Comprehensive Writing Center Logo and hyperlinks




First Year
Writing Portfolio

Staff Spelman College

The Due date for the Writing Portfolio is April 16, 2015. 

Please upload, copy and paste, or type in your response to each of the four sections below and then go to the "Submission Page for Writing Portfolio" to submit your portfolio to the assessment jury.

Here are the detailed instructions:

First-Year Writing Portfolio Guidelines 2015-2016

A Part of the SpEl.Folio Project at Spelman College

This document provides guidelines for completing your First-Year Writing Portfolio. If you have questions after reading the guidelines, please visit the Writing Center (3rd floor Cosby) to obtain schedules for workshops you can attend to help strengthen your portfolio; information on obtaining one-on-one tutoring; and models of successful First-Year Writing Portfolios.

What is a Portfolio? What Is It For?

A portfolio is a compilation of work that has been put together for a specific purpose, and generally includes reflection on the whole. The First-Year Writing Portfolio at Spelman College has four primary purposes:

  1. Demonstrate your achievements as a writer and critical thinker during your first year at Spelman.
  2. Enable assessment of your work as a writer and critical thinker. This includes your own self- assessment as well as assessment by a faculty jury.
  3. Evaluate your level of preparedness to continue in more advanced writing and critical-thinking projects as you continue your education.
  4. Determine what additional support you may need as a writer and critical thinker.

Strong portfolios are built through a process of collection, selection, and reflection. In other words, the portfolio is more than just a showcase of your work; it is a location in which you make judgments about how best to present yourself as an academic writer, and in which you provide reflections that help you and your readers better understand how the portfolio was developed.

What Is the First-Year Writing Portfolio?

Spelman College supports the First-Year Writing Portfolio—along with other elements of the First Year Experience SpEl.Folio—with the ePortfolio program in Chalk and Wire. The advantages to completing an electronic portfolio are many: it is portable and flexible; it builds upon skills learned in first-year core classes including CIS 100, English 103, and ADW 111-112; it enables a high level of creativity in presenting your work; it builds and showcases skills which are attractive to employers and graduate schools; and, most important, it encourages you to show the connections between the many different skills you learn in your first year at Spelman.

Your participation in the FYE 102-First-Year Experience will include submission of this First Year Writing Portfolio by April 16, 2015. As you will see below, the portfolio involves much of your writing experience during the 2014-2015 term. In addition to this portfolio that will be assessed by faculty and professionals invited as the jury in the writing center, you will complete other SpEl.Folio writing projects during the year, as they appear on your FYE 102 syllabus. Below are the directions for the First Year Writing Portfolio to be submitted to ePortfolio at the end of the school year. If you have questions about this process, please contact Ms. Bonita Tidwell ( and ask to be put in touch with the director.

What Are the Goals for Your Learning?

 A student who successfully completes the First Year Writing Portfolio demonstrates the ability to:

  1. Conceive and develop a clear and focused central argument.
  2. Use relevant and reliable sources in support of an argument, with appropriately integrated evidence and documentation. Evidence may be drawn from experience, research of the literature (both print and multimedia), and/or empirical investigation.
  3. Analyze and synthesize evidence.
  4. Develop a clear sense of the rhetorical choices available for varied audiences and purposes, including voice, tone, diction, structure, and format.
  5. Develop a clear sense of the composing processes required for various genres, including but not limited to academic research papers, multi-media compositions, and oral presentations.
  6. Conduct accurate analytical and synthetic reflection on composing content and on the student’s development over time.

What is the Administrative Process for the First-Year Writing Portfolio?

The First-Year Writing Portfolio is a collaborative project from the Comprehensive Writing Program (CWP), the African Diaspora and the World Program (ADW), the English Department, and the Office of Undergraduate Studies. In cooperation with FYE 101-102, the CWP distributes the assignment, schedules support workshops, offers individual peer tutorials, and facilitates the evaluation process. ADW and the English Department assign writing projects suitable to the Writing Portfolio’s content. Your submission of your portfolio is among the requirements for passing FYE 102. In your second year, you will receive the results of the portfolio reading and either pass, or resubmit for a second reading (in January). Those who do not pass the resubmitted portfolio will be enrolled in a two-credit English course, English 150.


How Is the First-Year Writing Portfolio Evaluated?

The CWP assembles a jury of readers from across various departments at Spelman, as well as expert readers from other schools. Each portfolio is read by at least two jury members and is assigned an evaluation of “Pass” or “Resubmit.” If the two jury members’ evaluations are in agreement, the evaluation stands. If the two jury members’ evaluations are different, a consensus decision will be reached or, in some cases, a third reader will determine the outcome.  A copy of the assessment rubric is available in ePortfolio.

You will receive detailed feedback on your writing portfolio through the scoring record on ePortfolio. Remember that feedback comments on the essays as a whole, as well as on the cover letter reflection in distinctive categories. A few outstanding SpEl.Folios may be assessed as “Exemplary.”

