Monday, January 30, 2012


YUMMY Cyber-Response

Post your character profile here. When reading the book, what comes to mind when one considers the impact environment has on character, ethics and behavior?

Did Robert Sandifer have a chance at a normal life? What about the narrator, what is keeping him from ending up just like his neighbor?

How does the form of G. Neri's book, a graphic novel work in the interests of the story? How does the form of the novel help with the storytelling?

Talk about the illustrations. What other stories is Randy DuBurke telling that overlaps and expands the narrative? How do you think the illustrator and the author worked together?

Using the library database, find information that answers this question of collaborative storytelling between the two, Neri and DuBurke. Have the author and illustrator worked on projects together in the past? Is Yummy a different direction for them? Were there any specific challenges inherent in the graphic novel format or in this story specifically?

Neri speaks about his audience on his website? Who is he writing to? Talk about the use of current events as an inspiration for Neri. Clue, look at his first book.

You might not be able to answer all these questions, and I am not asking you to answer them now before our next meeting, just keep them in mind. I will have more (smile).

Here is a link to the Time Magazine article on Sandifer:

This is another article, from People Magazine of Robert's funeral:,,20103912,00.html


What Kind of Thinker Are You Cyber-Assignment

Post your paragraph from D. Kruger's "State of Mind" here with the orginal post. Students were to create a literal paraphrase of a passage from the article I gave you last week.


Cyber-Assignment 1 from SPHE

Today in class we read the first 31 pages of the book Yummy: the Last Days of a Southside Shorty. Students traded off as different voices for a theatrical reading. In groups, students developed character profiles.

Post those profiles here. Don't forget to use a heading which includes all the student names from the group. The assignment date is today.

We also reviewed the Paraphrasing & Plaigarizing exercises. Students are to continue completing the exercises and post the response to the Literal Paraphrase on page 344 where students are instructed to "Write a sentence containing three examples of slang and then translate it into a literal paraphrase using formal language."

Post the two sentences on here. Another link will be for the homework connected to the article on Hamster thinking.

We summarized the chapter in Cisneros called "My Name." There were quite a few new students. Read the blog beginning with my letter to students dated, January 22, 2012, and then read forward. Respond to the syllabus on the blog and send me an email introduction of yourself.

I am not giving permission numbers to students who do not have books. Most of the students today are in that category, but they are registered. I don't need more students who are unprepared.

Keep going in Pidd. Complete the exercises in the beginning in the section: Confused Words then keep going to Sentence Punctuation. We will review this on Wednesday. My Pidd Bootcamp started today and continues for six weeks MW, 10:30-11:30 AM at my office D-219.


"My Name," which is the fourth chapter in S. Cisneros's book, House on Mango Street introduces the character Ezperanza. This character was named after her great-grandmother. In English her name means "hope." She doesn't like her name because people cannot pronounce it. Ezperanza says she'd "like to baptize [herself] under a new name, a name more like the real [her], the one nobody see . . ." (11).

I hadn't realized that there is a 25th anniversary edition of Hse. out. In the book there is an interview or new forward by Cisneros. If you have this edition, please make me a copy of the introduction. I do not have this book. Mine is an earlier edition.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

We started SPHE this afternoon. We previewed the textbook, read the essay on MLA, looked over the works cited section and landed in Paraphrasing and Plagarism. I had some copies of this section and gave them to students who do not have the book yet.

All but two students have not had the Pidd Experience, so we will run the book over the next six weeks. Homeowork this weekend is to complete the package, pages 330-347 or in the second edition, pages 339-to the end of the book. Work until you get stuck or tired, about ten pages is fine.

Also for homework, students are to do a literal paraphrase of a paragraph from the essay on Hamster Thinking (smile). Bring in the paraphrase to class to share (typed is best). Type the original and the paraphrase.

Third and last, read or watch and take notes of the President's State of the Union Address. Here is a link: and

You can check them against each other. They are both supposed to be full text. The first post is also the footage. Oh I forgot to go to the White House website where I am sure the speech is documented.

Lastly, bring in SPHE, your dictionary, and House on Mango Street and Yummy next week. We will start with Yummy.

Students worked in groups and individually on the exercises. We took to quizzes on Confused Words and Sentence Punctuation, the first two chapters in SPHE. We will go over those chapters next. If you have any spare time, you can keep doing the exercises. We are going to complete them all9smi (smile). If you want to get ahead, I am hosting a Pidd Experience Boot camp being this coming Monday 10:30-11:30 AM at my office D-219. You are welcome to join us.

Monday, January 23, 2012


Day 1

Today in class we reviewed the syllabus, most of it. Students have an assignment connected to the syllabus. Post at the link there. Don't forget to include a heading with each post, so I know who you are and what class you are in, English 201A or English 201B.

We spent a bit of time talking about the article, "State of Mind," by Douglas Kruger in the January 2012 Skyways magazine. We looked to see if there was a stated thesis and found one at the end of the article. We also looked at vocabulary and references used to support Kruger's claim that successful people did not think like hamsters, that is, get caught in tread-wheels to nowhere based on fear or false assumptions or self-sabotage.

We paraphrased the thesis, that is, restated it in our own language. If anyone jotted it down, post it in the comment section for your classmates.

On Wednesday we will think a bit more about the kind of thinkers we are and respond in a freewrite to the question Kruger poses: "Are you a hamster thinker or do you think side the [cage]" --my insert (smile) (62).

