First-Year Writing Program

Key Policies

  • 6500 words of writing during the semester. This word count includes drafts.
  • 3 major papers plus a short, in-class writing sample at the beginning of the semester and a reflective/portfolio final paper.
  • The papers must make up at least 80% of the final grade. (The papers can be worth more than 80%)
  • The other 20% or less of the final grade can come from daily grades, homework, journals, etc.

  • All 101,102,103,and 104 sections should adopt a textbook from the FWP approved text list unless prior approval is given by the director of FWP.
  • The approved book list is updated each semester and sent via email shortly after course assignments have been made. Contact the FWP if you need the most recent version of the list.
  • Desk copies should be ordered from the publisher’s reps listed on the book list.
  • Book orders are submitted by following the link and instructions in an email from the SupeStore after course assignments have been made.

Your course syllabus should include all required course policies (see preloaded templates in OSM) and a complete calendar that lists major grade due dates, rough draft dates, homework and reading assignments, and some indication of in-class activities.

  • Each teacher must upload the accurate syllabus (policies and calendar) for each of their sections to the online syllabus management system (OSM) in the OIRA resources in the faculty tab of mybama during the first week of classes each semester. The OSM syllabi are evaluated for program requirements and used in SACS accreditation records. The syllabus uploaded to OSM and the syllabus given to students must be the same. 
  • Teachers must also create a BBL shell for each section and at least use the BBL course to upload the syllabus there as well. See instructions for creating a BBL shell.

The Class Calendar

  • Know the program requirements for all FWP classes
  • Start with the student learning outcomes for your course and think about how to accomplish those outcomes throughout the arc of the semester.
  • See 101 and 102 standard syllabi and the class calendar templates which include class dates, important UA dates, holidays, etc. See also, the UA academic calendar
  • At UA, you might also want to consult the football schedule to be aware of dates for homecoming and major home games (when your students might not be as focused on writing a paper as they might need to be.) This is not to say you should create your syllabus around football, just that you might want to be aware of it.
  • Once you have a list of all the days your class meets and you’ve inserted academic calendar dates, you can then subdivide into units and begin to fill in with daily readings, class assignments, and paper deadlines for each unit for the entire semester.
  • Each unit should focus on process writing with instructor guidance at each step of the process (invention/content development, organization, drafting, revising).
  • The FWP advocates active learning techniques such as peer review workshops, small group tasks, and division of each class session into modules or time blocks that each focus on a different aspect of student writing.
  • Readings and discussions of readings may be part of the FWP classroom, but remember that the focus of every class should be student writing.

Writing Samples are written in class within the first few days of the semester as a way to orient the teacher to students’ writing abilities. Teachers should provide a personal, written response to these writing samples as a way of starting a semester-long conversation about writing between the teacher and student. These papers are informally graded for completion, unlike the major papers of the semester. Teachers award a certain number of daily points for completing the writing sample.

Reflections (or portfolio overview/reflection essays) ask students to reflect on the work they’ve completed over the course of the semester. Students can make assertions about what they’ve learned and support those assertions with evidence from their previous essays. The Norton Field Guide also provides a list of points that students can cover in this type of assignment (see chapter 29). These reflections or portfolios are typically given as the final exam for first-year writing courses, and they are graded like a typical essay.

As a FWP teacher, you must administer two separate sets of online student opinion surveys: one from the College of Arts and Sciences and one from the first-year writing program. Every 100-level class should set aside time during the evaluation period for giving these evaluations in the classroom. Have students bring wi-fi enabled technology (laptop, smartphone, etc.) to class to take the surveys.

  • The FWP student opinion survey is provided as a link on the student’s “End of Semester Survey” page each semester.
  • The A & S survey is accessed through the student tab of mybama. Students also receive email reminders of these surveys in their crimsonmail accounts.

All EN 101, 102, 103, 104, 120, 121 classes should have students complete BOTH the A&S and FWP surveys during the evaluation period.

Please follow these guidelines:

  • Give students plenty of advance notice and reminders about when to bring their wi-fi device.
  • Have a back-up plan in case some students forget their devices. (you might ask if any students are willing to share once they have finished their surveys)
  • On the day of the survey, provide the FWP student page URL and instructions for accessing the A & S survey.
  • Leave the room while students complete the surveys.

How to access the student opinion survey results

Results of A & S evaluations and FWP surveys can be accessed through mybama, faculty tab, OIRA resources box. Click on “Student Opinions of Instruction/Course Evaluations”

If you have problems accessing the program surveys contact the Associate Director Jessica Kidd.

  • You are required to meet your classes during study week.
  • Major-grade assignments (papers or tests) may not be due during Study Week. Homework is fine.
  • Final exams may not be given during study week.
  • In your course policies, do not allow the final paper / final exam to be turned in late. (You can make individual exceptions, if warranted by extenuating circumstances, but don’t allow the whole class the option of turning in these papers late.)
  • Be aware of the tight grading deadlines for the final papers. Plan ahead to get that grading done in a timely fashion.
  • Final grades must be posted by the deadline advertised by the Registrar’s office. The Provost monitors final grade submissions and makes note of anyone who has not posted grades by the deadline.
  • Please keep final exams for one year.
  • Use one of two methods for giving a final exam in FWP classes:
  • OPTION 1: The traditional 2.5 hour exam given during the University-scheduled time for your class. Your exam must be given AS SCHEDULED by the University.
  • OPTION 2: A reflective or other final essay that is assigned before or during study week so that you can walk students through the process of writing as with previous essays. This essay should be due at the same time as your University-scheduled exam would have be given. Students can meet you during the exam time to drop off papers, or you can have students submit electronically (turnitin, BBL, etc.).

  • Report class cancellations on the intradepartmental page of the English department website
  • If you know that you will need to cancel more than one day of FWP classes, notify the Director of First Year Writing in addition to reporting the cancellation on the website.
  • Please report your class cancellation even if you plan to have students complete activities online in place of class.
  • Please also email your students and post in Blackboard. Office staff does not post notices on classroom doors when there is a class cancelation.
  • You are expected to meet all of your classes, but if you must be absent, you are required to notify the English Department as outlined above.


Official Class Rosters can always be found through My Bama: Academics or Faculty tab, Banner Self Services box, Faculty & Advisors link, Summary Class List link; or Faculty tab, Faculty Dashboard box and can be downloaded and/or printed. To help you learn student names, there is also a photo class list (Banner Self Services box, Faculty and Advisors, Photo Class List).

If you choose to replace class meetings with individual conferences, FWP recommends one week per unit. You should meet with students in your office or another on-campus location such as the library. Do not hold conferences off campus, on weekends, or outside business hours.

First-year writing requires that each teacher turn in grade records at the end of each semester. Watch for the end-of-semester email/memo with directions on how to turn in these records. Use these forms.

  • If you choose to keep student digital grade records, please back up ALL of your postings.
  • Final exams should be kept for one year in case there are grade disputes.

  • Teachers are expected to hold at least 3 office hours per week and be reasonably flexible in scheduling individual appointments as needed.
  • Your office hours and a “by appointment” statement should be listed on your course policy and syllabus, which should be uploaded to OIRA resources and BBL.
  • Office hours should be held in your office or in another campus location during regular business hours. You should not set up meetings with students off-campus or after hours