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ENGL-103 - Critical Reading, Writing, and Thinking - Kirk Sever

Course:Critical Reading, Writing, and Thinking
Professor:Kirk Sever
  • Hybrid
Course Length:
  • 16 Week


Photo of instructor, Kirk Sever

Welcome to English 103! It's great to have you in class. My name is Kirk, and I've been teaching at College of the Canyons since 2017. I also teach at a couple nearby schools (Los Angeles Mission College and CSUN). Besides teaching, I like to write novels and book reviews and music reviews, and I also surf whenever the waves are good.

I'm going to try to make this class as enjoyable as possible, which means I'll be upbeat and positive for the entire semester, and I hope you try to do the same. Let's work together to make this class into an awesome and positive community!

Course Description

English 103 examines the principles of critical thinking as applied to writing and reading arguments on complex issues. Focuses on close textual analysis, argumentative writing, and logical reasoning.

What to Expect in this Course

Our course is a hybrid, meaning we will have in-person and online components. You’ll be seeing me on campus, and also doing a good deal of work virtually, on our Canvas platform. You will be required to do a specific amount of work each week, and it’s important for you to be diligent about due dates and attendance. I’ll provide more info about the differences between our in-person and online modes on our syllabus and during our first class meeting.

You’re probably curious about the writing component of this course. You’ll be researching, drafting, and writing four essays that will be between 4-7 pages each (depending on the assignment).

To give you an idea what each week will look like, you’ll likely be doing the following: Reading a good amount, annotating the reading, responding to a discussion prompt, discussing challenges issues in our in-person class, and writing and drafting essays. You should expect to spend about six hours a week (including our meeting) working on our course material in order to pass the class.

Regarding our online component, please note: attending an online class takes a great deal more dedication, self-discipline, and tenacity than in-person classes. You will have to start the semester MOTIVATED, and you must keep that motivation throughout the 16 weeks we are working together. I believe you can do it, and if you ever need any help or support, I will do everything I can to help you succeed!

Types of Assessments

You'll be reading and annotating our textbook (more on that below), plus a number of essays and writings that will be provided to you on Canvas.

There will be a few reading quizzes and timed writing components.

Here's what you can expect in terms of essay writing. You will write four multi-paragraph essays, totaling about 4000 words:

  1. Rhetorical Analysis Essay: Write a 3-4 (900 words minimum) formal academic paper in MLA format with a Works Cited page. For this essay you will choose something in your life that is related to the idea of consumption (as defined in our book) or consumerism. Examine how the object, item, or thing you chose relates to your identity.
  2. Evaluation Analysis Essay: Write a 3-4 page (900 words minimum) formal academic paper in MLA format with a Works Cited page. You will choose an advertisement (print, video, or audio) and use it to further analyze one of the claims in an essay of your choice in Chapter 2.
  3. Persuasive Essay: Write a 4-5 page (1200 words minimum) formal academic paper in MLA format with a Works Cited page. Persuade your reader that a movie or television show is making an implicit argument.
  4. Dialectic Essay: Write a 6-7 page (1800 words minimum) formal academic paper in MLA format with a Works Cited page. Choose a specific topic that is at the intersection of social media and identity that is both interesting to you and is problematic or conflict-oriented in some way. Adopting an objective stance, explore both sides of the issue, including potential problems and solutions, and show insight by revealing complications associated with both sides of your topic.

Essays will be graded as follows: 20% Grammar, 20% MLA format and citations, 20% Clarity / Detail / Specificity, 20% Organization / Structure, and 20 % Development.

Additionally, each essay must be submitted with the following components: outline, first draft, revision notes, and final draft.


Textbook Information / Link to ZTC Textbook

I'm requiring the following textbook:

  • Signs of Life in the USA (10th Edition), by Sonia Maasik and Jack Solomon.
  • ISBN-13: 978-1319213664
  • ISBN-10: 1319213669

Buy your book or order it online right away, as we will be using it throughout the semester. Even thought I'm requiring the 10th Edition, if you find an affordable 8th or 9th edition, those might work too (you’ll just have to find a way to access any material that isn’t in the older editions).

You'll also be assigned an assortment of readings, which I will provide links for on Canvas. You will have to print out many, but not all of these readings, so please make sure you have access to a printer.

Other Relevant Course Information

For the first week, do the following:

  1. Check out our Canvas Page and participate in the Welcome Module and the Week 1 Module by SUNDAY.
  2. Come to class on the first day! If you miss the first day you will be dropped from the class.

The first week is our chance to get to know each other and to have a positive start to the semester. I will be paying close attention to your work over the first few weeks in order to diagnose your writing. This diagnosis helps me personalize my teaching, plus it gives me the opportunity to point you in the direction of workshops or supplementary classes that might be useful for you!

Additional Resources


This course can be accessed on the first day of class via Canvas at Log into Canvas using your CanyonsID single sign-on:

  • CanyonsID Username is your COC student email address (Ex:
  • CanyonsID Password is your COC student email password

Please visit the Get to Know Your Online Classroom page for help logging into Canvas and for tips on using Canvas and Zoom. Canvas Chat Support is also available 24/7 for any Canvas related issues.

Online Education

Check out the Online Education website for more information on a variety of topics that can help you be a successful online student such as: exam proctoring, learning styles, computer skills, and tips for student success. If this is your first online course, feel free to take our online learning readiness assessment to assess your skills.

The Learning Center (TLC)

The TLC provides FREE online tutoring resources to COC students!

Academic Accommodation Center (AAC)

College of the Canyons AAC provides educational services and access for eligible students with documented disabilities who intend to pursue coursework at COC. A variety of programs and services are available which afford eligible students with disabilities the opportunity to participate fully in all aspects of the college programs and activities through appropriate and reasonable accommodations. For more information on their services visit the Academic Accomodation Center website.

Online Counseling

The Counseling Department offers appointments online. You can schedule an appointment by visiting the Online Counseling website. Counselors can help you map out a plan to reach your educational goals as well as advise you on course selection and registration.

Management of Stress and Mental Health

College of the Canyons cares about your emotional and physical health. Learn more about the broad range of confidential student services, including free counseling and mental health services available during this time by visiting the Student Health & Wellness Center website or by calling them at: 661-362-3259.

The National Suicide Lifeline number is 1-800-273- 8255 (TALK). Please call it if you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide or is in severe distress - it could save someone's life.

You can also use the Crisis Text Line: Just text "Courage" to 741741. It's free, available 24/7, and confidential.

Veterans Resource Center

The College of the Canyons Veterans Resource Center is a department within the Student Services Division at the college, created to help veterans and veteran dependents with applying to College of the Canyons, enrolling in classes, and requesting VA Education or Vocational Benefits. For more information please visit the Veterans Resource Center website, email or phone (661) 362-3469.


The Library provides live online and in-person research help, access to a full range of e-resources and physical materials that support the curriculum, individual and group study areas, and much more!

Last updated: 01/21/2022 Sub#: 1239