We will also talk a bit more about thesis sentences which students defined as the "main point or central idea of the discourse or writing" (Hacker too 476).

An argument we stated is a claim one has to prove with evidence. What is Kruger's claim? What is his proof?

What do you think about his argument? Why do you think he decided to use the hamster analogy? Why does it work? Don't forget to look up any words you couldn't pronounce or can't define before class on Wednesday.

Bring House on Mango Street to class on Wednesday, along with Stewart Pidd Hates English. If you bought They Say, I Say, bring that as well. Oh, don't forget the dictionary.

For extra credit, watch the President's State of the Union Address Tuesday evening. Think about what he is saying. What is his argument? What are his key points? How does the audience feel about his address? What about their body language clues you in as to their feelings? What themes or topics addressed here reflect similar ideas expressed over the president's four year tenure? What is different or unique about this address? What is the tone of the evening? Was there anything unexpected about the speech? If so, what? Were there any topics unaddressed? If so, what and why do you think these topics were avoided?

Watch the commentary after the speech for analysis. I like the noncommercial stations like Channel 9 and radio stations, KPFA (94.1). Tomorrow there is a meeting in Oakland to discuss the recall of Mayor Jean Quan in Nil Hall in Preservation Park. I am going to go to the meeting. I don't know if it conflicts with the State of the Union, good think it is taped (smile).

I will make paper copies of the syllabus for students who want copies. It was great meeting all of you. I am looking forward to a great class this semester.

I emailed the syllabus to students who asked. I also gave out three permission numbers to three English 201A students.

Sunday, January 22, 2012


Course Syllabus for Spring 2012

English 201, Spring 2012 at COA
Professor Wanda Sabir

ENG 201 A
21768 Lec 01:00-02:50 PM MW Sabir A-202

ENG 201 B
21774 Lec 01:00-02:50 PM MW Sabir A-202

Class Meetings: Jan. 23—May 17, 1-2:50

Drop dates: February 4, Full-Term Credit Classes and Receive a Refund. Note: Short-term and open-entry classes must be dropped within three days of the first class meeting to receive a refund. Feb. 5 last day to add. Feb. 11 last day to file for Pass/No pass. Feb. 16 last day to drop w/out a W. Drop February 24, Full-Term Credit Classes Without “W” Appearing on Transcript; April 25 (w/W) and no refund.

Holidays: Feb. 6, 17-20; May 18, May 30; Spring Break: April 2-8 M-Su Spring Recess

Final Exam Week: May 19-25. We have no sitting final. Portfolios are due by May 25, 12 noon electronically. Last day of semester May 25.

Class blog:

Syllabus for English 201A/B: Preparation for Composition and Reading

The English 201 series (4 units) is a two semester or one year preparatory course designed to emphasize the thinking, reading, organizing and writing skills required for successful execution of college-level papers in all subject areas. This course is designed to for those students requiring minimal preparation for entering English 1A.

Absences must be kept to a minimum. If you miss 6 consecutive hours or 8 cumulative hours you will risk being dropped from the course, doing poorly or both. English 201 consists of weekly essays and daily assignments. I believe we are to write about 6000 words, which includes rewrites and revisions. I tend to go overboard on this; I am told students in my classes write a lot more. Perhaps it’s a good thing we use cyber-space and post on-line, so I don’t feel as guilty as I would if I were contributing to the death of trees, which I treasure like I treasure people (smile).

This is a portfolio driven class. Keep all of your written work, graded and otherwise to turn in the last day of class. There will be an assessment, a midterm, a research project, a final and multiple class presentations.

Stewart Pidd Hates English will provide a context for essay writing which will -hopefully allow students the opportunity to become conversant about the writing process and use grammar in context, as well as, employ MLA documentation. Keep a reading log for the assigned texts: Yummy: the Last Days of a Southside Shorty by G. Neri, The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, and Always Running: Gang Days in LA by Luis Rodriguez, noting key ideas, themes, vocabulary, questions and an analysis of primary writing strategies employed: description, process analysis, narration, argument, cause and effect, compare and contrast, definition, problem solving.

Research Project

Your research project will entail finding a person in Northern California who is a social entrepreneur. This research project will be an extension of the themes explored in our texts, youth, education and the criminal justice system. The essay will be about 3-4 pages. This will include a works cited page and bibliography. Students will make 5-10 minute presentations of these papers in May. The paper will be due about two-three weeks prior to the presentation. We’ll discuss this task further later on.

New Heroes

Visit “The New Heroes,” to read about social entrepreneurs. There is also a program called Frontline World. We will explore this assignment more, later in the course.

Why socially responsible economics?

Too often people feel helpless or hopeless when there is a lot you can do as an individual as soon as you realize the answer lies inside of you. Choose an entrepreneur who lives in Northern California, someone you’d like to interview and perhaps meet. Students can work on the project together, share resources. Each person has to write his or her own paper, but you can make a group presentation if you like.

Course Objectives

English 201 will look primarily at writing which persuades: argumentative writing, as well as expository writing, narrative and descriptive writing. At the end of the course students will have read work of accomplished writers, as well as practiced writing in a variety of styles to suit the writer’s purpose.

Academic Blog

In this course students will submit essays and other written work on-line. The academic blog is an opportunity for students to utilize multiple intelligences as they engage one another in a variety modalities. Again, the website is: Get used to checking the blog daily.

