Sunday, January 10, 2010

Weekly Commentary Assignment

All students will share a written commentary on current course material (film and written texts) at the beginning of one class meeting per week.

Purpose: This exercise is designed to foster reading comprehension and analytical skills through your extended reflection on course materials, and through working together as a group. The goal is to advance everyone’s ability to offer productive discussion.

Requirements: Each student will share one typed commentary of no more than one to four sentences in length per week. The commentary must quote from or paraphrase the passage from the reading or film it considers and provide a correct MLA citation for that material. The commentary must identify the reading or film by author and title. Commentaries must be typed, dated, and contain the student author’s name. These may be single-spaced. A commentary may be: a question on current readings/films and evidence of attempting an answer; an answer to a current question the class is currently discussing; or early thinking about an upcoming writing assignment, but thinking that connects to current readings and film.

Here are some examples of possible critical thinking questions to ask yourself. The commentary would seek to answer these:
1. What is a particular strength or weakness of this argument?
2. What is the difference between the points made by two readings/films?
3. How (or why) is this argument or point especially relevant to our course? To the community? In a global context?
4. How could this argument be used in a different context?
5. What are the implications of this particular argument?
6. How does the condition described in the reading affect a different or related kind of group, community, or population?
7. How does this reading connect with what we have already learned?
8. What does this particular point/word/phrase/question mean?
9. Why is this point or argument important?
10. How are these two points/arguments/scenarios similar?
11. What is a counter-argument for this writer’s argument?
12. I agree (or disagree) with this statement: [insert quote] because …. The readings provide ... as evidence to support my claim.
13. What is another way to look at this particular point?

Format: Do not provide a question for your readers to answer. Your aim is not to generate discussion, but to demonstrate that you have been thinking about the readings or films under current consideration.

Evaluation: I will grade commentaries on relevance to the course, clarity of expression, depth of engagement with the material, and adherence to assignment directions. Examples of in-depth engagement with the material are striving for connections across course texts and attempting to answer your own difficult questions. Each week’s commentary will count as one equal fraction of your total class participation/commentary grade. See the course schedule for due dates.

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