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Assignments, Rubrics, Grading

High-stakes assignments, sample rubrics, and grading policy information

Assignment Sequence Recommendations

English 126 is a composition course that uses literary texts. This course continues and expands the work of ENG 125, moving students forward in the areas of critical thinking, critical reading and critical writing.

In order to facilitate students becoming more proficient in these areas, major writing assignments in the course might call on students to draw connections between texts, to understand how texts are closely related to other texts, both literary and non- literary, and to set the literary texts within larger frames for further investigation and analysis.

English 126 requires three (3) formal essays, including one research paper, that is the result of drafting and revision. These formal papers must be worth at least sixty percent (60%) of the final grade. All formal papers in English 126 should be written under revision conditions: drafts should be submitted for feedback on content and organization by peers and instructor.
*Composition courses must include a minimum of nine (9) print and/or online reading selections encompassing a range of literary genres.

To help you develop your course, we have included sample assignments. The first two sets below were suggested by faculty members as part of the series of English composition workshops conducted in the spring of 2013. The third set of assignments were designed by Professor Doug DiToro for his own ENG 126 course; the fourth was designed for ENG 126 by Professor Jonathan Hall. We recommend these sequences as models for use in ENG 126, particularly the design of both of these research paper assignments.

Literary Analysis/Interpretation

  1. Give a brief interpretation of "Presentiment" and "Apparently with no surprise," by Emily Dickinson, and "The Garden of the Gold Valley" by Tu Mu. Then, examine a connection that exists between the three poems. Finally, identify which literary devices for poetry were used to create each poem, how they were used, and explain why you think each poet chose the genre of poetry for expressing their ideas.
  2. Select a specific theme that is common to two stories we have encountered this semester, and then compare and contrast how the theme is explored in each text. For example, what might Nathaniel Hawthorne and Shirley Jackson be telling us about our cultural reliance on ritual and blind faith? What are Charles Johnson and Ralph Ellison saying about the pernicious influence of racial inequality? What can be made if the inextricable relationship between the past and present in William Faulkner and Michael Bishop, or Annie Proulx and Steven Millhauser?
  3. In an essay of between three and four pages, compare and contrast at least two of the following poems, exploring images and ideas about the relationships between parents and children as you make these connections: "wishes for sons" Lucille Clifton; "Those Winter Sundays" Robert Hayden;"The Possessive" Sharon Olds; "Metaphors" Sylvia Plath.
  4. This semester we have read three works that deal with the profound and lingering effects of racism: Toni Morrison's Beloved, Charles Johnson's "Exchange Value," and Flannery O'Connor's "Everything that Rises Must Converge." Compare and contrast Morrison's novel with at least one of these short stories, concentrating in particular on the role racism plays in the formation of identity -- that is, in these texts, how does racism influence the ways in which characters perceive themselves, and the world around them? What are the authors ultimately telling us about the impact that racism can have on our thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors?

Connecting the Literature to Texts Within Other Disciplines

  1. After giving an interpretation of both "Metaphors" by Sylvia Plath and "The Mother" by Gwendolyn Brooks, draw a relationship between the poems and the short story "Hills Like White Elephants" by Ernest Hemingway, and discuss the conflict between the two main characters in the short story. Last, review the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision and examine the decisions of the speakers in the poems and the characters in the short story as if they had made them after the Supreme Court decision. Provide cited textual references to support your ideas.
  2. Using "The Things They Carried," by Tim O'Brien, and the class handout "Illumination Rounds" (from "Dispatches") by Michael Herr, write a 3-4 page piece that investigates how soldiers in Vietnam dealt with their fears and hopes when they were in battles or at war in general. Discuss what soldiers did and how they behaved under the pressures of fear and panic. What kinds of things did they wish for? Find textual evidence of how they revealed their true feelings, and how they hid them. Use both texts to flesh out your paper and provide an informed discussion.
  3. In a paper of roughly four pages, I would like you to discuss how the critical reading of ONE non-literary work impacts your reading and interpretation of ONE of the following literary works that we have been discussing in class. In other words, your essay should discuss how the non-literary work adds to your understanding of the literary work: James Baldwin "Sonny's Blues"; Alice Walker "Everyday Use"; Charlotte Perkins Gilman "The Yellow Wallpaper."The non-literary text that you choose might be either a popular or scholarly piece. Please be sure to discuss with me the appropriateness of sources you are considering. For this paper, I ask that you do not use literary criticism. In other words, do not research the use of metaphor in "Sonny's Blues," for instance, or the symbolism in "The Yellow Wallpaper." Instead, investigate how other disciplines, psychology or sociology, for instance, address the issue identified in the literary work.
  4. (Research Paper)For this final research project, I am asking that you write a research paper of roughly 6 pages based on your reading of either "A Doll's House" or "Antigone." Your analysis of the work should be based on an academic frame that you determine based on research. For example your frame might be the roles and rights of women in the era of the play.As you draft and revise your research papers, you will be using 4 sources to illuminate a particular aspect of your chosen play. The goal is to investigate some of the context of the work and to integrate non-literary sources along with interpretation to address questions that arise in your reading of the work.

Doug DiToro's English 126 assignments:

Jonathan Hall's English 126 assignments:


Rubric design is left up to the instructor of each section. Provided is a sample that may be used or modified:

Grading Policies:

The college-wide policies on grading can be found at the Grading Policies webpage.

Important considerations:

WU/F: Making distinctions

  1. The WU is a grade given to a student who stops attending before the Final Exam. A student who disappears and does not make contact (or does not respond to contact) and who has not completed the work for the course should be given a WU.
  2. An F should be given to a student who does not complete passing work for the course.
  3. However, a student who completes all of the work for the class satisfactorily, but stops coming or misses many classes should receive the relevant grade (A-D).

A student who attends the Final exam should receive the relevant grade based on the work (A-F), not a WU.

D and F: Making decisions

  1. A grade of D counts negatively in a student's GPA forever.  In contrast, the CUNY F-grade policy allows a student to retake courses with an F grade.  If the retake grade is C or higher, it is the higher grade that is computed in the GPA (up to a total of 16 credits). However, the F will remain on the student's transcript. 
  2. A student who receives an F in a course will have to pay out of pocket to repeat the course.
  3. If a student is close to graduation, a D may be the better choice of grade if it can be justified based on the grades that the students earned on assignments in the course.
  4. York no longer uses the NC grade in any course but SD110; therefore, all Fs recorded by instructors will be factored into a student’s GPA, and will be recorded on the transcript.

Incomplete (INC) Grade

The York College Bulletin states,

“This grade can ONLY be given by an instructor to a student who, because of extenuating circumstances, has not taken the final examination and/or completed the coursework, and has a passing average may, at the discretion of the instructor, receive an INC grade. The student, in consultation with the instructor, has up to 10 weeks in the subsequent semester to complete the work and have the grade resolved even if student not registered in the subsequent semester” (21; emphasis in original).

A student who has completed all of the work for the course to a satisfactory level but misses the final exam should probably be given an INC to allow them to make up the exam.

All other incompletes should be assigned sparingly, and when it is in the student’s best interest, and when you think the student has a reasonable chance of being able to complete the missing work. If you have any questions or doubts about whether to assign an INC grade, please do not hesitate to contact the Department Chair, Deputy Chair, or Writing Program Director for guidance.