Student Learning Outcomes

At the end of the course students will have an altered or heightened awareness of the world around them, especially discourse: speech and text. Students will see that everything is an argument, whether that is a cartoon, advertisement, or lyrics in a song. Students will be able to analyze and critique each incident or contact to evaluate its author’s purpose, audience, and evidence to determine whether or not such goal was met and if appropriate, act accordingly.

This course is intended to be both a group learning experience as well as an individually rewarding one. Mid-semester we will schedule conferences so students can confer with the instructor to evaluate his or her progress in the course. Classroom instruction will consist of lectures, small group work, and students working in pairs. This is an effective way for students to exchange ideas with classmates, compare reactions to readings and practice giving and receiving constructive feedback on class work.

Preparation for class, regular attendance and active participation is imperative for those students who wish to succeed in this course.

It is a student’s responsibility to contact the instructor if he or she plans to miss class. The student is responsible for all materials and information given during the class time, so please get telephone numbers for three (3) classmates in case you are late or absent. You will not be able to make up in-class assignments when you miss class.

Requirements for homework assignments:

Not late papers are accepted unless arranged in advance. Any papers below a C grade are an automatic revision or rewrite. Essays range between 2-3 pages, 500-750 words (English 201B students write the longer essays).

Choose topics which give you enough to write about. We will use documentation to substantiate all of our claims. With this in mind, I expect all papers to utilize at least two (2) different outside print sources, in addition to the occasional interview, and broadcast news, that is, radio or television, Internet also.

You will learn to document sources; we will practice citing sources in text, using footnotes and endnotes, and writing bibliographies and notes pages. Remember save all your work! This is a portfolio course.

All essay assignments you receive comments on have to be revised prior to resubmission; included with the revision is a student narrative to me regarding your understanding of what needed to be done; a student can prepare this as a part of the Writing Center visit (see below), especially if said student is unclear over what steps to take. Sometimes students will have to write a correction essay in addition to revising the essay. Both essays and the graded draft are to be turned in together.

Library Orientations: TBA. We will meet in the library at the reference desk.

We will write short essays that reflect themes and ideas discussed that week. Stewart Pidd has essay assignments attached to the text. Some of these essays will be written in class. The research essay will be an argument. There will be a midterm and a final. The Stewart Pidd essays are nonsense essays. The strategy is to focus on the writing, not the content. The goal is to transfer the skills used to correct Pidd’s essays to one’s own work. This is what the correction essays do for students who are not seeing their errors when proofreading. The correction essay is the cost for my services as editor (smile).

Jot down briefly what your goals are this semester. List them in order of importance.






Please email a response to the following questions with your contact information to Name, Address, phone number e-mail address, best time to call.

Answer these questions as well:
What strengths do you bring to the class? What do you hope to obtain from the course – any particular exit skills? What do I need to know about you to help you meet your goals?

Also respond to the syllabus on the blog. Speak to the plan, the materials and what you think about the course at least on paper (smile). You can share your list and anything else you like in the post, just remember that this blog is a public one and everyone in the class has access to whatever is posted.

If you email me, the information is private unless the FBI subpoena my class records—I’m kidding, but cyber-space is also monitored by the government. The only safe or private thoughts are the ones left unspoken or unwritten (smile). Respond to the syllabus by our next meeting, Wednesday, January 25, 2012, 12 noon.

I encourage students to start study groups. I will give all students who participate in a study group credit for hours spent there if you get a professor to sign off on the hours. If you study in the library in the classrooms, one of the librarians can sign document, you can draw up, for you. List all the participants by name and class and give a description of what was covered in the session each meeting. If I can, I could drop in and be available sometimes to meet with students in such sessions. Let me know if you desire my presence.

I am not around on Fridays.


The House on Mango Street: 10 percent
SPHE/They Say, I Say: 10 percent
Student Book—presentation and essay: 15 percent
Midterm— Yummy: the Last Days of a Southside Shorty: 10 percent
Always Running: Gang Days in LA: 10 percent
Social Entrepreneur Research Essay and presentation: 15 percent
Cyber-Assignments & other essay assignments: 10 percent
Portfolio: 20 percent

The essays which take their themes from the readings plus the book report are (35 percent), your midterm and final are (25 percent) and your portfolio with Pidd/They Say. . . (30 percent), Cyber-Assignments (10). To pass the class you need minimally 85 percent: All the essays and the portfolio.

(Save all of your work.) You can average the grades to see how to weigh the various components. Participation is included in the daily exercises and cyber assignments, along with the homework portion of the grade, so if your attendance is exemplary, yet you say nothing the entire 18 weeks, you lose percentage points.

You will also need to plan to spend time weekly in the Writing Lab (L-234 (510) 748-2132). It is a great place to get one-on-on assistance on your essays, from brainstorming and planning the essays, to critique in areas like clarity, organization, clearly stated thesis, evidence or support, logical conclusions, and grammatical problems. In the Writing Center there are ancillary materials for student use. These writing programs build strong writing muscles. The Bedford Handbook on-line, Diana Hacker’s Rules for Writers on-line, Townsend Press, and other such computer and cyber-based resources are a few of the many databases available. There is also an Open Lab for checking e-mail, a Math Lab, and an Accounting Lab. All academic labs are located in the Learning Resource Center (LRC) or library upstairs. The Cyber Café is located in the F-bldg.

Students need a student ID to use the labs and to check out books. The IDs are free and you can take the photo in the F-Building, Student Services. Students also need to sign up for a free LRC course to use the labs. See your counselor or LRC personnel.

