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Blogging Assignment

Blogs: prototype and epitome

I view the blog as a place for you to continue the kind of deliberate association of your journal writing (Thoreau: thought begets thought) but also to begin to frame some of that thought toward a potential focus. Thoreau used his journal to develop lectures and eventually to develop (and revise) Walden. So the blog postings are a middle ground on the way toward your own essay projects–where you are taking the next step, beyond the initial and more private response of your journal, starting to think about communicating to an audience and speaking “somewhere without bounds.” Think of the blog as the “spring” for the thought and writing that begins in “winter.” In “Spring” Thoreau uses the words prototype and epitome to describe the re/emergence of nature’s “living history.” Think of your blog as a prototype for what you might well want to continue writing about in an essay–though with more freedom to write without concern for revision or editing. Also in “Spring,” Thoreau famously describes nature’s emergence from winter (the sand foliage passage) as excrementitious. A blog can be a good place to get the excrement out. It is a place to do deliberate sauntering.

You will see on the assignment schedule various times in the course of the semester when your assignment will include (generally on a Friday) a blog posting; as with reading assignments, this is due by class time on the day assigned. This post should be a 1-2 page response (minimum 250-500 words) to the reading from that week. Though you should begin with some summary and notes from the reading (report briefly what you have seen and heard), you should focus on using the blog to identify key ideas and passages (quoted) that strike you as particularly important, engaging, troubling, and otherwise remarkable–give your attention digging further downward and outward into what you are noticing and wondering. Start to delve into one or two of these moments from the reading and see where your thought goes. Raise questions, speculate upon some answers, experiment with ideas, and risk getting into something that might lead to a dead end but could also be the basis for strong participation in a class discussion and even the beginnings of an essay topic. Blogs, as you know, are also about the writer, as a reader, responding to other writers and incorporating this into her blogging. The same should hold for your blog: take a look at what others are blogging or what we have discussed in class and work this into your blog. You might even link out to a website or blog from the ‘real’ world that deals with an issue or idea related to your thinking.

Though the format for the post is up to you, here is a suggested model or heuristic for organizing your response to the reading.

[1]Initial Reading: about 1 paragraph of focused summary/paraphrase–an overview of key points you have been reading, perhaps a thesis statement (if there is one) or the philosophy or gist of the piece, some quotations and key words that get your attention. In the case of more than one work or chapter, you could identify how the works/chapters compare or contrast in terms of key points. Unless I tell you otherwise, you need to identify in your summary each work assigned that week.

[2]Closer Reading/Observation: 2-3 paragraphs of reflection/analysis/interpretation–take one or two of the key points or passages or keywords that you noticed (perhaps a quotation from your first section) and spend more time with it, dig in, probe it, try to understand it better, raise questions, suggest answers. In addition to digging into the text, this is also a place where you might start to link out (as a good digital text will do): connect to other readings we have encountered, or that you know from outside the course, further insight that is available elsewhere, other discussions or disciplines. For effective close reading, this section should include direct quotation from texts under discussion.

[3]Further Reading: about 1/2 page. Where might you (and we as a class) go from here? This include a listing of some questions that remain, that you would like to ask the author, need  or would like to raise in class discussion (be prepared, I will often ask you what questions you have from the reading, will assume that you have them, things you do and don’t understand), might want to raise for one of your essays. Think of this as the field or system view: what else is out there? What don’t you know? If you were to do more with these ideas, or spend more time with this writer or this text for a writing project, or a final project, or your first book, what do you imagine doing with it?

Assessment

There will be no “wrong answer” to a blog–only stronger and weaker ones; a stronger blog will be thoughtful and creative in the response to the reading it demonstrates, a weaker blog will show that the reader has done the assignment but not given the response as much time and thought as necessary–has not blogged as deliberately as the books were written.

I will use the following point scale in my evaluation of your assigned blogs–to provide you a guideline for how you are doing:

9-10: very strong/excellent—post is 500 words+ and explores 2 or more ideas/issues from reading thoughtfully and in depth, strong in not just synthesizing but forwarding the discussion, attending to key passages and keywords; blogger has stuff worthy of an essay and could lead class discussion–Thoreau is listening closely.

8: strong—a solid post (250-300 words minimum), strong in hearing the reading, 1 or more ideas with some depth and some room for more expansion and additional noticing; blogger has basis for solid participation in class discussion–Thoreau is interested, but wants to hear more.

7: average—post is barely a page (200-250 words) and sufficiently responds to reading, but with a need for more attention to depth in its response; sufficient for class participation but limited in the reader’s elaboration of what s/he noticed and wondered–Thoreau suggests more deliberate reading.

6: weak/insufficient—post is less than a page and weakly or insufficiently responds to reading with any depth; insufficient for class participation; blogger should plan to conference with me about ways to improve–Thoreau not happy.

0-5: failing—blog is posted late or not at all or otherwise incomplete–Thoreau wondering what happened.

To set up your blog: go to wordpress.com. Once you have your blog address, go to Student Blogs (under categories) and leave a comment with your name and the address copied in.

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