.The theme for the course is Nature and the Environment. Over the semester, we will explore and give thought toour relationship to nature, with an emphasis on global warming. Our journey, which should bring us closer to understanding our enduring connection to the natural world, will be facilitated through extensive reading, ample writing, and vigorous conversation. As you carefully read, diligently prepare all written assignments, and actively participate in both whole class and collaborative research group work throughout the semester, your reading/writing and critical thinking skills will be enhanced.

Reading Journals are an integral part of the semester’s work. Journal writing assignments will be based on the texts we read during the semester, and will include a variety of writing activities: paraphrasing, summary writing, letter writing, point of view writing, and analyses of and reactionsto specific textual passages. As journal logs provide the foundation for class discussions, you are expected tokeep them up to date. (Journals will be collected weekly). By doing so, you will discover that your Journals are an important part of your inquiry concerning humanity’s relationship to the environment.

Over the semester, you will write four essayswith accompanying revisions/drafts. The topics for these essays will emerge from the texts read.By the time you write your final draft, you will notice a change in your writing (in development, tone, and depth, for example). To recap, the goal in ESL 91 is to write thoughtfully, coherently, and vividly, so that others may easily understand what you wish to say.

In order to sustain and build on our theme, students will collaborate with other students to form research groups/partners, and work independently on a thematic topic throughout the semester. As we approach the end of the semester, each group is expected to present its findings.(For more details, see page two).

Extensive reading, writing, and conversingover the semester will provide the means through which the goals of ESL 91 are achieved. At all times, you will be encouraged to express your own voice. All viewpoints will be shared and respected, so that you will see how multidimensional reading and writing are—how multidimensional meaning is.

Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (excerpted chapters),Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Manand the Sea,and Farley Mowat’s Never Cry Wolf, along with a variety of other readings from other sources (to be distributed), and the Science Section of The NewYork Times, will provide the feast to the fair—that is, the reading foundation upon which we will build our semester’s work. In addition to our reading list, we will view at least one of the following films throughout the semester: Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth (currentlyplaying in movie theatres), Carroll Ballard’s Never Cry Wolf,Jacques Cluzaud and Michel Debats’s Winged Migration,The Day AfterTomorrowand Luc Jacquet’s The March of the Penguins. Films are a visual medium—another kind of text we can read in order to enrich our understanding of nature and the environment. You will be asked to write a short reaction paper to any film we see during the semester.

Our introduction to the theme of Nature and the Environment will begin with selections from Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. We will then move onto Hemingway’s The OldMan and the Seaand Farley Mowat’s Never Cry Wolf. As we move along, however, we willalso read selected articles from the Science SectionofThe New York Times (Tuesdays only). As mentioned above, I will distribute other readings as well. Reading/writing assignmentswill be announced at every session.As we approach the third week of the semester, we will formresearch groups based on a wide range of topics, all of which are intricately connected to our theme:global warming, deforestation, air and water pollution,animal habitats, and other ecological systems. You will then begin to work collaboratively with students in your group.

Required Texts

Carson, Rachel Silent Spring, A Mariner Book (Houghton Mifflin)

Hemingway, Ernest The Old Man and the Sea, Scribner

Mowat, Farley, Never Cry Wolf, Little Brown & Co.

Student Responsibilities

Your success in ESL 91 depends on your willingness to do all the reading/writing/revising assignments; in addition, you are expected to collaborate with your research team.

You are expected to attend all class sessions faithfully. You are also required to attend all lab sessions faithfully—these tutorial sessions are an important feature of ESL 91.

If you are unable to attend a class for any reason, you are still expected to do the assignment. Contact a classmate (exchange numbers during the first week of class),and find out what you missed. If you keep up with your assignments, you will not fall behind. Remember—an absence doesn’t excuse any student from doing the assigned work. A student’s maximum number of absences for a 6-hour contact hour course during a 12-week session is 12 hours of absences (six absences). Do not exceed the maximum number of absences. If you do, I am required to give you a WU grade. If you discover that you are unable to come to most of the sessions throughout the semester, you need to drop the course, thereby giving you a W for the course (rather than a WU). Check the deadline for dropping a course with the Registrar’s Office.

Most important of all—bring all related materials to class (i.e., books, essay drafts, reading journals).As a responsible student, you want to be prepared when you come to class.

You should make an appointment to see me during the semester. We can discuss your progress in ESL 91, and other class-related matters that may be on your mind. We will arrange a mutually convenient time to meet. As I may be in either C219 or L219, it is important to check with me first.