Have a tutor of teacher sign off on your essays before you turn them in; if you have a “R,” which means revision necessary for a grade or “NC” which means “no credit,” you have to go to the lab and revise the essay with a tutor or teacher before you return both the graded original and the revision (with signature) to me. Revise does not mean “rewrite,” it means to “see again.”

When getting assistance on an essay, the teacher or tutor is not an editor, so have questions prepared for them to make best use of the 15-20 minute session in the Lab. For more specific assistance, sign up for one-on-one tutoring, another free service. For those of you on other campuses, you can get assistance at the Merritt College’s Writing Center, as well as Laney’s Writing Labs.

All essay assignments you receive comments on have to be revised prior to resubmission; included with the revision is a student narrative to me regarding your understanding of what needed to be done; a student can prepare this as a part of the Lab visit, especially if said student is unclear over what steps to take.

Students can also visit me in office hours for assistance; again, prepare your questions in advance to best make use of the time. Do not leave class without understanding the comments on a paper. I don’t mind reading them to you.

English language fluency in writing and reading; a certain comfort and ease with the language; confidence and skillful application of literary skills associated with academic writing. Familiarity if not mastery of the rhetorical styles used in argumentation, exposition and narration will be addressed in this class and is a key student learning outcome (SLO).

We will be evaluating what we know and how we came to know what we know, a field called epistemology or the study of knowledge. Granted, the perspective is western culture which eliminates the values of the majority populations, so-called underdeveloped or undeveloped countries or cultures. Let us not fall into typical superiority traps. Try to maintain a mental elasticity and a willingness to let go of concepts which not only limit your growth as an intelligent being, but put you at a distinct disadvantage as a species.

This is a highly charged and potentially revolutionary process - critical thinking. The process of evaluating all that you swallowed without chewing up to now is possibly even dangerous. This is one of the problems with bigotry; it’s easier to go with tradition than toss it, and create a new, more just, alternative protocol.

More on grades, and portfolio

We will be honest with one another. Grades are not necessarily the best response to work; grades do not take into consideration the effort or time spent, only whether or not students can demonstrate mastery of a skill – in this case: essay writing. Grades are an approximation, arbitrary at best, no matter how many safeguards one tries to put in place to avoid such ambiguity. Suffice it to say, your portfolio will illustrate your competence. It will represent your progress, your success or failure this session in meeting your goal. In past semesters, students have skipped the portfolio and/or the final. Neither is optional.

Office Hours

I’d like to wish everyone good luck. I am available on Monday and Wednesday morning 10:30-12 noon, MW 3-4 PM. MTWTh 3-5 by appointment. Office number: (510) 748-2286. Let me know a day in advance when you’d like to meet by appointment. You can call me on my cell and leave a message. By phone is the best way to reach me. My email address varies from class to class: I have a address as well, but that address is not the best one to reach me at. I have an office phone as well. Don’t leave messages there. I answer when I am in the office.

Exchange phone numbers with classmates (2-3), so if you have a concern, it can be addressed more expediently. Again study groups are recommended, especially for those students finding the readings difficult; don’t forget, you can also discuss the readings as a group in the Writing Lab with a teacher or tutor acting as facilitator. Keep a vocabulary log for the semester and an error chart (taken from comments on essay assignments). List the words you need to look up in the dictionary, also list where you first encountered them: page, book and definition, also use the word in a sentence. You will turn this in with your portfolio.

Students are expected to complete their work on time. If you need more time on an assignment, discuss this with me in advance, to keep full credit. You lose credit each day an assignment is late and certain assignments, such as in-class essays cannot be made up. All assignments prepared outside of class are to be typed, 12-pt. font, Times New Roman, double-spaced lines, indentations on paragraphs, 1-inch margins around the written work.


Plagiarism is ethically abhorrent, and if any student tries to take credit for work authored by another person the result will be a failed grade on the assignment and possibly a failed grade in the course if this is attempted again. This is a graded course. There is an option to take this course C/NC. See Admission and Records this week to discuss this option as there are deadlines to consider.

Textbooks Recap:

Cisneros, Sandra. The House on Mango Street. New York: Vintage Contemporaries, 1991.

Neri, G. Yummy: the Last Days of a Southside Shorty. New York: Lee & Low Books Inc., 2010.

Pollitt, Gary, and Craig Baker. Stewart Pidd Hates English: Grammar, Punctuation, and Writing Exercises. First or Second Edition. California: Attack the Text Publishing, 2008/9. ISBN: 13: 978-0-9755923-4-2

Rodriguez, Luís. Always Running: Gang Days in LA. New York, NY : Touchstone, 2005.

English 201B: for Pidd Alumni:

Diana Hacker’s Rules for Writers. Fourth-Seventh Editions. Boston/New York: Bedford/St. Martins.

Graff, Gerald and Cathy Birenstein. They Say, I Say. Second Edition. New York: W.W. Norton, 2010.

Students also need a dictionary. I recommend: The American Heritage Dictionary. Fourth Edition.

The Prepared Student also needs...

Along with a dictionary, the prepared student needs pens with blue or black ink, along with a pencil for annotating texts, paper, a stapler or paper clips, a jump drive to save work from college computers, a notebook, three hole punch, a folder for work-in-progress, and a divided binder to keep materials together.

Also stay abreast of the news. Buy a daily paper. Listen to alternative radio: KPFA 94.1 FM (Hardknock), KQED 88.5, KALW 91.7. Visit news websites:, Al Jazeera,,,,, CBS 60Minutes.

This syllabus is subject to change based on instructor assessment of class progress.