When Is the First-Year Writing Portfolio Due? What Happens After That?

Portfolios are due Thursday, April 14, 2016 by 5 p.m.

Portfolios are assessed in June 2016.

Individual results will be posted in ePortfolio over the summer of 2016.


How Do I Turn In My First-Year Writing Portfolio?

First-Year Writing Portfolios will be submitted through your account in ePortfolio2. Early submission is desirable and welcome. You have most of the academic year in which to decide upon appropriate essays, consult your advisor, facilitator, or instructor about them, and revise and edit them. Section D, your response to an argumentative essay question, is featured below. You may respond to it during a break or a weekend, and have it ready.

The penalty for non-submission or late submission will be failure of FYE 101- 102. Thus, if you do not meet the guidelines, your Writing Portfolio will be evaluated with the next year’s resubmits, in Spring 2017.

What Does “Resubmit” Mean?

 An assessment of “Resubmit” means that the writing in this First-Year Writing Portfolio indicates that the author will need additional support in one or more area(s) in order to be prepared for her upper-level writing and critical-thinking work. Each student whose Writing Portfolio receives an assessment of “Resubmit” also receives information designed especially for her, specifying workshops to attend and at least one visit to a Writing Center tutor.

Common reasons for Writing Portfolios to be evaluated “Resubmit” have included the following: insufficient citation (in-text and/or on the “Works Cited”/ “References” page); lack of central argument or thesis; lack of demonstrated ability to use references in service of the author’s own argument (rather than simply “pasting in” quotations or paraphrases); lack of correct grammar and mechanics; and failure to include one or more required written pieces.

For portfolios initially submitted in April 2016, resubmits will be due January 31, 2017.


What Should Be Included in My First-Year Writing Portfolio?


Your Writing Portfolio will contain four essays, as well as the items specified in the checklist below. Here’s a summary of the four essays to include:

  •         Section A: A letter of critical reflection, addressed to the assessment jury, that discusses the contents of your portfolio. This letter must follow the guidelines on page 5. It must be at least 800 words.


  •         Section B: An academic essay written during your time at Spelman that makes a clear, debatable argument. This essay may or may not include research; however you must acknowledge any use of sources with documentation. It must be 1,000 words or more.


  •         Section C: An academic essay written during your time at Spelman that makes a clear, debatable argument. This essay must include evidence and documentation from at least two sources. It must be 1,000 words or more.


  •         Section D: An academic essay that makes a clear, debatable argument that frames the essay’s purpose. This essay must be written in response to the prompt given. It must be 800 to 1,000 words.






The Writing Portfolio is located in the First Year Experience TOC (Table of

Contents). Be sure of your location within the FYE portfolio.


Each item in the portfolio was written while you were a student at Spelman. Work completed during high school, or at other schools, is not acceptable. See the Writing Program Director if you are unsure how to determine the eligibility of your essays.


Professors’ names or comments do not appear on any items in the portfolio.


For Sections B and C, the exact text of the professor’s assignment accompanies each essay. Preferably, the text of the assignment is pasted at the beginning of the essay.


Section A letter, with the link clearly named “Section A.”



Section B essay, with the link clearly named “Section B.”



Section C essay, with the link clearly named “Section C.”



Section D essay, with the link clearly named “Section D.”



Section A Guidelines

The first section of your Writing Portfolio is a letter introducing yourself to the assessment committee and offering a critical self-assessment of your work as a writer during your first year at Spelman College. A portfolio is more than the sum of its parts; its real value lies in its ability to demonstrate the meaningful connections between its parts. Your reflective letter is your opportunity to articulate and deepen your readers’, and your own, awareness of those connections.

Audience and tone. Address your letter to the assessment committee. The tone of your letter should be moderately formal. In other words, assume that you are addressing faculty, but don’t feel you have to take a highly formal or distant tone. Write in the first-person singular (“I”). Be as candid and specific as possible.

Structure. The structure of your letter should be clear and simple. This is not an academic essay, so you don’t need a thesis. If you wish, you may answer each of the questions in order. Please note the evaluation descriptors for this reflection letter in the rubric.

Content. It’s fine to address topics not included in the following questions. However, do be sure that your letter, at a minimum, provides a full and detailed response to each of the following questions.

  •        During your first year at Spelman, what writing skills have you acquired that you will carry forward into future classes? Explain exactly how you acquired each skill you mention. 
  •        Why did you choose the two essays in Sections B and C? What do they demonstrate about you as a writer that you would like the assessment committee to notice? Be specific about what you accomplished in each of these essays. 
  •        Why did you choose the prompt you did for the essay in Section D? What was it like to compose an academic essay without the usual structures and guidance provided in a class? What skills did you apply from previous writing classes? What did you learn about yourself as a writer from working on this essay? 
  •        Which of the four pieces in your portfolio most engaged you as a writer? Why? 
  •        During your first year at Spelman, what writing skills have you realized you need more work on? How will you get the ongoing support you need? Explain exactly how you plan to improve each skill you mention.
  •        How is writing and/or critical thinking relevant to you as a student moving into your major? How might one or both these abilities be relevant to you after you graduate?


