Freshman Comp Essay Topics

Pimp my freshman composition class: what essays would you put on the syllabus?

The fall semester is rolling around again. Our college uses one of those custom published text books, for our first-semester freshman composition class. I've never been very happy with the selections (and the lack of support material). There are a few favorites which will surely make the list, but I'm interested in your opinions about other essays, classic and contemporary. The emphasis of the class is essay writing and using secondary sources. The reading focus is non-fiction. These are junior college kids, if that matters to you.

Here are some things I've used in the past and will probably use again: MLK, Jr.'s "Letter from Birmingham Jail," Orwell's "Shooting an Elephant," Lars Eighner's "On Dumpster Diving," Joan Didion's "On Morality," and Olaudah Equiano's "Interesting Narrative."

Pieces dealing with political/ethical quandaries are okay, but I don't want to turn it into a political science class. I also would like to convey that political/ethical opinions come in lots of flavors--not just the polarized versions presented on the cable new shows.

posted by wheat to Writing & Language (30 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite


Your first resource for developing writing topics can be our department's custom textbook,Craft & Composition: A Guide to First Year Writing at Armstrong  See the sample student essays in that text for potential prompts and models.  They can provide the starting point for any number of successful writing assignments in a range of modes that demonstrate a variety of writing and research skills.


Margaret Brockland-Nease


Beth Howells

Each of the five projects from two different ENGL 1101 classes focused on the theme of culture and scaffolded students through writing arguments employing narrative details, field research, and then academic research as support.


Nancy Remler

The following assignments were part of a section of ENGL 1101 that was tied to a section of First Class, Armstrong’s first-year learning community focusing on information literacy. Each essay assignment focused on a theme and required students to use a different type of analysis or information literacy skill.


ENGL 1101 Best Practices Teaching Conversation

The links below are texts and TED talks our instructors have recommended for building ENGL 1101 assignment topics:

TED Talks:


Useful Links to Sample Assignments on the Web

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