Syllabus Letter

22 January 2012

Dear Students:

I am still on South Africa time waking at two and four in the morning. The time difference is about 10 hours between here and there. It was great when I needed a bit more time to complete something, I could go to bed and wake up in the same day—different time zone. I got up today at 4 a.m. went to sleep yesterday about six or seven in the evening. Today is my granddaughter’s birthday. She is nine. Her mother is a graduate of COA: psychology, with a BS in psychology and women’s studies from Cal State East Bay (2011).

This morning I completed a wonderful book, might I say, a mighty work (smile), entitled, Mighty Be Our Powers: How Sisterhood, Prayer, and Sex Changed a Nation at War, A Memoir, by Leyman Gbowee with Carol Mithers.

When I watched the film, Pray the Devil Back to Hell, directed by Gini Reticker, produced by Abigail E. Disney, I marveled over the courage of the Liberian women to defeat the Charles Taylor war machine with prayer and nonviolent resistance. The women assembled along the road where the president’s caravan passed twice daily. Dressed in plain white garments, these women, from the city, from the countryside, rural women, educated and uneducated women, Christian and Muslim women, women who called on the ancient indigenous spirits and goddesses, sat or stood together in the oppressive heat and in the summer storms getting wet and growing dark and weak as they became the key voice for peace in a country that was violently spinning out of control. The film is on-line at: There are also links to other films in the series: Women, War and Peace, as well as to interviews with Ms. Gbowee.

Unlike her memoir, the film Pray the Devil Back to Hell, is a heroines’ story, the story of a nation which is confronted by its most vulnerable population, its women. It is a story, Liberia’s quest for peace is a story, a story which ends as it begins. The film could be a miniseries; the culminating event is not the end, rather the beginning, which we’d never know unless we read 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winner Gbowee’s tale of triumph and personal sacrifice. I am happy Abigail Disney told me about the memoir when we last spoke in a radio interview—what a wonderful journey is has been this weekend. I am just disappointed I wasn’t able to meet Ms. Gbowee when she was here on tour last year.

I bought the book at the college book store Thursday where I have it listed as required. I assigned it for my English 1A class, along with Half the Sky, the Pulitzer Prize winning book from the married team, Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. Students either hate the book or love it. I never know what to expect from Spring semester to Spring semester over the past three years. One criticism is the formulaic nature of the book and the fact that men are not key characters and when they are, they are often the villains.

I assigned this book after seeing the authors and a woman profiled in Half the Sky on Oprah. You can imagine my great surprise when a student told me its authors were hosting a global event for International Women’s Day in theatres throughout the country. We attended of course. Locally our event was in Emeryville. Students bought tickets and I got some free ones from a sponsoring organization in San Francisco and we went. Students said they found the film and discussion inspiring.

We will start with Gbowee and then shift into the Kristof WuDunn land where all women are suffering— Yes, it would be depressing without evidence of triumph. Gbowee’s success is not singular, that is why her story is so remarkable. However, Half the Sky is unable to go into such depth, this is why we are reading her story first.

Students in English 1A will look for a woman entrepreneur in Northern California to profile in an essay. Students will also chose a book about the woman entrepreneur or a book by a woman to write an essay exploring the memoir, autobiography or novel’s themes and topics as relates to women’s empowerment or peace. These are the major essays for English 1A. We will write a series of short essays and post on the blog, these cyber-assignments will often start in class. All cyber-assignment are interactive and students have to respond to minimally 1-3 students posts for credit for the assignment. The first cyber assignment is a response to this letter, the second is a response to the syllabus. The second response includes a private response to me. My email addresses are:,,,

I love memoirs and autobiographies that cover political, social and historic movements, like this one does. The Warmth of Other Suns does a similar job, except Isabel Wilkerson didn’t live it, as Gbowee does. A short book, just under 250 pages, Gbowee’s work addressed in the award winning film, Pray the Devil Back to Hell, doesn’t start until the book is nearly two thirds finished. I thought of all the murder mysteries I love where the crime is solved in the last ten pages; was this one of those reads?

Each Spring in honor of Women’s History Month in March, I have used women’s issues as the theme for the semester. So here we are again. In English 5 we are looking more are the criminalization of a population in California and in America, poor people of color, more specifically black people. California incarcerates more youth as adults than any other state and more women. I am concerned about this. I am a member of an organization called, California Coalition for Women Prisoners. We are an advocacy organization. I serve on its board.

Michelle Alexander’s book, The New Jim Crow, looks at the criminalization of a population and how this tale is not new when one looks at the historic Jim Crow polices of America’s south, instituted at the end of enslavement of an entire race for four centuries. Cornell West’s forward to the paperback edition is quite provocative as he raises questions and issues you might not be familiar with. As English 5 meets for 1 hour and 15 minutes. We will have to do a lot of preparation at home and come to class ready to talk and discuss what we have read, the theories we have explored in our text book or in other readings I will supply on other argument forms: Toulmin and Aristotelian. Writing Logically, Thinking Critically only uses the Rogerian argumentative form.

We will write four arguments using these forms. The last argument, which takes its theme from Alexander, will be an opportunity for a student to craft an argument using one of the three explored. There might be an opportunity for the “super students” to craft an argument taking on a topic they disagree with arguing its merits. Since this is an election year, it will be fun analyzing campaign speeches, looking for examples of logical fallacies or flawed logic in ads, op eds and other media.

