Last week my Introduction to Fiction students submitted their first blogs of the semester. They were great! The students looked closely at words and thought about the meaning, often arriving at unique and creative insights.
Based on what I learned last semester, I lowered the required number of blogs to 4 and I standardized the format. Instead of different questions each time, the blogs are used for a close reading activity. I asked them to identify a passage of 1-4 sentences, analyze it objectively, then give their personal, subjective response. We first practiced in groups with Chopin's "The Story of an Hour." I pulled out two examples to show the class what worked and what didn't.
My upper-level class on Romantic Poetry and Prose has a similar assignment due this week. In their case, they are to pick 2-6 lines of poetry and provide an objective and subjective response. We practiced in class with Byron's "She Walks in Beauty," and I reviewed two posts as with the fiction class. The first of these blogs have started coming in, and I'm very pleased. My initial goal with their blogs was to make them more comfortable with poetry and build their close-reading skills, but I think they may also help them determine a topic to research later this semester.
To grade the blogs more easily, I cut-and-paste all of the ones submitted on time to a Word file and wrote the grade and comments after each one. I entered the grade in an Excel file and uploaded it, then added comments using Blackboard Grade Center's Quick Comment feature. It's still clunky, but it's much easier than trying to negotiate the tools within the Campus Pack blog tool.