English 1301 qian chen’s notebook

Writer’s Notebook 1.1

The writer’s notebook is a place for reflection and for practicing writing skills. Each unit in this course will include two writer’s notebook assignments. 

Your first writer’s notebook assignment asks you to assess the challenges you might face this semester. Online courses can be difficult, especially for students who underestimate the time needed to complete the course and who lack computer skills, reading skills, or writing skills. For this writer’s notebook, follow these steps:

1. After reading the time management resources in the lesson above, go to  https://cs.txwes.edu/tools/ and take an assessment that analyzes your readiness to take an online course. Keep in mind that this test is not necessarily an accurate indication of how YOU will do in this course; it’s merely a tool to see where your challenges might be.

2. Next, assess your scores. What did you score well on? What did you score poorly on? Do you think your overall score accurately reflects your ability to succeed in this online course?

3. Now, consider a few other factors that might contribute to your success this semester. What did you learn from the time management lesson or from the assessment you took that might help you prepare for this semester? How will you overcome any challenges you face this semester?

Writer’s Notebook 1.2

For this Writer’s Notebook, respond to the following prompt in a short essay of at least 300 words.  


Consider possible connections between your experiences as a writer and your MBTI type (refer to the previous lesson in Unit 1 about MBTI types). What stages in the writing process come easiest for you? What stages of the writing process are most challenging to you? How might you use information regarding your MBTI type to work on the stages of writing that challenge you the most? 

Writer’s Notebook 2.1

This Writer’s Notebook entry consists of two parts:

Part 1: Imagine that, due to an emergency, you were unable to attend class or complete an assignment. Write a text message or email to a friend telling him or her about the incident. Relate the incident in casual register language, using simple words, slang, jargon or dialect—the “insider language” that you speak among friends and the type of language McWhorter discusses in the video above. If you speak English as a second language, you may mix your two languages—even to the extent of using a few made-up or combination words. Let your sentences be incomplete, your grammar incorrect, your word choice colorful, even mildly offensive—just make us believe you might really write this way to your friend. In other words, keep it real.

Part 2:Using the same story you related above, now rewrite the incident as an email to your instructor in Formal Register English. Your goal is to maintain credibility with your instructor while asking for him or her to accept your excuse. You must carefully decide what details of the story you include and what details you leave out. Remember, communicating with your instructor should be done in formal register, and you should use the conventions of professional communication.  You will also need to include your name, course and section number, just as if you were sending a “real” message to me.  

Complete both parts of this assignment in the same document.


Writer’s Notebook 2.2

After reading Malcolm X’s text above, think about the audience and purpose he has for writing. To whom does he seem to be speaking? For what purpose does he relate his story about learning to read? After you’ve thought about it, write a response that shows what you think his audience and purpose are and why you think the way you do. Be sure to provide support for your thinking by using examples from the text.

“Learning to Read”

“Learning to Read” excerpt from The Autobiography of Malcolm X


Born Malcolm Little on May 19, 1925, Malcolm X was one of the most articulate and powerful leaders of black America during the 1960s. A street hustler convicted of robbery in 1946, he spent seven years in prison, where he educated himself and became a disciple of Elijah Muhammad, founder of the Nation of Islam. In the days of the civil rights movement, Malcolm X emerged as the leading spokesman for black separatism, a philosophy that urged black Americans to cut political, social, and economic ties with the white community. After a pilgrimage to Mecca, the capital of the Muslim world, in 1964, he became an orthodox Muslim, adopted the Muslim name El Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, and distanced himself from the teachings of the black Muslims. He was assassinated in1965. In the following excerpt from his autobiography (1965), coauthored with Alex Haley and published the year of his death, Malcolm X describes his self-education.

            It was because of my letters that I happened to stumble upon starting to acquire some kind of a homemade education.

            I became increasingly frustrated at not being able to express what I wanted to convey in letters that I wrote, especially those to Mr. Elijah Muhammad. In the street, I had been the most articulate hustler out there. I had commanded attention when I said something. But now, trying to write simple English, I not only wasn’t articulate, I wasn’t even functional. How would I sound writing in slang, the way 1 would say it, something such as, “Look, daddy, let me pull your coat about a cat, Elijah Muhammad—”

            Many who today hear me somewhere in person, or on television, or those who read something I’ve said, will think I went to school far beyond the eighth grade. This impression is due entirely to my prison studies.