All arguments are both written and oral. Students will present their written arguments for critique. Each of three arguments will take their topic from one of the texts. We will start with Yummy, then move to Mosely, and end with Alexander. Alexander is a hard read, so if you are a slow reader, start it early.

We are leaving Alexander for last, as I’d like to get through much of Writing Logically, along with its exercises, before we start the book. I love Walter Mosely’s work. He is one of my favorite writers since the Easy Rawlins’ series of detective novels, to his science fiction work, and lately his protagonist Socrates Fortlow novels, Fortlow who is just as thoughtful as Ezekiel "Easy" Porterhouse Rawlins, perhaps more.

One of my students in English 1A Fall 2010, shared the title with me and I checked it out from the Oakland Public Library. I read it in a day and a half and immediately decided to use it this Spring Semester. The argument is classic. How many of you ever thought the destination “hell” as negotiable (smile)? Well, Mosely’s character disagrees with his sentence and gets sent back to earth to work it out with his angel. There he meets the devil or Lucifer himself. It is a great story that makes the reader rethink her notion of right and wrong, good and evil.

When I was in Los Angeles last year in November to say good bye to a good friend who was dying, I went to the Holocaust Museum that Sunday, where the author of Yummy was receiving a book award. I hadn’t known the story of the child in Chicago. After reading Yummy, I decided to make it one of our texts this semester as it is an easy read and a story—those of us who live in urban communities can undoubtedly, unfortunately, relate to.

I also like films and in the classes longer than 50 minutes, we watch a few (smile). For English 1A, we will definitely watch, Pray the Devil Back to Hell, even if it takes two classes or I might assign it as homework (we’ll see).

Sandra Cisneros’s House on Mango Street, first, Yummy, second, and last, Always Running. Students will also read a book, a memoir of their own choosing. I suggest the sequel to Always Running, It Calls You Back.

There will be a Social Entrepreneur Essay for English 201 and English 1A students.

In English 201, we will take our freewrites in response to House on Mango Street and make a book. We’ll have a book release party with refreshments (smile). There will be five major essays, three tied to assigned textbooks, one tied to a memoir you choose, the last on the social entrepreneur.

Four of the five essays involve presentations: House on Mango Street, Always Running, SE Essay, Book Report Essay. The response to Yummy can be a graphic essay for the artistically inclined (smile). In English 201 we might read the play, Elephant Man. I see this play and its character as a metaphor for what happened to the protagonist in Yummy and what happened to Luis Rodríguez in Always Running.

I chose Always Running after many years of not teaching it, because of the recent by the author, whom I had the opportunity to interview when he was in town last November on a book tour. I loved teaching his Always Running, a classic tale similar to Down These Mean Streets by the late poet and author, Piri Thomas, Claude Brown’s Manchild in the Promised Land, Brothers and Keepers by John Edgar Wideman, and more recently, The Pact by Drs. Sampson Davis, George Jenkins, and Rameck Hunt with Lisa Frazier Page, and The Color of Water by James McBride. These coming of age tales about young men, are stories where growing up is not a given for the men who tell these stories, so how they survive proves instructive then and now.

In English 1A we will read the Greek play, Lysistrata. I also have a collection of poetry with the theme, war, which we will look at in English 1A in March as well.

I hope we can attend at least one play or author event as a community of writers. I will let students know what is opening and where. You can let me know of events you are attending as well. Films are also great, especially when the director is present or there is a discussion before or afterward.

Some students are not receiving this communiqués from me, which means, said student has no email address on file with admissions and records. Correct this omission immediately. Add an email address to your application. Make sure the phone numbers listed are the ones you are able to be reached at.

I have be using the book Stewart Pidd Hates English for too many years to recall when I started exactly, but suffice it to say over the years, “The Pidd Experience,” which many students hate as well as Pidd, has become a trademark text I have become well-known for on this campus and perhaps in the District (smile). It is a book that through a series of prescriptive exercises and essays covers many of the more salient errors writing students make which give their college teachers the most grief. The errors reviewed are both grammatical and mechanical, with an overview of summary and paraphrasing most third semester students have forgotten, not to mention a mind expanding section on plagiarism, which some scholars are not serious enough about, a slight which often comes back to haunt many a student as he or she crams at the end of the semester.

Deceptively simple, SPHE grows steadily more complex until the student who has been simply gliding along runs into major difficulty. This is around the third or fourth essays, Pronoun Case or BeVerbs. The fictional character, Stewart Pidd, supplies all the course work and students act as his teachers, grading his essays and offering comments on how he can improve by naming the errors and giving an example(s) of how he can correct the essays. These corrective essays are written as templates, which means there is little space for creativity, rather, the correct essay looks like everyone else’s, with perhaps originality in the title or often in the concluding paragraph. Many students cannot believe how simple the task is, until this simplicity is shattered by failing grades.

The essays are nonsense essays, which enable students to focus on the writing, rather than the content. This to fosters in students a false sense of competence failing grades quickly shatter. It isn’t the difficulty that gets students; it is the attention to detail that gets them over and over again.

Last semester, for the first time, I had students write an essay called, “The Stewart Pidd Experience.” I also had students write an essay where they evaluated their two grammar exams in an essay. This was a part of the class portfolio which is our final assignment. There is no sitting final in this class.

I have decided to not require Pidd for Spring Semester, except as a recommendation for all students who have never used the book before. The only class where this is not true is English 201 where I am making SPHE required. For everyone else, if your essays include errors covered in Pidd, students will have to write a correction essay outlining their errors, how to correct them and a revised essay.

