Blogging: A Conversation
We are working throughout this course on learning and developing our academic conversational skills. In the academy, “conversation” doesn’t mean merely talking. It also doesn’t mean talking nicely. Conversation, rather, names the sort of listening and responding that is basic to argument and to critical thinking and writing. Our primary conversation is with texts–the words and thoughts of the writers and scholars and critics who come before us; the work we plan to review, forward, counter (to use the terms of Joseph Harris) in developing our own. Our secondary conversation is in bringing those texts, and our written response to them, into our class discussion. The blog is a medium, a middle ground, for doing so: taking your reading, beginning to converse with it in writing, on the way toward more engaged class discussion and participation, ultimately toward a stronger writing project.
To set up your free blog account, go to WordPress.
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 Post submitted to your WordPress site. This post should be about a 2 page response (minimum 300-500 words) to the reading from that week. Though you should begin with some summary and notes from the reading (in the words of our Rewriting text, coming to terms with the reading, briefly reviewing what you have heard), you should focus on using the Blog post to identify key ideas and passages (quoted) that strike you as particularly important, engaging, troubling, and otherwise remarkable–give your attention to forwarding and countering the text. 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 blog post is up to you, here is one model for those in need of some basic structure. It is a three-part response structure [hear/notice/wonder] we will often use in writing workshop responses:
Initial Reading: about 1/2 page of notes/summary–an overview of key points you have been reading, perhaps a thesis statement (if there is one), some quotations and key words that get your attention. This is ‘coming to terms,’ when you listen to the conversation that has preceded you and identify what the project of the author is before you begin to analyze and agree or disagree with it.
Closer Reading: about 1/2 to 1 page of reflection/analysis/interpretation–take one or two of the key points or passages 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 (with quotation of specific language/imagery/ideas/terms), this is also a place where you might start to link out (as a good hypertext will do): connect to other readings, further insight that is available elsewhere. This is where your blog can be your sandbox for future essays–experiment with interpretation and play with style. This entails Forwarding and/or Countering, when analyze what’s working (or not working) with the argument, and what else might be said; here you begin “to put in your oar” and take the conversation where you want it to go.
Further Reading: 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, pursue with further reading, thinking, writing. This is where you begin to Take an Approach and consider “what’s next,” raising implications for a conversation that will continue even after you are finished.
I encourage you to use this kind of informal reading/writing log format for every reading assignment—even when I have not assigned a “Blog.” Your Blog will then include more than the Friday assigned entries—I may even grant extra credit for those interested or in need of it.
There will be no “wrong answer” to a Blog post; rather, a stronger post will be thoughtful and creative in the response to the reading it demonstrates, a weaker post will show that the blogger has done the assignment but not given her response as much time and thought as necessary. I will also factor in your class participation on the Friday the blog is due–thus a stronger post will lead you to stronger participation in our class conversation, an average or weaker post will not.
I will use the following point scale in my evaluation of your assigned Blogs:
9-10: very strong/excellent—Blog post goes beyond a page (around 500 words or more) and explores 2 or more ideas/issues from reading thoughtfully and in depth, particularly strong in forwarding and countering the discussion, not just reviewing; also takes an approach, indicating where this thought/writing might go next; blogger has stuff worthy of an essay and could effectively lead class discussion.
8: strong—Blog post is a solid page (300 words minimum), strong coming to terms with the reading; explores 1 or more ideas with some depth and some room for more expansion and additional forwarding; room to do more in forwarding or taking an approach; blogger has basis for solid participation in class discussion.
7: average—Blog post is barely 300 words, proficiently responds to reading but with need for more attention to depth in its response; sufficient for class participation but limited in the reader’s forwarding/countering of the text, no attention to taking an approach–blogger should go back and expand a bit.
6: weak/insufficient—Blog post is less than300 words; insufficiently responds to reading with any depth–offering no forwarding or countering of text; insufficient for class participation; blogger should plan to conference with me about ways to improve
0-5: failing—Blog is posted late or not at all or otherwise fails to complete assignment as expected.