Reading and Writing Exercises

My central learning goal for this course is to help you become better readers, writers, and critical thinkers.  Frequent, public written reflections on course themes are key to his endeavor.  As Historian Lynn Hunt emphasizes, “writing crystallizes previously half-formulated or unformulated thoughts, gives them form, and extends chains of thoughts in new directions.”

Blog Posts

Throughout the semester, you will make frequent contributions to our class Voices blog.  For some days, you’ll reflect on the upcoming class session’s set of assigned readings, or critique news stories related to our course themes.  On other days, your posts serve as a site for your writing and research exercises.  In recognition of the work required for writing two to three short entries each week, your blog will take the place of one of the required FYS formal writing assignments.

Your blog post are an opportunity to demonstrate your understanding of the course readings, gather your thoughts before our meetings, and improve your writing skills.  I am most concerned with the amount of thought behind your response, your use of concrete examples from class and our readings to support your points, and your ability to communicate effectively.  This is also an opportunity to engage with your peers outside of the classroom by leaving comments on their posts.

On most days I will ask you to respond to a specific question about the readings, and on others you will have more latitude to write a more personal response.  Blog posts are time sensitive, so all responses must be posted before midnight on the day before our class session to give your peers time to read, reflect, and engage with your ideas.  I will highlight the blog post prompts in blue to draw your attention.

Guidelines for the reading response blogs: Compose a thoughtful (about three paragraphs) entry in your reading response blog and post it by midnight the day before our next class session.  On the course schedule I will provide a question for you to reflect on as you read for the next class. Your blog post should respond to that question (one or two paragraphs) and raise another point that interests you (another paragraph). The style of these blog posts may be less formal than the style you would use in an academic paper, but you must keep your remarks focused and make several specific references to material from the readings. This means quoting or paraphrasing the text (no long quotes) and citing your source using in-text annotation. You must make some use of each of the day’s readings in your reading response, though you may focus most of your energies on one text.  You should take advantage of the digital format by incorporating outside images, links, or video clips that relate to your argument. Remember to demonstrate good digital citizenship and social media literacy.

For more tips on writing a good blog post, see here.

I will evaluate your blog posts frequently throughout the course of the semester.  Your grade will reflect the quality as well as the frequency and timeliness of your postings on your own blog and the comments you leave for others.  Late posts, or those made after the class session, are less relevant for shaping our discussions, and will receive less credit.  I will give you feedback on your posts to let you know if your posts are sufficient evidence of your skills in analysis, synthesis, argument, and use of digital media.

Blog Comments

Blogs provide a forum for you to engage in conversations outside of class, but this aspect is only useful when your classmates read attentively and make constructive comments.  Commenting on other students’ posts is part of your class participation.  You can respond to their posts, analyze related themes, or link to outside materials (with an explanation of the connection you’re making, of course).  For shy students, this is a great opportunity to show engagement with larger class themes.  For some additional tips on writing effective blog comments, read this.