The errors covered in SPHE are: confused words, sentence punctuation, pronoun agreement, pronoun case, be-verbs, possessives, verb tense, parallel structure, MLA, plagiarism, paraphrasing, summarizing, ellipsis use, signal phrases, works cited pages.

I plan to give students the quizzes and the exams, just so you can know if you need to get the book and run the exercises. Beginning Week 2, I will host a six week workshop on MW mornings (10:30-11:30) for students interested in “The Pidd Experience.” I could possibly host a meeting also on M or W afternoons, after 3 p.m., let’s say, from 3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., if more than 5 students are interested. Students do not have to be in English 201 to attend. One has to commit to the entire six weeks though. The workshop is open to all Sabir students. Students in my English 1B class last semester who did not buy a grammar style book and made many errors up to the portfolio in MLA from works cited pages to ellipsis marks, received Bs instead of As in the course. For English 1A, it was crucial that students cited correctly. This is a key goal of Freshman composition. After English 1A, students are expected to know how to cite their sources and understand the importance of scholarly research when proving a point. Students are also expected to know the difference between free and literal paraphrasing, summarizing and plagiarism. It is that serious that students who are scholars know this information, so if you don’t look at the book—SPHE, and think about this short refresher workshop.

I am teaching four classes: English 1B, 21792, 8-8:50 AM, MTWTh in C211; English 1A, 21757, 9-9:50 AM, MTWTh, A-202; English 5, 21763 & English 211, 21777, 11-12:15 AM, TTh, A-202; English 201A 21768 & English 201B 21774, MW, A 202, 1-2:50 PM. (The two classes ENG 201A & ENG 201B, as well as ENG 5 and ENG 211, run concurrently.)

As usual, I am looking to hold one class a week in a lab with computers so students can learn to navigate the blog and how I want essay portfolios sent to me.

If you do not have technology at home, use the computers here on campus in the LRC. There is the Open Lab and the Writing Center for your use. All you need is a Student ID, which is free. Make sure you get on early on. Students also need to sign up for a special LRC course, which is also free. Do this early in the semester as well.

For first year students, I suggest you fit College Success at COA into your schedules: Counseling 21739, MW 12-1:15, 3 Units, in C-113, with Cobb or Counseling 21738, MW 9:30-10:45, in CV-205 (portables) with Nakmo. Similar classes are offered at Laney and Merritt colleges (Peralta Colleges 2012 Schedule of Classes 96). There is a Grammar class at Laney: 20428 6-8:50 PM, Eng. 206A, English Grammar, 3 units (Peralta Colleges 2012 Spring Schedule of Classes 107).

In all except the English 5 or Critical Thinking class, I am using a new book, I hope students like or at least find useful, They Say, I Say: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing. Oh, no, students might cry, another book that uses templates?! What is wrong with Sabir, doesn’t she trust original thought (smile). You won’t believe this, but this book has been sitting on my desk for at least five years, maybe more and it wasn’t until a former student of mine, now professor, Maria Acuna, shared it with me last semester, did I decide to try it.

I have been reading it this weekend as well and I like the premise the authors use to explain why they wrote it. Granted, templates can get tiresome, but for those who are familiar with Stewart Pidd Hates English, these templates are nothing like the ones Pollitt and Baker use. Rest assured there (smile). Instead, this book helps students enter the discourse or conversation, often one which has been raging or simmering or bubbling over for a short or long while, a conversation you have never entered, however, one which affects your life in profound ways. Why haven’t you joined in? Often, the reason certain communities are not called to the table or invited to participate is intentional. The reason is, to do so doesn’t serve the interests of the body politic at the table.

Whether one is invited or not, whether one has a chair or not, whether one has the proper suit or proper language with which to engage those at the table using one’s life as a ping pong, the conversation is open in a democracy and it is yours to join even in an assignment for a class such as ours. I have students who have used their writing here to launch careers in politics. I have had students publish writing completed here in class in newspapers and respected journals. We are working in a laboratory where results can actually change lives beginning with our own. What you learn here is not “academic” if academic means useless. Each of you is a change agent; that is why you took time out of your life to show up.

Showing up is important. We all showed up for different reasons, some not as lofty as others, but you are here and because you are here, I expect great work from you. That is my goal and that is why and I am here and when you start hating me, remember, the promise I made to you here: meritocracy will never get a reward in this class. There is no grading on the curve. Everyone is held to a high standard and while I set the bar, well the State of California sets the bar and some of you will not reach it this time— keep trying and you will eventually.

The class might appear disorganized and I smile a lot and seem easy, this is an illusion. I am not easy. I demand a lot from each of you, but this is college—and you expect huge demands right? Don’t worry, I think you will get your money’s worth and then some. I do not assign writing assignments because I have nothing better to do. I can think or many tasks I love more than reading first drafts of students’ papers—you think they are final drafts, but they are not. I am a professional writer and I know what I am doing, so trust me when I tell you something is wrong. It is not personal, rather it is the writing not you I am critiquing. Some students enter the class with more skill sets than others. Some expect success in high school to tide them over here, and have rude awakenings. My suggestion is to come to class awake and sleep at home the night before.

I hope students surprise me and actually know a bit about the writing process and can read with comprehension and most importantly, are not lazy. You can enroll in this class not knowing everything, but if you do not exert yourself and fill in those spaces where perhaps time or preparation left you under-ready then, I expect you to get the extra help needed, whether that is attending my “Pidd Experience” workshop or a getting a tutor or both.

