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Support for FYWR Courses

Support for First-Year Writing Requirement (FYWR) Courses

The purpose of the FYWR is to help students develop their ability to produce effective academic compositions, as preparation for their coursework at the University of Michigan as well as for their post-baccalaureate careers. FYWR courses emphasize academic composition in a variety of disciplines, genres, rhetorical situations, and modalities. Courses that fulfill this requirement emphasize self-assessment and substantive revision, critical reading and analysis, rhetorical awareness, genre awareness, ethical engagement with texts, and ownership of individuals’ language resources. It is vitally important that instructors employ high-impact teaching practices such as regular metacognitive exercises, interactive writing processes, and collaborative learning activities.

The Sweetland Center for Writing approves the departmental curricular offerings that satisfy the FYWR in all schools and colleges with the exception of Engineering. Each approved course must be reviewed and reapproved every five years; Sweetland notifies relevant departments about the timing of their reviews. Enrollment in most FYWR courses is capped at 18. Departments interested in developing a new FYWR course should contact Sweetland’s Director.

A passing grade (C- and above) in a FYWR course is required for all students in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts; School of Art and Design; School of Business; Division of Kinesiology; School of Music, Theatre, and Dance; and the School of Nursing. A FYWR course is also required for all students transferring into the College of Architecture and Urban Planning and the College of Pharmacy. (The College of Engineering offers its own writing program and requirements.)

Annotated FYWR Learning Goals and Teaching Resources

In a FYWR course, students will

  • Develop self-awareness about the choices they make as writers, reflect on how their readers respond to their choices, and plan specific improvements
    • This goal relates to self-assessment and metacognition: Students should reflect on their writing regularly throughout the term, commenting on both their process and how they revise in response to peers’ and instructor’s feedback on drafts. They should exercise agency in setting goals for specific improvements.

  • Improve their ability to analyze critically a wide range of texts in more than one genre and medium, such as traditional print essays, images, videos, and performances, paying close attention to the complex features of various genres and media
    • Critical reading and analysis are foundational FYWR goals. Students should read up to 50 pages a week, with the number of assigned pages calibrated to students’ ability to read carefully and thoughtfully, annotate texts, and take notes. The primary purpose of assigned readings is to teach students to analyze diverse rhetorical situations (audience, purpose, modality), identify standards of evidence, develop awareness of defining features of diverse genres and their social contexts, summarize arguments, and engage the ideas within the texts. Some assigned readings should provide students with models of the type of compositions required for the course.

  • Express their purposes for composing (e.g., to persuade, analyze, describe, review existing scholarship, describe an event or experiment), understand what they can do to advance those purposes, choose language that precisely conveys their meaning, and select genres and modalities that best express their intentions in particular social contexts
    • Rhetorical and genre awareness enables students to transfer what they learn in FYWR courses to new contexts. This awareness begins with students analyzing texts critically, focusing on authorial purpose, important generic features, specialized language, and the affordances of different media. Writing assignments should parallel reading instruction, being explicit about the purpose(s) students are meant to develop, the social context and audience for their compositions, the key genre features they should follow (or disrupt), and the modalities available to them for each task. The genres assigned for writing projects should be varied so that students have the opportunity to practice adapting to diverse genre expectations.

  • Develop some compositions through multiple stages: planning, drafting, giving and responding to feedback on drafts, revising, and translating into a different medium
    • Students learn that university-level composition involves substantial revision. To this end, they should work each major project (between 3 and 5) through several stages, including peer and/or instructor feedback at different points in the process.

  • Learn to use their own languages—multilingualism, varieties of English, and dialects—as valuable resources in their compositions
    • The English language is constantly evolving; local dialects can vary considerably from one another; and students learn versions of English in diverse regional and global contexts. Some versions of English are considered more prestigious than others. FYWR instructors should encourage students to use their own languages and dialects as expressive resources, and to reflect on how their languages relate to structures of power and privilege.

  • Ethically engage the ideas and words of others
    • Students should learn to use a style sheet and to cite primary and secondary sources correctly. As significantly, they should understand the differences between ethical and unethical uses of sources.

Additional Guidelines

In addition to teaching to the learning goals (above), FYWR instructors are expected to adhere to the following guidelines.

  • Students should compose and substantially revise 3-5 major essays and/or media projects, each between about 250 and 2500 words long. The lengths of assigned writing tasks should vary so that students are challenged to develop flexible strategies for developing their ideas. The total page count necessarily varies by discipline but falls between 15 and 20 pages or the equivalent for media projects.
  • Students should work regularly on informal, low-stakes composition exercises in addition to major assignments.

  • Composition assignments should be sequenced and scaffolded in ways that are explicit and clear to students. Informal, low-stakes writing and metacognitive tasks should be integrated into assignment sequences as scaffolding.

  • Assessment standards for each major assignment should be clear and explicit, and should be provided with the assignments.

  • Instructors should plan for and make transparent how students will get feedback on their compositions, including peer reviews in the process. In general, instructors should not line-edit students’ work, but should provide substantive feedback on higher-order concerns (structure, organization, clarity of purpose, conceptualization, use of evidence, thesis development).

  • Syllabus statements about resources available for students in FYWR (and other) courses should emphasize the positive benefits of working one-on-one with a Sweetland faculty member in Writing Workshop or with a tutor in the Peer Writing Centers. Sweetland has found that students do best when they’re referred to these services with the message that everyone (not just “weak” writers) can benefit from learning how readers respond to their work.

Please contact Sweetland’s Director, Theresa Tinkle (tinkle@umich.edu), if you would like additional support with your FYWR course or curriculum development, or if you think that a student in your course could benefit from more support than you are able to provide.