English 134: Expository Writing

Writing About Place

This course develops skills in reading and writing through instruction, feedback and practice. The subjects we read and write about are close to home: the natural and human environments we come from and the one we now inhabit, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.

Section 01: MW 8:10-10:00 AM Bldg. 03-0104
Instructor: Steven Marx
phone: 756-2411
Office: 47-25E (Faculty Office Building)
Office hours: MWF: 1:30-2:30 PM and by appointment

Sample revised student papers for all assignments

Fall 2004 Schedule



topics and activities work assigned reading due writing schedule



  • Where are you from?
  • Place-based education.
    Place and topic; topos; place and memory
  • Cal Poly Land project
  • Writing skills and writing process
  • A walk around the gardens
  • Interviews and notes
  • Outlining
Essay #1: Where are you from?


Email draft of essay #1 to partner
9:00 PM


Email partner response to essay #1



  • Where are we now?
  • Review student essay 1
  • Using Track Changes in MS Word
  • Sentence structure, paragraphing.
  • Observation and Description
  • Preview of hike--
    Cal Poly Land: A Field Guide, 222-223
  • Preview Essay #2

Essay #2--Canyons and Mountains (Narrative description)

Cal Poly Land: A Field Guide

  1. Browse the whole book
  2. Read Preface and Introduction, 1-23
Email essay #1 to instructor
6:00 AM
Submit hard copy in class



Field Trip #1--Canyons and Mountains: The Natural Landscape

This is a moderately strenuous hike over steep, rough ground. Wear strong closed shoes and long pants to protect against the burrs, thorns and foxtails this time of year. If it's hot, take along water, a hat and sunblock. Bring your Field Guide a journal to write in and a pen. If you want to take pictures, bring your own camera or check out a digital from Media Distribution Services in Bldg 10 or 3.

Meet at Gate to Poly Canyon at 7:30 AM sharp


Cal Poly Land: A Field Guide

  1. Geology, Climate and Soils, 24-59
  2. The Visual Experience of Cal Poly Land, 194-199
  3. Journal entries, 204-207
  4. Hike maps, 223-229
  5. Architectural Study area, 198-9

Online readings

  1. Doris Haddock, from Granny D
  2. John Muir, from The Mountains of California
  3. Henry David Thoreau, from "Walking"
  4. Katharine Peterson, Losing the Trail
  5. Gabe Felipe, The Excursion

Descriptive Writing

  1. Methods (Infowrite)
  2. Methods (OWL)
Receive essay #1 from instructor
6:00 A.M.

Narrative Description

Discussion of essay #2 and last class readings

    Email essay #2 to instructor
Submit hard copy in class



Biology of Cal Poly Land

Student nature writing


Cal Poly Land: A Field Guide

  1. Vegetation 61-102
  2. Wildlife 103-129

Student writing

  1. Journals--Ecolit
  2. Cal Poly Land 1
  3. Cal Poly Land 2

Quiz #1 Field Guide Readings

Email revised essay #1 to instructor
Submit hard copy in class




Field Trip #2: From Cerro Vista to Indonesian Reservoir: The Working Landscape

  • Feed Mill and Abattoir
    Blacksmith Crossing--fish ladder
  • Bull Test/Student Housing North
  • Drumm Reservoir
  • Indonesian Reservoir and Mortars
  • Equine Unit
  • Horticulture Unit and Arboretum

Meet at Poly Canyon gate 8:10 AM

Essay #3: A Working Landscape
(Description and Exposition)


"Designs in the Land: Meandering Through the Nature/Culture Divide" Cal Poly Land: A Field Guide, 200-203

Expository Modes

  1. Definition (Infowrite)
  2. Comparison and Contrast (Infowrite)
  3. Process Analysis (Infowrite)
  4. Division and Classification (Infowrite)
  5. Cause and Effect (Infowrite)