Be honest with yourself and do what you need to do to be successful here. Do not waste your time or your classmates. I will not let you waste mine or theirs or use my brain as your own. I do not suffer fools at all. Some students say I am rude, perhaps I am; however, when students are not prepared and want to waste the time of those who are, I cut them off. I am not interested in anything an unprepared student has to say. If you ever come to class unprepared, keep silent. Do not open your mouth except to tell us you are not prepared and are just observing that day.

I have to pay out of pocket for an assistant to help me with record keeping. I haven’t had a student aide in years to help students with their essays, so it’s on me and you. If you need help I can help you to a point—there is no magic. I am a great writer because I write and I kept writing when I got failing grades, had to take remedial writing classes at UC Berkeley, and got failing grades on first drafts at Holy Names.

Believe it or not, I didn’t know what a thesis sentence was until graduate school Teaching Writing course. I do not have hours to spend with one student a week, but you can get assistance, so ask when there are questions. I think faster than I write sometimes and I am an awful speller. No one is perfect. Learn what your strengths are. I have an almost photographic memory. Writing things down is a way for me to record them in my mind almost verbatim. I don’t hold hands and after last semester, a deadline is a deadline even if only one student makes it, so keep the due dates in your calendar, just in case I forget to remind you when something is due.

The blog is a place where reminders tend to go, but if you have limited access to the web, take good notes from the white board and get a few students phones numbers just in case. I suggest students hold study sessions to discuss readings and assignments. The library (first floor in the LRC or Learning Resource Center) has classrooms students can use for discussions.

Each class has varying requirements for the writing, which is about 6-8,000 words. I tend to assign more writing. In English 1A, students will have several short research essays, rather than one long essay. Each essay in English 1A will be about 3-4 pages, 250 words a page. In English 5 3-4 pages per essay. This is minimally. Essays can be a bit longer. In English 201 essays will be between 2-5 pages depending on the level. English 1B, 3-4 pages. This excludes the works cited page.

I am giving you all this in advance so you can drop the course and find a better fit.

Recap on textbooks. Find your class:

1. English 5: Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow; Walter Mosley's The Tempest Tales; Yummy: the Last Days of a Southside Shorty by G. Neri, and Writing Logically, Thinking Critically 6th Edition. Recommended: Diana Hacker’s Rules for Writers, American Heritage Dictionary.

2.English 1B:

Gardner, Janet E. Writing about Literature: A Portable Guide. Second Edition. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2009. Print.

Grover, Linda Legarde. The Dance Boots. Athens, Georgia and London: The University of Georgia Press, 2010. Print.

Kwok, Jean. Girl in Translation. New York: Riverhead Books, 2010. Print.

Satrapi, Marjane. The Complete Persepolis. Pantheon Books, 2007. Print. ISBN 0375714839

Bannerjee, Neelanjana and Summi Kaipa, Pireeni Sundaralingam. Ed. Indivisible: An Anthology of Contemporary South Asian Poetry. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2010. Print.

Recommended: Diana Hacker’s Rules for Writers, 4-7th editions. American Heritage Dictionary.

3. English 1A: Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn; Mighty Be Our Powers: How Sisterhood, Prayer, and Sex Changed a Nation at War by Leymah Gbowee, Diana Hacker Rules for Writers, American Heritage Dictionary. They Say, I Say, Second Edition, by Gerald Graff and Cathy Birenstein.

Recommended for students who have not taken my classes before: Stewart Pidd Hates English.

4. English 201A: Stewart Pidd Hates English*, Yummy: the Last Days of a Southside Shorty by G. Neri, The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, Always Running: Gang Days in LA by Luis Rodriguez. American Heritage Dictionary.

English 201B: for Pidd Alumni: Diana Hacker’s Rules for Writers and They Say, I Say by Gerald Graff and Cathy Birenstein. If a student has not had me for English 201A then Pidd is recommended.


Wanda Sabir

English Professor, College of Alameda

Thursday, January 19, 2012


Course Materials for Spring 2012

Greetings Students:

Welcome to English 201!

Course materials for all Sabir courses Spring 2012. Find your class:

1. English 5: Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow; Walter Mosley's The Tempest Tales, Yummy: the Last Days of a Southside Shorty by G. Neri, and Writing Logically, Thinking Critically 6th Edition. Recommended: Diana Hacker Rules for Writers, American Heritage Dictionary.

2. English 1B: The Dance Boots, Girl in Translation, The Complete Persepolis, Indivisible: An Anthology of Contemporary South Asian Poetry, Writing about Literature: A Portable Guide. Second Edition, Janet E. Gardner. Recommended: Diana Hacker Rules for Writers, American Heritage Dictionary.

3. English 1A: Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, Mighty Be Our Powers: How Sisterhood, Prayer, and Sex Changed a Nation at War by Leymah Gbowee, Diana Hacker Rules for Writers, American Heritage Dictionary. They Say, I Say, SE by Gerald Graff and Cathy Birenstein.

Recommended for students who have not taken my classes before: Stewart Pidd Hates English.

4. English 201A: Stewart Pidd Hates English*, Yummy: the Last Days of a Southside Shorty by G. Neri, The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, Always Running: Gang Days in LA by Luis Rodriguez. American Heritage Dictionary.

English 201B: for Pidd Alumni: Diana Hacker Rules for Writers and They Say, I Say by Gerald Graff and Cathy Birenstein. If a student has not had me for English 201A then Pidd is recommended.

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