I was the Instructor of Record for ENGL 1050 in Fall 2014 and Fall 2015. The course is a freshman composition course required for all Western Michigan University students, unless they test out of it. I focus my course around students' choice of major and future career prospects.
Undergraduate Course Catalog: ENGL 1050 is a 4-credit, freshman level course in which students develop their understanding of the ways that writing is situated in both local situations and the mediation of historically-provided tools and practices. Students produce a range of academic and non-academic texts, applying knowledge of composing processes, rhetorical strategies, genre requirements, and textual conventions such as grammatical structure, style, and visual/structural design. Students also learn to analyze and map the different components of literate activity (production, representation, distribution, reception, and socialization) and to produce texts that take into account the complex interactions of these components in specific writing/composing tasks.
In my version of the course, we read and respond to textual passages and other media, engage in reading- and writing-based discussions, and examine and develop several writing techniques and the benefits of using these techniques in creative projects and in analyses of texts. This class and the assignments are designed to be focused around students and their career interests and goals.
Sample Lesson: Register, Code Switching, and Personal Narrative
Briefly talk about how writing changes depending on its audience.
Students should do a quick freewrite: "Imagine you’ve been accused of stealing something, but you’re innocent. Write what you would say in response to three people accusing you of stealing: a younger sibling or cousin, a parent, or a police officer."
Have students separate into small groups (2-3 people) and discuss their freewrites with one another. How did the paragraphs differ? Were there similarities between the paragraphs? Etc.
As a class, define and discuss “register": in linguistics, one of many styles or varieties of language determined by such factors as social occasion, purpose, and audience. Also called stylistic variation. Give examples; discuss the difference between formal, academic register and informal register. More generally, register is used to indicate degrees of formality in language use. The different registers or language styles that we use are sometimes called codes. The practice of moving back and forth between two languages or between two dialects or registers of the same language. Also called code-mixing.
Discuss various registers, writing notes on the board:
Intimate register is the highly informal language used among family members and close friends, and may include private vocabulary known only to two people or a small group, as well as nonverbal cues exclusive to the pair or group.
Casual register is the informal language of a broader but still well-defined social group, and includes slang, elliptical and elided sentences, and frequent interruption.
Consultative register is moderately formal language that marks a mentor-protege or expert-novice relationship, such as that between a doctor and a patient or a teacher and a student.
Formal register is language spoken between strangers or in a technical context.
Frozen register is ritualistic or traditional, as in religious ceremonies or legal proceedings.
Talk about how we all have different registers for different situations. Students all already know how to code-switch, even if they didn’t know they were doing that. Those who speak several languages or dialects are even more skilled at this: they switch languages, slang, and dialects all the time.
Ask students: In your Personal Narrative, what kind of language and register do you think would be best?