Please note the following English Department Statement on Plagiarism:

Please keep in mind that whenever you use someone else’s words—or their ideas, even if they are expressed in your own words—you must give credit. This is true regardless of where you find the words or ideas, whether it is a book a magazine or newspaper, television, or the Internet.

Assessment and Evaluation

Throughout the semester, you will be writing in response to required readings. Two of these essay writings will be organized in a final portfolio at the end of the semester. Your passing ESL 91 depends on the quality of the development of the writings contained in your final portfolio. The other forms of assessment include departmental writing and reading examinations (to be discussed). Be sure to keep all your drafts. Again, a complete assignment means that you have written multiple drafts.

Together we can create aproductive learning community. Let us work together to achieve the goals you have set for yourself in ESL 91.


Hand-outs of reading materials should be conveniently keptin a portfolio.

Exact due dates for all exams and final portfolios will be announced.

The New York Times Science Section – Bring to class every Tuesday (no exceptions).

Be sure to turn Cell Phones off, etc. before class begins.

Scaffolding Assignments

From a pedagogical perspective, scaffolding should be viewed as a critical component of the developmental course sequence.In recent years, my classes have been configured around an environmental theme. All assignments are designed to build on prior ones. As the semester moves along, students are challenged by increasingly more sophisticated readings. These readings include books, articles (from a variety of sources including the Science Section of The New York Times), and poetry some semesters.

To promote fluency, and, by extension, ecological literacy, I highlight a variety of pedagogical modalities: beginning of the semester reflections on students’ relationship to nature and the environment through outdoor-field observation writing, reading journals, essay writing, film reaction writing, and, most recently, art and the environment writing (facilitated through a power point presentation highlighting American Landscape Paintings over the centuries from Thomas Cole (1827-1836) to Stephen Hannock (2000). This continues to be a work in progress. As I see it, this segment should occur late in the semester. No matter, visual representations are a viable pedagogical activity.

Insofar as the “reflective piece of writing” is relatively new on the horizon, I had not referred to it in my fall 2006 syllabus, nor had I referred to the segment on art and the environment. I do acknowledge the improvisational nature of teaching. After all, our own pedagogical discoveries impact the academic lives of our students as well!

To: ESL 91 D02B Students

From: Prof. Tara Weiss

Subject: Schedule of Assignments – Subject to Change

Please read carefully. Do you have any questions?

Tuesday, September 12 and Thursday, September 14*

New York Times – Bring the Science Section of the New York Times to class every Tuesday. No exceptions!

Reading Journal Writing for Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring

Respond to the title of the book. What associations can you make?

Look at E.B. White’s epigraph to Carson’s work. It appears in front of the book. Interpret White’s comments. In your opinion, what message does White wish to convey to readers?

Read Chapter 1 in Carson’s work. What do you think the title, A Fable for Tomorrow means? Is Carson writing about real towns in America? Is Carson writing about one town? Explain. Does Carson present contrasting ideas for her readers? Provide textual evidence to support your ideas.

Be sure to read Chapter 2 and ___ in Silent Spring for your lab work on Friday. We will discuss these chapters fully on Monday, September 18.

Lab Work (Friday, September 15) – See the following instructions:

Preparing for Monday, September 18:

Bring Carson’s book to Lab on Friday. You should have read Chapter 2 and Chapter __ in preparation for your work in the Lab this week. Your lab assignments are 1) create two questions for each of the chapters you read, and 2) select one passage (one paragraph), from each of the two chapters.

On Monday, we will focus on your responses to the chapters you worked on during lab, and one additional chapter. See Monday, September 18. Be sure to write out your questions; provide answers as well.

In your reading journals, you want to explain why you selected specific paragraphs to write about. No doubt, you will have your own reasons for your choices. A few hints -select passages which are interesting, important, or disturbing. The passages you write about should convey some meaning to you. Betty and Yvonne will facilitate.

Monday, September 18 – Chapter 2 and Chapters ____

See reading journal activities above

Tuesday, September 19 – Science Times Section, New York Times

Mini-environmental research topics- to be discussed


Be sure to bring your Reading Journals to class all the time.

On Thursday, September 21, you will write your first essay (draft #1) in class. By that time, you will have both read and discussed several chapters in Carson’s book, and, therefore, should be prepared to write on one of the essay questions.

Reading Journals – Writing copiously is one of the ways you will become better writers. To achieve these results, please respond to each journal writing activity by writing as much as possible that is, no less than 2 pages.