Section D Guidelines

Choose one of the following questions and compose an argument in response. Write to a specific readership; an audience will be specified for each question.

Work created for Section D will be held to the same criteria for academic writing as the essays in Sections B and C. (See evaluation rubric for details.)

Composing this piece will allow you to show your ability to produce persuasive writing outside a class environment and connect your subject to a visual artifact. You are encouraged to draw upon appropriate resources available to you as a scholar. For example, in preparing Section D, you may choose to conduct research and include outside source material; to use your own relevant personal experience as evidence; to interview appropriate people in your community—and also to consult with a Writing Center tutor; to attend workshops that will strengthen your skills in particular areas—or to do all of the above.

Question 1. 

The effect of Internet use on our attention spans and ways of reading has been extensively studied—and sometimes hotly debated. In The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, Nicholas Carr takes a fairly pessimistic view of Internet reading, saying, “The news [about Internet use] is even more disturbing than I had suspected. Dozens of studies by psychologists, neurobiologists, educators, and Web designers point to the same conclusion: when we go online, we enter an environment that promotes cursory reading, hurried and distracted thinking, and superficial learning” (115-116).

By contrast, other researchers, including Andrea Lunsford, argue that the ways we read and write on the Internet are not necessarily worse, but simply different, and can be used at appropriate times with appropriate attention to audience and purpose. With her colleagues, Lunsford conducted a longitudinal study of writing at Stanford University. One of their findings over the past 15 years has been that when students read and compose in a variety of media, they “develop a range or repertoire of writing styles, tones, and formats along with a range of abilities” (Lunsford).

Here’s your task: Compose a letter, addressed to instructors of reading- and writing-intensive Spelman courses (for example, ADW or Free-thinking Women’s Seminars). Your letter should make a proposal for the best way to teach reading/writing in our courses, given that we now live in a digital age. For example, what sorts of readings should instructors assign; how should they ensure students are engaging with the reading; how should they assess students’ work as readers; what sorts of specific skills or techniques (if any) should they teach? If you wish, you may draw upon the full readings from Lunsford and Carr (provided on ePortfolio2) to strengthen your knowledge base and enable more thoughtful analysis.

Ensure that your letter has a purposeful structure, makes a clear argument, and draws upon specific and compelling evidence. 800-1,000 words.

Question 2. 

At least since the “Twitter Revolution” in Moldova in 2009, Internet activism has been the subject of widespread debate (and is also called “clicktivism,” “hashtag activism,” and even “slacktivism”). Some of the events arising from Internet-based forms of activism, such as #blacklivesmatter, have been intertwined with in-person actions and observable social change (Berlatsky). Others, such as #overlyhonestmethods, are arguably just for fun. The line between “activism” and “just for fun” is not easily drawn, especially in fast-moving and crowd-based media such as Twitter. Moreover, the question of whether or not Internet activism leads to sustainable social change is debatable (Gladwell).

Here’s your task: Compose an editorial that could run in an online publication such as the Huffington Post or Slate. This editorial should make an argument about the hashtag #growingupblack. Is this hashtag a form of activism? Why or why not? If it is activism, how does it achieve that—in other words, what makes it recognizable as activism? If #growingupblack is not activism, what other purpose(s) might it serve, and for what audiences? Draw upon specific examples from #growingupblack (either memes or Tweets) to support your argument.


Each Tweet or meme included in your editorial must be adequately cited. You may choose to copy and paste the image of the Tweet or meme into your paper, or you may choose to fully describe each Tweet or meme you analyze. In either case, correct citation of each one is required.

Ensure that your editorial has a purposeful structure, makes a clear argument, and draws upon specific and compelling evidence. 800-1,000 words.


Please read these articles for this assignment:

"The Juggler's Brain" by Nicholas Carr and "Our Semi-Literate Youth? Not so Fast" by Andrea Lunsford.

Works Cited


Berlatsky, Noah. “Hashtag Activism Isn’t a Cop-out.” The Atlantic. 7 Jan. 2015. Web. 21 Mar. 2015.


Carr, Nicholas. The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains. New York: W.W. Norton, 2011. Print.


Gladwell, Malcolm. “Small Change: Why the Revolution Will Not Be Tweeted.” New Yorker. 4 Oct. 2010. 42-49. Print.


Lunsford, Andrea. “Our Semi-literate Youth? Not So Fast.” Stanford Study of Writing, n.d. Web. 25 Sept. 2015.