Sample Assignment

Sample Assignment | How Do Writers Communicate Across Borders?

Overview: For this assignment, you will be paired with another first-year writing college student from American University of Beirut (AUB) in Lebanon. With your email partner, you will discuss an article that you will both have read. Then, you will each write a reflection paper.

Instruction: In-class activities will help you to learn the following skills that you will need to successfully engage in this project: email etiquette; negotiating meaning and sharing the communicative burden; and reflecting.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Develop audience awareness
  • Identify and explain effective writing strategies used by other writers
  • Identify and explain your own writing strategies and their effectiveness
  • Gain familiarity with arguably the most common workplace communication tool, email, which will aid you as a writer both within and beyond your academic career
  • Learn skills and attitudes for negotiating meaning and sharing the burden of communication

Part 1. Read the shared article (Due Week 2.2). You will read Petersen & Aakerberg’s article, which you will find on D2L. As you read, take notes, recording key passages and jotting down questions you have. We will discuss the reading in class. The reading is listed at the end of this assignment sheet and the course schedule.

Part 2. Email your partner (Due Week 3.1). In week 3, you will email your partner and discuss the article that you both read. Your first email should introduce yourself and try to establish rapport with your partner. Follow-up emails should take place between weeks 3-4 and focus on discussing the readings. Your email exchange must, at a minimum:

  • Include 5 emails total (at least)
  • Be approximately 250 words (the entire email exchange). You do not need to count the number of words. 250 words single spaced is about ½ page of text.
  • Follow the conventions of email writing
  • Focus on the assigned reading
  • Use appropriate tone and negotiation strategies to share the communicative burden

Part 3. Write a reflection essay (Draft Due Wk. 4.2, Final Due Wk. 5.2). 

You will write a reflection essay in response to this prompt: What writing strategies did you and your partner use in your emails and why? To answer this question, you should describe how you wanted to portray yourself to your partner and how you shaped your partner’s impression of you (specific words, phrases, etc.)? To what extent were your strategies effective? To what extent were your partner’s strategies effective?

In addition to responding to the prompt above, please choose one question from the list below to reflect on in your essay.

  1. What was it like to discuss the reading with someone from a different writing or cultural background? For example, what insights did you have about the reading that you may not have had without reading your partner’s perspective? What did you learn from your partner?
  2. What did you learn about email communication? What writing strategies make email effective? To what extent does email limit your writing choices?
  3. Consider a moment when you weren’t quite sure what your partner meant. Or, consider a time when your partner may have been unsure of your meaning (maybe they interpreted something you said differently than you intended, or maybe they asked for clarification).  How did you and your partner reach agreement about meaning? For example, how did you seek clarity on unfamiliar words, approaches, ideas, idioms, grammars, and perspectives? Include specific examples of words, approaches, ideas, idioms, etc. describe how you reached an understanding.

Your reflection essay that must, at a minimum:

  •   Be about 2-3 pages long double spaced and use Times New Roman 12-point font (double spaced).
  •   Identify the language and rhetorical choices and writing strategies you and your partner used and evaluate their effectiveness. Include examples to support your discussion.
  •   Engage with one of the other prompt questions. Your organization should be purposeful; do not respond to the prompt and then respond to the question, or simply hand in a list of answers to the questions.
  •   Be formatted as an essay (with paragraphs, topic sentences, evidence, and transitions), be clear and thoughtfully written, and be carefully revised.
  •   Include screenshots of your email exchange at the end of the essay (not included toward page count).

Format/Submission (Due Wk. 5): Please carefully follow the instructions below. Assignments that do not follow the instructions are a violation of the grading contract.

1)  To submit your reflection paper, you should submit a single document on D2L on Thursday, September 26 by 11:00am (Microsoft Word or Google Docs). Your reflection essay should appear first. Then, after your essay, you should include screenshots of your email correspondence. While I would like to see a screenshot of all your email correspondence at the end of the paper, you may also embed some screenshots throughout your reflection paper when you need to show an example of your email practices.

2)  Name your file using your last name, the assignment name, and the class title (ex: Smith Email Assignment English 100).

Rubric: As I read your assignment, I will consider the following: Are the audience and purpose clear? Does the essay grapple with the questions in the prompt? Is the quality of the writing well suited to the purpose? We talk in class about the assignment learning outcomes and co-construct a detailed rubric.

Resources and Readings: 

  • Petersen, C.S. & Aakerberg, M.C. (2018). Language and communication in the 21st century. In Pages Apart: A Reader for Academic Writing. Ward, et al. (Eds.). Beirut, Lebanon: Center for Educational Consultation and Research, pp. 103-110. (D2L)
  • Email Etiquette Handout (D2L)
  • Email Etiquette Video (D2L)
  • E-mails by Domics – a short video about tone in email

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