            It had really begun back in the Charlestown Prison, when Bimbi first made me feel envy of his stock of knowledge. Bimbi had always taken charge of any conversations he was in, and I had tried to emulate him. But every book I picked up had few sentences which didn’t contain anywhere from one to nearly all of the words that might as well have been in Chinese. When I just skipped those words, of course, I really ended up with little idea of what the book said. So I had come to the Norfolk Prison Colony still going through only book-reading motions. Pretty soon, I would have quit even these motions, unless I had received the motivation that I did.

            I saw that the best thing I could do was get hold of a dictionary—to study, to learn some words. I was lucky enough to reason also that I should try to improve my penmanship. It was sad. I couldn’t even write in a straight line. It was both ideas together that moved me to request a dictionary along with some tablets and pencils from the Norfolk Prison Colony school.

            I spent two days just riffling uncertainly through the dictionary’s pages. I’d never realized so many words existed! I didn’t know which words I needed to learn. Finally, just to start some kind of action, I began copying.

            In my slow, painstaking, ragged handwriting, I copied into my tablet everything printed on that first page, down to the punctuation marks.

            I believe it took me a day. Then, aloud, I read back, to myself, everything I’d written on the tablet. Over and over, aloud, to myself, I read my own handwriting.

            I woke up the next morning, thinking about those words—immensely proud to realize that not only had I written so much at one time, but I’d written words that I never knew were in the world. Moreover, with a little effort, I also could remember what many of these words meant. I reviewed the words whose meanings I didn’t remember. Funny thing, from the dictionary first page right now, that “aardvark” springs to my mind. The dictionary had a picture of it, a long-tailed, long-eared, burrowing African mammal, which lives off termites caught by sticking out its tongue as an anteater does for ants.

            I was so fascinated that I went on—I copied the dictionary’s next page. And the same experience came when I studied that. With every succeeding page, I also learned of people and places and events from history. Actually the dictionary is like a miniature encyclopedia. Finally the dictionary’s A section had filled a whole tablet—and I went on into the B’s. That was the way I started copying what eventually became the entire dictionary. It went a lot faster after so much practice helped me to pick up handwriting speed. Between what I wrote in my tablet, and writing letters, during the rest of my time in prison I would guess I wrote a million words.

            I suppose it was inevitable that as my word-base broadened, I could for the first time pick up a book and read and now begin to understand what the book was saying. Anyone who has read a great deal can imagine the new world that opened. Let me tell you something: from then until I left that prison, in every free moment I had, if I was not reading in the library, I was reading on my bunk. You couldn’t have gotten me out of books with a wedge. Between Mr. Muhammad’s teachings, my correspondence, my visitors—usually Ella and Reginald—and my reading of books, months passed without my even thinking about being imprisoned. In fact, up to then, I never had been so truly free in my life.

            The Norfolk Prison Colony’s library was in the school building. A variety of classes was taught there by instructors who came from such places as Harvard and Boston universities. The weekly debates between inmate teams were also held in the school building. You would be astonished to know how worked up convict debaters and audiences would get over subjects like “Should Babies Be Fed Milk?”

            Available on the prison library’s shelves were books on just about every general subject. Much of the big private collection that Parkhurst had willed to the prison was still in crates and boxes in the back of the library—thousands of old books. Some of them looked ancient: covers faded; old-time parchment-looking binding. Parkhurst, I’ve mentioned, seemed to have been principally interested in history and religion. He had the money and the special interest to have a lot of books that you wouldn’t have in general circulation. Any college library would have been lucky to get that collection.

            As you can imagine, especially in a prison where there was heavy emphasis on rehabilitation, an inmate was smiled upon if he demonstrated an unusually intense interest in books. There was a sizable number of well-read inmates, especially the popular debaters, Some were said by many to be practically walking encyclopedias.         

            They were almost celebrities. No university would ask any student to devour literature as I did when this new world opened to me, of being able to read and understand.

            I read more in my room than in the library itself. An inmate who was known to read a lot could check out more than the permitted maximum number of books. I preferred reading in the total isolation of my own room.

            When I had progressed to really serious reading, every night at about ten P.M. I would be outraged with the “lights out.” It always seemed to catch me right in the middle of something engrossing.

            Fortunately, right outside my door was a corridor light that cast a glow into my room. The glow was enough to read by, once my eyes adjusted to it. So when “lights out” came, I would sit on the floor where I could continue reading in that glow.

            At one-hour intervals the night guards paced past every room. Each time I heard the approaching footsteps, I jumped into bed and feigned sleep. And as soon as the guard passed, I got back out of bed onto the floor area of that light-glow, where I would read for another fifty-eight minutes—until the guard approached again. That went on until three or four every morning. Three or four hours of sleep a night was enough for me. Often in the years in the streets I had slept less than that.

