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 20: MW 8:10-10:00 AM Bldg. 53-202
Instructor: Steven Marx
phone: 756-2411
Office: 47-25E (Faculty Office Building)
Office hours: MWF 2:50-4:00 and by appointment
English 134-05 Class Web Journal

Winter 2005 Schedule



topics and activities work assigned reading due in class 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
  • 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



Discussion of Essay #1 and principles of revision

134 Style Manual--A Work in Progress


Receive essay #1 from instructor
6:00 A.M.



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

This is a moderately strenuous hike over steep, rough and slippery ground. Wear strong closed shoes and long pants. Be prepared for mud. Bring water, a snack, 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

Descriptive Writing

  1. Methods (Infowrite)
  2. Methods (OWL)
Email revised essay #1 to instructor
Submit hard copy in class.




      Email essay #2 to instructor


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




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
  • 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
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. Moebius


Critical analysis assignment

Discussion of paper #3


Essay #4 Land Stewardship and Sustainability
(Critical Analysis)


Email essay #3 to instructor 6:00 A.M.
Receive revised essay #2 from instructor




Critical Reading (InfoWrite)

Analyzing Argument:The Toulmin Method (Colorado State)

Quiz #3 Argumentative Essay Readings

Receive essay #3 from instructor



Arguments to analyze

Ballot Arguments and other documents relating to the upcoming election on the Dalidio Marketplace project




Persuasive and Argumentative Essays

Discuss essay #4

Finding topics for essay#5 and reading a sample

Essay #5 Contested Territory
(Persuasive Argument)

  Email revised essay #3 6:00 A.M.


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

Meet at the Dairy Unit 8:10 A.M.
Take Highland Drive toward Highway 1. After the train underpass, take a right on Mt. Bishop road and follow it past the veterinary building to the Boone Dairy center on the right.

  1. "Priesthoods and Power," Steven Marx




      Email essay #4 to instructor

Receive revised essay #3 from instructor


Reviewing revised Essay #3

Revising essay #4

Working on Essay #5


  Writing persuasive arguments (InfoWrite)




Revising essay #4

conference schedule

    Receive Essay #4 from instructor



email essay #5
6:00 A.M



conferences     email revised essay #4 6:00 A.M.


revising essay #5     receive essay #5


Exam Week

Monday 8:10 a.m.

Meet at Instructor's home--265 Albert Drive--for coffee and rolls.     email revised #5 6:00 A.M.

Assignments and grades

Averaged reading and grammar quiz scores 15%

Essay #1 750-1000 words 10%--Exposition
Essay #2 750-1000 words 15%--Narrative description
Essay #3 1000 words 15%--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