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Blog Posts

This document is an introduction to my guidelines and practical advice for writing blog posts and comments (if applicable) in my courses. I’ve assigned blog posts in past courses (like English 203English 340ASHA 321, and English 503). If you’re reading this, you’re probably in a new course with this requirement or option.

If the course has a grading system for these posts that is more fine-grained than a pass/fail system, I’ve also included some rubrics in this document.

See also separate posts on WordPressing 101 (i.e. on how to use this system); and on including links and visuals in your posts. You’ll probably find it useful to read the advice of my former students April SoMadelyn Brakke, and Hayley Dunmire

Getting Started

  • Set up an account on ucalgaryblogs.ca.
  • Register your account with the course blog to get “Author” status. Look for the word “Register” on the home page, and enter your information. There is a password associated with each course.
  • Now you can post to the blog.
  • Need help? Start with the UCalgaryblogs help page topics. There’s also a detailed online manual called the WordPress Codex. And there is a very good training video on YouTube on posting to WordPress, the platform that UCalgary blogs uses. It also gives you an overview of the Dashboard menu.

The length of your posts will vary depending on the course, but is usually between 300 and 500 words. Longer is fine, but don’t ramble.

The timing of your posts is up to you, but the deadline is stipulated in our course outline.

The language of your posts can be informal, yet they should follow the rules of English grammar and punctuation. (I have a whole section of my Effective Critical Writing guide on correct English.) Write as if you are speaking to a crowd, so it’s more formal than you would speak to a friend. “In any case, strive for thoughtfulness and nuance” (says Mark Sample).

As you’re speaking, you’re consulting a list of well-ordered bullet points. The structure of your posts can be informal, too, but there must be a progression or narrative: from problem to solution, or from initial questions to more complicated ones. For instance, you don’t need to begin with a formal introduction, “In this blog post I will argue…”. But you do need to say, somewhere near the beginning, what your motivation is for writing it. What payoff will your readers get from reading this post? Then at the end, say a few words about what this post has helped you resolve or clarify, and what your next steps are.

You should always write your posts in a word processor and save them to your hard disk before pasting them to the blog. If any alterations or errors occur, these documents will serve as proof of your original writing.

I may have explicitly required you to insert links and visuals or podcasts (images, youtube, or soundcloud) into your posts; see the course outline. Or you may just want to take your blogging to the next level. In either case, click on the link for more information.

Before You Publish …

Before you click Publish, be sure to categorize your post with your Group Number and your post type (if applicable). Simply click on the buttons to the right of your screen in WordPress. Categorization allows me to read and (more importantly) to grade your posts. If you fail to categorize your post correctly, it will not appear on the category pages, so it will be ignored.

 

Rubric for Blog Posts

This is the rubric I have used in past courses to grade blog posts, expanding a similar one by Mark Sample.

If I have assigned you a “Close Reading” or “DQ Response” blog post worth 5% in this course, this table lays out the different characteristics for these two kinds of posts:

Characteristics (Blog 1: DQ Response) Grade (0-5) Characteristics (Blog 2: Close Reading)
Excellent. The post directly engages with the terms of the discussion question, and it is both perceptive and engaging. It effectively uses well-chosen evidence (quotations) from the text. Above all: It makes an argument, rather than simply discussing a topic — i.e. it could have a counter-argument. You have taken a defensible position that will provoke class discussion. 5% Excellent. You have chosen a short passage (10 lines of prose, or 20 lines of poetry) and clearly explained the rationale for your choice — why it is interesting, complex, and/or beautiful. Your passage is not one we have discussed at length in class, and not one that your fellow bloggers have chosen.You discuss the passage in detail, and you raise a lot of questions about it. You treat the passage’s language as the result of the writer’s deliberate choices. (For some prompts to your reading, consider the close-reading assignment from my English 205 in Fall 2012; you do not need to cover all of these categories in your post.)
Very Good. The post engages with the terms of the question, and cites some well-chosen evidence from the text. Its argument is solid and interesting, and the counter-argument is one that others could argue effectively. The post has a clear motive at the beginning, and a clear payoff at the end. 4% Very Good. The reason for your choice of a passage is clear enough, though you could make a more compelling case for why others should find it interesting, complex, and/or beautiful. (Or we’ve discussed the passage in class at some length.) Your close reading focuses on a few well-chosen qualities of the passage.
Satisfactory. The post is reasonably focused, but does not address the question’s terms or meaning. Its evidence from the text is poorly chosen, not really material to your purpose. Its argument is just good enough, but the counter-argument isn’t one that a rational reader would espouse. 3% Satisfactory. The reason for your choice of passage is not very clear. Your close reading focuses on a few of its essential qualities, but it feels like you chose them only because other aspects of the passage were unclear or boring to you.
Underdeveloped. The post does not address the question, and reflects a limited engagement with the topic and text. It is more a topic than an argument. 2% Underdeveloped. The post is mostly description or summary of your passage, and/or your engagement with its language is superficial.
Limited. The post is unfocused, or simply rehashes previous posts or comments, and displays no evidence of your engagement with the text. 1% Limited. The post is unfocused, or simply rehashes previous posts or comments, and displays no evidence of your engagement with the passage.
No Credit. The post is missing or consists of a few disconnected sentences. 0 No Credit. The post is missing or consists of a few disconnected sentences.

These numbers assume that you have posted all required posts by the deadlines in the course outline. Late penalties are 0.5% per post, per day. You can have one free extension on any one post of one day without penalty.

You can write extra posts in either phase to improve your grade; just send me a note before the end of the course to let me know you’d like me to grade them. I’ll average those grades (depending on their posted date) into your grades for earlier posts.

Rubric for Comments

In many of the courses that include a blog assignment, commenting is an important component of your participation grade. For details, see the course outline.

To comment on a post, click on the Reply or number circle to the right of the post title, or on “Leave a reply” at the end of the post. You must be logged in.


All of your comments will show that you are engaging with your colleagues’ ideas:

  • answering questions,
  • raising new questions,
  • asking for clarification,
  • posting links,
  • offering alternate ways to solve a problem or different ways of thinking about a problem,
  • and showing that you have read their post(s) thoughtfully and comparatively.

The length of your comments is up to you, but make them each long enough to do one or two of these things.

The Golden Rule very much applies here. Post anything that is constructive and helpful. Offer the kind of feedback you’d like others to give you, and show their ideas and efforts the respect you’d like others to show yours.

Here’s how my grading works. At the end of the course, I will re-read all of your comments and grade them in the aggregate. I am grading both for quality as for quantity, as my rubric suggests:

Grade (0-10) Characteristics 
9-10% Excellent. 10 or more substantive comments that engage with your colleagues’ ideas and follow the golden rule. (See above for details.) Many offer links and write at length. All meet the assignment’s stated requirements.
7-8% Very Good. 10 or more substantive comments, many of which demonstrate your engagement with and respect for your colleagues’ ideas. All meet the assignment’s stated requirements.
5-6% Satisfactory. 10 comments, but only a few that meet the assignment’s stated requirements.
3-4% Underdeveloped. 10 or fewer comments, and few that meet the assignment’s stated requirements.
1-2% Limited. Less than 10 comments, none of which meet the assignment’s stated requirements.
0 No Credit. No comments posted.