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Special Topics Blog Post and Presentation

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Students present blog post to the class
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Image by Matt Hurst

Brief Assignment Overview: 

Once students in my literature class achieve a basic skill set in textual analysis, I require them to take the reins of the course by providing the class with a blog post on the upcoming reading and presenting their findings to the class. Three weeks into the class, they pick a date to contributie a special blog post on the discussion board, which they post two days before an appointed class period. The student then leads the class for a ten-minute presentation, delivering their findings to the class and responding to their peers' discussion of the topic. 

Type of Assignment: 
Assignment Length: 
Pedagogical Goals - Digital Literacy: 
Additional Pedagogical Goals: 

This project encourages students to write and revise their materials in two different contexts, using the technologies available inside and outside the classroom to reach their peer audience.

Required Materials: 

This assignment requires a blogging platform and adequate presentation tools. Tools such as Powerpoint or Keynote are encouraged but not mandatory.

Timeline for Optimal Use: 
Full Assignment Description: 

This assignment requires a student to pick a selection from the assigned reading, examine it closely, and provide a formal/cultural/historical lens for looking at it. Two days before the class date, they will write a 500-word blog post on the class discussion board and I write an email to the class, encouraging the other students to take a look at it and, if so moved, respond. During the class, they will provide a brief snapshot of their argument about the text and use it as a basis for open class discussion.

Suggestions for Instructor Preparation: 

The most important thing to do is make sure the students know what you expect from the presentations--included below in the "instructions for students." I usually encourage the presenters to have the class material for that date read well ahead of time. In the week before, I contact them to gauge their level of preparedness, floating concepts and resources by them to help motivate them. Once the student has posted, I let the class know that the material is open for discussion. I also ask them to send whatever digital materials they need to use along so we can get rolling as soon as the bell rings.

Instructions For Students: 
At a scheduled date during the second half of the semester, you will be starting off the class with a (1) blog post and (2) a (8-10 minute) presentation geared to help kick start the class discussion, drawing attention to a cultural, formal, or historical aspect of the readings assigned for the class date on which you are presenting and relating it to key passages. Taken together, your presentation (5%) and blog submission (5%) will account for 10% of your final grade. Special topics blog posts will not count as one of your open “discussion board posts.” Replies to these posts will count as discussion post/reply credit. Extra replies and posts in a given week will count favorably toward your participation grade.

Blog Post Deadlines:

If you present on a Tuesday, have your post up by midnight on the preceding Sunday

If you present on a Thursday, have your post up by midnight on the preceding Tuesday

In the week that you are scheduled to present, you will first submit a blog post of at least 450 words to the class discussion board at the course website.

Major Steps:

On The week before:

1. Read the assigned reading at least a week in advance and identify some of the most significant elements of the text. Find key passages that you find especially interesting, provocative, or that might foster interesting discussion.

2.  Take a quick look at research resources to find information about the author, text, or the cultural/historical backgrounds that the text intersects with and find the ones that might be most useful to bring to the class’s attention.

Some Research tips:

  • Search the library book search and article databases (like Academic Search Complete or the Dictionary of Literary Biography) for materials that discuss your text or an aspect of its historical/cultural background. You might find that another critic has found a compelling way of looking at the reading that you would like to share. Or research cultural references that are brought up in the text: for example, a presentation on The Bluest Eye might look into the novel’s many film references, accounting for their significance in the book.
  • Communicate with me about potential topics before Friday on the week before you present.
  • If there are other people presenting on the same week (and especially on the same day), contact them so you can coordinate your presentations to prevent overlap or promote better conversation.

On your post date:

  • Post a new entry (450+ words) on the blog by midnight on SUNDAY for a Tuesday presentation or by midnight on TUESDAY for a Thursday presentation. This deadline will give your classmates a day and a half to examine your post or begin to discuss topics that you will address in your presentation.
  • In the subject line of the post itself, write “SPECIAL POST: [Title of presentation]” 
  • You must engage (interest, fascinate, politely provoke) your classmates in your blog post by giving them an interesting approach to the day’s reading, pointing them to at least 2 key passages and explaining why they are significant. 
  • Close the post with (no more than three) questions that might prompt a response to your presentation. If you receive responses before the class date, feel free to reference them in class. 
  • Cite page numbers from the text and external resources when appropriate. Include a Works Cited reference at the bottom of the post for external resources. 
  • Since your audience is your classmates, please explain key terms and “jargon” that you use. Make sure your post is carefully polished.

 

During the Presentation itself:

  • You must address some formal, cultural, or historical aspect of the reading assigned for the class date.
  • Guide your readers through at least 2 key passages in the reading for that date. Alternately, you might focus on 1 passage from the current date and relate it to 1 passage we overlooked (or read in a different way) on a previous class date.
  • Try to minimize materials that other students have presented on AND AVOID MAJOR SPOILERS about readings that will come at a later date.
  • Try to keep the class engaged and attentive—make sure they know why the aspects of the text and/or historical/cultural background you are bringing to their attention matter.
  • Pose some questions for the class to consider. You don’t have to necessarily be able to answer them, but they should compel discussion that extends beyond the length of your presentation.

Presentation Length and Structure:

Your presentation should be 8-10 minutes.

You may structure your presentation any way you like. You might begin by:

  • Pulling up the blog and discussing your entry and any comments
  • Loading a presentation (Powerpoint, Keynote, etc.) with key passages or a context you would like to discuss. Alternatively, you can use the document camera.
  • Passing out a handout with key passages from the text, quotes from a critical or historical document, and/or questions for the class to consider.
  • Presenting a related cultural text (image, song, etc) and discussing its relation to the reading.

 

Email me copies of any digital materials you wish to use to supplement your presentation (powerpoints, images, short (<2min) Youtube pieces, etc.

Evaluation Suggestions: 

You must set standards for written student work, but also have in mind criteria for a successful presentation. My major criteria is the level of student engagement the presentation elicits, the coherence of the presented material, and the degree to which it provides a unique view into the text being read. As stated in the section above, the presentation and the blog post each equal 5% of the students' total grade.

Course Description: 

Reading Literature in Context is a literary studies course that encourages students to research formal, cultural, and historical approaches to literary works. As such, it requires students to share information about the texts and learn to articulate their textual analyses in a variety of forums.

For more information, visit my instructor website

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