            The teachings of Mr. Muhammad stressed how history had been “whitened”—when white men had written history books, the black man simply had been left out…I never will forget how shocked I was when I began reading about slavery’s total horror. It made such an impact upon me that it later became one of my favorite subjects when I became a minister of Mr. Muhammad’s. The world’s most monstrous crime, the sin and the blood on the white man’s hands, are almost impossible to believe…I read descriptions of atrocities, saw those illustrations of black slave women tied up and flogged with whips; of black mothers watching their babies being dragged off, never to be seen by their mothers again; of dogs after slaves, and of the fugitive slave catchers, evil white men with whips and clubs and chains and guns…

            Book after book showed me how the white man had brought upon the world’s black, brown, red, and yellow peoples every variety of the sufferings of exploitation. I saw how since the sixteenth century, the so-called “Christian trader” white man began to ply the seas in his lust for Asian and African empires, and plunder, and power. I read, I saw, how the white man never has gone among the non-white peoples bearing the Cross in the true manner and spirit of Christ’s teachings—meek, humble, and Christlike…

            I have often reflected upon the new vistas that reading opened to me. I knew right there in prison that reading had changed forever the course of my life. As I see it today, the ability to read awoke inside me some long dormant craving to be mentally alive. I certainly wasn’t seeking any degree, the way a college confers a status symbol upon its students. My homemade education gave me, with every additional book that I read, a little bit more sensitivity to the deafness, dumbness, and blindness that was afflicting the black race in America. Not long ago, an English writer telephoned me from London, asking questions. One was, “What’s your alma mater?” I told him, “Books.” You will never catch me with a free fifteen minutes in which I’m not studying something I feel might be able to help the black man.

Writer’s Notebook 3.1

Attached Files:

Active Reading Writers Notebook 3.1.docx – Alternative Formats (46.804 KB)

Now that you know a little about active reading, it’s time for some practice. Open the attached file and read the instructions at the top of the page. In short, you will be asked to annotate a text and upload the annotated text to the writer’s notebook.

Active Reading

Active reading is a process or technique of actively engaging with the text we are reading. Often, we read passively—that is, we take in the information we read without questioning its validity and without making personal connections with the text. When we passively read, we do not gain as much from our reading as when we actively read.

Why Actively Read?

In “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” Nicholas Carr claims deep reading is tied to deep thinking. If this claim is true, then moving beyond surface level readings in a way that truly engages with the text can help us develop our abilities to think more clearly and more intelligently about a topic and about the world in which we live. Additionally, active reading, as opposed to the passive reading we do when skimming items or reading for pleasure, can help us

Save time because we pay more attention to what we read the first time and do not waste time rereading.

Prepare us for exams because we gain a more in-depth knowledge of the material.

Stay informed about a subject that interests us.

Develop exposure to new ideas or have familiar concepts reinforced.

Create a deeper understanding of life’s complexities.

Achieve intellectual growth.

Goals of Active Reading

When we read actively, we try to understand the text thoroughly by reading slowly and carefully, pausing to question a main idea or to reexamine a passage that confuses us, and interpreting the larger meanings and implications of the text we’re reading. We try to keep our minds actively thinking about what the text means. In general, active reading allows us to

Capture main ideas, key concepts, and details of reading.

Target, reduce, and distill the needed information from the text.

Engage with the text by making connections with our own knowledge and lives.

Ask questions that help us think deeper about the content.

Strategies for Active Reading

Many techniques can help us read more actively. Here are a few of the main ones:

Start by previewing the text.

Scan the title, subtitle, footnotes, pictures, and headings in the text. What do these tell you about the topic being discussed in the reading?

Think about what you know about the topic. You already know a great deal about many topics. What preconceived notions might you bring to the reading?

Look for information about the author. What does the author’s other works tell you about his or her stance?

Think about the rhetorical situation. What is the author’s purpose? Who is the author’s intended audience?


Read the text carefully and write ideas about the text in the margins, on your own paper, or on sticky notes placed in the text.

Circle and look up the definitions to words you do not know or cultural references that you are not familiar with.

Underline the thesis or main idea.

Ask questions about the text. Questions may consider topics such as the author’s purpose or goal in writing, his or her use of evidence to support claims, or his or her use of language. Pause to think of questions you have about the topic at various points in the reading.

Make connections between your own life experiences or knowledge and the text. Does the argument agree with your prior experiences? Have you read other texts with similar arguments? Do you think most people would agree with the evidence presented in the text? Has your own life confirmed or denied any of the arguments in the text?

Find patterns within the text. Does the writer use repetition to get a point across?

