Amajor requirement of this course is a weekly reading response journal. This is a hand-written diary of your responses to assigned readings. These responses will provide the rough drafts of your formal essays, so this assignment not only allows you to practice your critical reading and analysis, but will provide a foundation for more polished essays.
Set It Up
Your journal must be formatted as follows: get a 100-sheet (or so), regular-sized, spiral notebook with a cardboard cover; the sheets should be non-perforated. Put only the last four digits of your student ID number on the outside cover of the notebook; you should also put my name (Dr. Lucas) in case it gets lost. Your real name should not appear anywhere on the notebook. On the inside of the front cover, paste the chart from this document.
Write Your Response
Each post in your journal corresponds to an assigned reading. First, actively read the assigned essay, or the primary text—highlight key parts; annotate in the margins; take notes. You might outline your response before you begin on a separate sheet of paper. All of this should be done on the printed PDF of the article or scrap paper; only your response goes in your journal.
For each response, identify the primary text at the very top of the first page: begin with the response number, then the author and title of the essay you are responding to, like, Response 1 on Joan Didion’s “On Self-Respect”—or something that clearly identifies the text. You might give your response its own title on the top line.
Next, write your response. It should include a paragraph that clearly identifies the key arguments of the the primary text. The major portion of your response will be your reaction to the essay:
- What is most memorable or significant to you about the essay?
- Do you agree with the author’s position? Why or why not?
- Does the essay change your mind about the topic?
- Does it introduce something new to your thinking?
- Is the essay persuasive? How does the author make it that way?
- What images or metaphors does the writer employ?
- How does the essay relate to your life?
You may respond to the reading in any way you’d like, really, as long as you engage the primary text in some critical and thoughtful way and make a clear point that is supported by evidence in your response.
Write only on the front side of the paper. Don’t worry: you’ll still have plenty of room in the journal. At the end of your entry, write the word count, like: “362 words.”
Journals will be peer-graded at the beginning of every class. I will collect the journals at the beginning of class, then distribute them. Write the last four digits of your student ID on the chart pasted on the back cover that correspond to the entry you are evaluating. Read the entry carefully. Write a paragraph critique of the response, identifying what was strong and what was not. Does the entry:
- Use correct conventions of English? (Paragraphs, capitalization, punctuation, etc.)
- Free of extraneous marks? (Is it neatly presented?)
- Flow logically? (Is it organized? Is it set up according to the directions?)
- Engage the primary text in a thoughtful and critical way?
- Make a clear and well-supported point?
- Rewarding or enjoyable to read?
Write your paragraph response to the post, identifying positives and negatives. You should be critical in your evaluation; be nice, but concentrate on areas that do not make sense, that are unclear, that are unsupported, or are otherwise deficient. You are justifying your evaluation of the post. Write the post’s grade on the chart:
- + for passing
- ⚬ for failing
Any failing marks must be shown to me immediately after class (I cannot stress the importance of this enough), so that I may give you further instructions. Your journals should not be used for anything other than journal entries: no notes, no doodles, no storage. Anything other than these specific directions will constitute failure. Please follow directions precisely.
Entries not turned in because of an absence or tardiness are due the following class period with the addition of 100 extra words. Each class period the entry is late will require the addition of another 100 words.
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