Receive essay #2 from instructor



The Working Landscape: Human Uses and Impacts

Primary research techniques


Cal Poly Land: A Field Guide

  1. Archaeology and History 131-151
  2. Agriculture 153-172
  3. Techology 174-189

Quiz #2 Field Guide Readings

Email revised essay #2 to instructor
6:00 AM
Submit hard copy in class

Receive revised essay #1 from instructor



Stewardship and sustainability at Cal Poly

Reading critically


Cal Poly Land: A Field Guide

  1. Stewardship 242-256

Cal Poly Land site:

  1. Stewardship

Other sources

  1. The Talloires Declaration
  2. Remarks by President Warren Baker
  3. Amory Lovins: Natural Capitalism Chapter 1[in 4 parts]



Critical analysis assignment

Discussion of paper #3


Essay #4 Land Stewardship and Sustainability
(Critical Analysis)


Email essay #3 to instructor
6:00 A.M.
Submit hard copy in class

Receive revised essay #2 from instructor




Critical Reading (InfoWrite)

Analyzing Argument:The Toulmin Method (Colorado State)

Quiz #3 Argumentative Essay Readings





Arguments to analyze

David Orr's presentations at Cal Poly

Receive essay #3 from instructor


    Cal Poly presentations on Sustainability
Dean Tom Jones, et. al.



Field Trip #3--The Dairy Unit and the Experimental Farm

Meet at the Dairy Unit 8:10 A.M.


Essay #5 Contested Territory
(Persuasive Argument)


Email essay #4 to instructor
6:00 A.M.
Submit hard copy in class


Persuasive and Argumentative Essays

Discuss essay #4

Finding topics for essay#5 and reading a sample

  1. "Priesthoods and Power," Steven Marx
  2. "From Green to Brown," Michael Silverman (28-31)
  3. "Resurrection of Sweet Spontaneity," Alison Halla (14-18)



Reviewing revised Essay #3

Revising essay #4

Working on Essay #5


  Writing persuasive arguments (InfoWrite)

Email revised essay #3
6:00 A.M.
Submit hard copy in class

Receive Essay #4 from instructor



Individual conferences



Reviewing revised essay #4



Email revised essay #4
6:00 A.M.
Submit hard copy in class

Receive revised essay #3 from instructor



Indvidual conferences



Revising Essay #5    

Email essay #5
6:00 A.M
Submit hard copy in class


11/24 holiday




Reviewing Essay #5


    Receive essay #5 from instructor


  12/3 Conferences     Email revised essay #5
6:00 P.M.

Monday 12/6 8:00-9:40 AM

Meet at Instructor's home--265 Albert Drive--for coffee and rolls.




Assignments and grades

Averaged reading quiz score 10%

Essay #1 750-1000 words 10%--Exposition
Essay #2 750-1000 words 15%--Narrative description
Essay #3 1000 words 20%--Descriptive exposition
Essay #4 1000 words 20%--Critical analysis
Essay #5 1500 words 25%--Argumentative personal essay

Grade on rewrite is averaged with grade on first draft.

Interpretation of letter grades by Professor Katharine Rummell


Cal Poly Land: A Field Guide--available at El Corral Bookstore

Online resources

  1. OED--The Oxford English Dictionary (Find any word)
  2. Ecolit Journal 2001, 2003, 2004
  3. Sustainability and the Future of the Polytechnic University
  4. Education for Sustainability


Late papers are penalized one full grade for each class session's delay unless a postponement is granted by the instructor in advance.

Three unexcused absences lower the grade by one half letter; seven unexcused absences result in no credit. Three unexcused latenesses count for one absence. Absences can be excused with written medical or other certification.

Plagiarism or other forms of cheating result in a failing grade and referral to the dean. Students are responsible for understanding the definition of plagiarism, which is provided here.

Behavior to avoid: arriving late or leaving early; having cell phones going off; packing up disruptively before the class is dismissed; eating in class; sleeping in class; reading newspapers; chatting with neighbors.

The picture at the top of this page was taken by Professor Sky Bergman, Dept. of Art and Design. It was downloaded from the Cal Poly Land website