Identify assumptions the author makes in presenting the argument. Are the assumptions valid? Do the author’s assumptions challenge your own? In what ways?

Interpret key passages to find the underlying meaning. Are there parts of the texts that can be interpreted in multiple ways? How do you interpret key passages? What does the text really mean?


Reread the text.

Review passages that are difficult. Now that you’ve read the text, can you more easily identify the meaning of difficult passages? What can you look up that might help you dissect the text’s meaning?

Find shifts in points of view or in voice and identify any language that might cue you into the underlying meanings in the text.

Paraphrase difficult passages by restating the passage in your own words.

Create a summary of the text’s main argument in your own words.

Try to describe the text to someone who has not read it.

Writer’s Notebook 3.2

For this Writer’s Notebook, follow these instructions to write a summary of an article:

Look ahead to the instructions for the major essay that concludes this unit, the “Summary / Response” essay.  For that essay, you will be asked to choose an article from the “readings” folder in this unit.  Preview each of those articles and choose one that you want to write about for the summary / response essay. Then, read the article carefully, focusing on the skills you learned from the lessons in this unit. Once you have a good idea of what the article says, practice summarizing the article in this Writer’s Notebook entry. 

As you summarize, keep a few things in mind. First, make sure that you clearly identify the title and author of the source article.  Second, make sure you are accurately conveying the main ideas from the source article.  Don’t put words in the author’s mouth or misrepresent the ideas from the article.  Finally,  as you are summarizing, practice integrating quotations as well.  Look for sentences or phrases that are particularly striking to quote directly in your summary.


Writer’s Notebook 4.1 

For this Writer’s Notebook, you should watch the video “In Reverse” and respond to the following prompt with a minimum of 300 words: What effect do the creators of this video wish to have on the viewer? In other words, what is the video’s purpose? Who do you think is the intended audience? Why? How do the creators of this video use the elements of visual rhetoric discussed in this unit to convey their message? You may also consider how elements not discussed in this unit, such as sound or special effects, engage and persuade the viewer.

 Note: This video contains imagery that some viewers may find unsettling. (direct link to the video: https://vimeo.com/106588553)


Writer’s Notebook 4.2

Attached Files:

Writer’s Notebook 4.2 Outline Template.docx – Alternative Formats (13.434 KB)

For this Writer’s Notebook, you should construct an outline for your next assignment by following these instructions:

Take a moment to look ahead to your next assignment.  You are asked to write an extended visual analysis.  Take a little while to browse the images available to you and choose one that will be the subject of your essay.After you’ve chosen an image, take some time to brainstorm and generate ideas about your topic. You may choose any of the invention strategies discussed in Unit 1 and the strategies discussed in the visual rhetoric lessons in this unit.

Once you have generated some ideas, begin thinking about ways to tie them together.  Try devising a thesis statement that makes a claim about the image you have chosen.  Next, think about how to organize your ideas into a coherent essay.  Use the outline template provided here to help guide you in constructing an outline for your essay.

When you are finished, you should have a working thesis statement and a detailed outline for your major essay.

Writer’s Notebook 5.1

For this Writer’s Notebook assignment, you will be practicing paraphrasing, summarizing, and quoting. First, you should choose an article that you will be using as a source for your Argument essay. Then, you should find three different pieces of evidence that you might use in your essay as support material. Complete the Writer’s Notebook in 4 steps as explained below:

1. Create a “quotation sandwich” out of one of the pieces of evidence. 

2. Paraphrase a different piece of evidence. Include both the original and your paraphrase for comparison.

3. Summarize another piece of evidence. Again, include the original and your summary.

4. Include an in-text citation for each! At the end, be sure to include a Works Cited entry for each source.

Writer’s Notebook 5.2

For your final Writer’s notebook in this course, you will create an outline for the argument essay. Use one of the outline templates provided in the previous lesson “Basic Argument Essay Structure.”  You can then use the outline to help you focus and organize the first draft of your argument.

Reasons Followed By Counterarguments

I. Introduction

         Necessary Background


II. First Reason

         Topic Sentence

         Evidence & Explanation

         Wrap-up / connect to the thesis

III. Second Reason (same as above)

IV. Continue with more reasons

V.  Refute Counterarguments (Counterargument

paragraphs can go anywhere, but they often go

toward the end)

VI. Conclusion

          Might include a call to action

          Or a statement of the implications


I. Introduction

          Necessary Background


II. First Reason

          Topic Sentence



III. Refute counterarguments (if necessary)

IV. Second reason (same as II.)

V.  Refute counterarguments (if necessary)

VI. Continue with this pattern

VII. Conclusion

          Might include a call to action

          Or a statement of implications

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