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Class Reading Activities (CRAs)

This semester we’ll engage in a consistent practice of engagement, analysis, research, and discussion related to our reading. For each text, we’ll divide into brainstormers, researchers, analysts, and curaators. Here are those job descriptions:

  • Brainstormers (write these as Slack messages in the cra_brainstorm channel):

    Under the appropriate brainstorm message on Slack, sign up to be a brainstormer for a particular text. Respond to the text while you’re reading. Try to balance individual observations about the text, responses to others’ ideas, and, if it develops, investment in a more developed exchange with another peer. Each brainstorm “post” should be 1-3 sentences; post at least three times for a reading. Build quick, insightful observations that analysts might find useful. Thoughtful responses to other brainstormers’ posts can count as posts (but don’t use the “reply” button for these — instead, tag the original author’s name at the beginning of your post and answer back to them in a separate post). Please do not summarize the reading or ask surface questions that could be answered with a quick search of the web. Also, avoid including reflections on personal life/experiences in brainstorming posts, as those directions will be not be helpful for others when completing the analysis task. Brainstorm posts should be insightful, probing, and/or connective to other contexts (like recent news); they should also serve as possible thesis statements for those in the analysis group.

    Remember: brainstorm posts should be only 1-3 sentences each, should be unique (non-redundant), should avoid summary; brainstormers should write three of these posts before the deadline.

  • Researchers (write these as Slack messages in the cra_research channel):

    Under the appropriate research message on Slack, sign up to be a researcher for a particular text. After you’ve completed the class reading, choose something concrete or specific topic (a person, term, historical event, or cultural practice) in the text and research it. Find another source on the web that helps you better understand your term/topic; choose one that you find particularly useful, interesting, insightful, and/or controversial. News stories are ok, but try to get something more specific than a Wikipedia article. If your source includes opinion (like an op-ed column or blog post), it should be from a person who has expertise or unique experience in that field. Read the entire source and share it with the class under the appropriate research post on Slack. Post an MLA-style bibliographic entry for the source (you can find help here), and include a link to the article. After that, provide an annotation for the article — a 100-150 word paragraph that does three things: 1) summarizes the article, 2) includes a useful quote from the article with context, and 3) explains the relevance of the source to our class reading.

    Remember: a research post should begin with a correctly formatted MLA citation (including a link) and should be followed by a 100-150 annotation of the source that summarizes the text, quotes from the text, and explains the relevance of the text you’ve chosen to our class reading.

  • Analysts (write these as Slack messages in the cra_analysis channel):

    Under the appropriate message on Slack, sign up to be an analyst for a particular text. Post a 300 word analytical response to the reading and the discussion. It should focus on a specific aspect of the reading, and identify that aspect quickly and efficiently (within the first sentence — do not spend time with a lengthy introduction). Analysis work should refer to and cite the work of at least one brainstormer and the source of at least one researcher. Submit analysis work as a stand-alone post in Slack (click the lightening bolt button next to the message window and choose “Create new post), not as a message. A “post” in Slack can only be created while on a computer (not on the app). Your analysis should be well organized, consist of one or two paragraphs, and should have an academic and concrete tone; compose it in a word processor first. Choose a title that clearly identifies what you are analyzing; avoid a title like “Analysis on ________”.

    Remember: analysis posts should be 300 words, should begin with a concrete thesis statement or idea that focuses on one aspect of the reading, should reference the work of at least one brainstormer and one researcher, and should include a title that clearly refers to the thesis.

  • Curators (write these as Slack messages in the cra_curate channel):

    Under the appropriate message on Slack, sign up to be curator for a particular text. After you’ve read all of the CRA posts including the analysis submissions, comment on the overall direction of the work of the class in a 100-150 word post of your own. What did we pay attention to? What did we ignore? What’s interesting about all of this to you? Highlight the contributions of 2-4 class members and use their @username when referring to them.

  • Everyone:

    Review the work of each group before the next class period; read at least one of the sources suggested by the researchers and at least one of the analysis posts. Add a reaction emoji next to the research and analysis posts that you read. Come to class with any questions that you have about how to complete the CRAs in the best way and/or how the readings can be applied to your larger assignments.

Stylistic guidelines for each task:

General academic writing principles: 

  • Avoid “you” and “your” unless quoting a source. 
  • Avoid general statements; make specific statements. 
  • Avoid using cliches and giving “life advice”. 
  • Spelling and technical writing proficiency is important. 
  • First mention of an author should be their first and last name (unless it’s a name/text we’re all using like “Morrison”). After first mention, use only the author’s last name. 
  • Avoid redundancies. 

Brainstorm: 

  • Should be formatted as individual “messages” in Slack, not posts. Each of the three statements should be its own “message,” not packaged together as three statements in one message. 
  • While the requirement for one brainstorm message is only 1-3 sentences, these statements should be nuanced and detailed enough for analysts to use. If one of your brainstorm messages is only 1 sentence, it should suggest a complicated enough idea that analysts will find it useful. 
  • Refer to the patterns and arguments of the text – not personal experience or general reflections of the world beyond the text unless citing specific history.  
  • Refer to specific sections of the text, either in quotes or paraphrases and use page numbers when possible. 
  • If asking a question, the answer to the question should be the development of an argument, not finding a detail. 
  • A response to someone else’s brainstorm message can count as one of yours, but do not submit these using the “reply” feature. It should be a standalone message that includes a reference to your peer’s @username. 
  • Connecting with the work of a researcher is preferred but not required. 

Research: 

  • Should be formatted as an individual “message” in Slack, not a post or an attached document. 
  • Academic sources are best to use. If you use non-academic sources, be sure that they carry enough ethos to be cited in an academic project – from a reputable journalistic project or from an interview with or a lecture by someone with verifiable expertise. 
  • If pulling from the KSU library database, don’t use the URL at the top of the page for the link. Find the “permalink” (will show in class). 
  • Correct form for a research post: MLA formatted citation (that includes a URL/link) followed by a 100-150 word annotation (summary, quote, relevance). 
  • Connecting with the work of a brainstormer is preferred but not required. 

Analysis: 

  • Should be formatted as an individual “post” in Slack, not a message or attached document. 
  • For 300 words of academic writing, use 2 or 3 paragraphs. Using no paragraphs does not allow your thought enough organization. Using more than 3 paragraphs is probably too much division. 
  • The title should be specific and the first sentence should read like a thesis statement. Avoid introductory language.  
  • Your analysis should focus on a very specific and small piece of the larger work: a scene, a paragraph, a couple of pages of the text – not the novel/essay as a whole. 
  • A piece of analysis should be organized and intentional; it should not read like a stream of consciousness reflection, but an argument that has been carefully plotted out. 
  • Write your analysis in another platform first (Word, Google Docs, etc.). Overwrite it, so that you can revise and keep the best ideas and rearrange them in the best way. Avoid your post reading like it was composed quickly. 
  • Quote from the text. 
  • Define an idea that can be debated rather than proving an idea that simply and observably true in the text. 

Curate: 

  • It’s easy to pick out overarching patterns in the work of the class. Make sure that your post does more than that (for instance, analyze the “why” of that observation – why are we paying attention to that thing more?). 
  • It’s great to point out things that our work has missed to suggest further exploration. 
  • It’s valuable to reflect on how the work of the work of the class might be extended for the purposes of those composing presentations (or even your own group). 
  • Look for debates, or if there aren’t observable debates, suggest one by putting two ideas together and reflecting on them together. 
  • Read everything in the work of the class – all the brainstorm posts, all the research articles (skim them), and all the analysis pieces. 
  • Focus on a specific idea within your post rather than moving between comments in a way that is unrelated.

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