It's your first semester in college. Your course schedule probably looks something like this: English 101 and about three other required courses – maybe an elective if you're a daring freshman. You're thinking to yourself, "English 101? Come on! They'll probably make me read some Shakespeare or something and I'll buy my paper online or write it quickly on my way to calculus." Wrong! Take it from someone who teaches English 101 – if you fall behind in the beginning, you stand little chance of making it up toward the end. You want to make sure that you keep up with the reading and the homework, because just because the number 101 is after the course name doesn't necessarily mean it's the easiest course in existence. Actually, this is a comomn misconception. English 101 is not a course you breeze through, paying little attention and putting little effort into the assignments. It's a prerequisite for about a million other classes, so you need it for that reason, but English 101 will also help prepare you for the rest of your academic career and is not to be taken lightly.
In today's day and age, English 101 is not just seen as a college course where students read and then write about what they read. There is small group work, connecting texts to one another and paper revisions to deal with. I will touch on each of these subjects seperately because they will each help you to be able to pass English 101 with flying colors. (Remember, I am not an expert on ALL English 101 courses in the country, but I did take one, I do teach one, and I have read much pedagogy on the subject. Trust me or not – either way, these hints will never hinder you from doing well.)
Small Group Work and Participation
Chances are, your English 101 professor, at some point, is going to break the class into small groups and ask you to work together. There could be many different reasons for this. Maybe your teacher wants you to work with students you don't know, or maybe he/she wants you to brainstorm ideas without his/her assistance. When you are in these groups, participate! You are not there to let someone else do all the work for you and trust me, your professor will notice if you're putting all of the work on others. A big part of English 101 is participation, and just sitting there waiting for class to be over most likely isn't going to cut it. Look at it this way – it's an excuse to meet some new and interesting people!
Yet another reason for your teacher to put you into small groups for brainstorming, this is an important part of what you'll learn. As far as my experience, this practice of "intertextuality" denotes the great conversation among texts, and in English 101, your professors want to introduce you to this conversation. When you read your assignments, really read them – underline, take notes, look words up and write down any questions you might have. This kind of productive reading will make it much easier to connect essay #1 to essay #2 and when your professor asks you to connect them in your paper, you'll already have ideas. Remember, you're not just going to read a story, an essay or a novel and then forget all about it. It will come up again and again, most likely in conjunction with other works, so do your reading!!!!!
This is a very important part of the writing process. You should never just write a paper, hand it in and forget about it. A big part of English 101 is writing drafts for your papers and then improving on them. This is another very good reason for small group work in college. I, for one, enjoy putting my students in groups and asking them to comment on each other's papers. The key here is to not feel bad telling someone that you think he/she needs to fix something in his/her paper. The commments you make should be constructive criticism and should help the paper along. Also, you should revise on your own. After all, we all like what we see right after we write something. Take some time; give yourself some distance and then go back and look over it again. The odds are you'll find a few things you should change or expand on and then your paper has traveled another step toward that elusive A.
English 101 is not a throw-away course. You're going to have to work and you're going to have to work hard. Look at it as a learning experience – you should use the values you use in your first semester of college in all of your other classes. Put some work into it – use some elbow grease! Brush up on your grammar or ask for extra help if you need it. After all, who on earth wants to take English 101 twice? Work hard and it will pay off!