Comment on Summer Reading

An anonymous poster (always curious — as I can only think of a minimal number of reasons one would wish to remain anonymous on a post about summer reading) asked the following:

Would students be able to read the responses posted by their peers? This could create a plethora of problems. First off, many students are self consious about their work, so they could be very hesitant about posting. Second, some students are lazy, so they may just look at other students posts and use them to write their papers. Third, even if these students happen to not be lazy, they could be still influenced by the other posts, hindering their creativity. Therefore, I believe that either the posts should be blocked until the due date is past. That way, students could look at other peoples thoughts only after they have turned in their own.

Rather than comment on the comment, I think a direct response in a post will best serve the dialogue.

Yes, students would be able to read responses posted by their peers.

Believe me when I say, I recognize a student’s self-consciousness; however, a student needs to recognize that his work, regardless of what he chooses as a career, will be public. If that student chooses university level course work at any point in his life, then I can almost guarantee that student’s writing will become public — for every writing course I took at an undergraduate and graduate level required copies of individual papers to be made and distributed. A colleague has informed me his child’s intro comp course at the University has included a blog requirement, and I’m just trying to get my students ready.

As for students’ laziness, I recognize that too. Been there. Been that way. Might they use their peers’ writing to write their own papers? What’s to stop them from e-mailing their papers to one another if we don’t blog? Essentially, I want to move from papers for the summer reading component anyway. I just want to try to guide the thinking and discourse and have a way to be in touch with my students over the course of the summer as we gear up for the fall. At present students succumb to SparkNotes as an aide to their writing if not in lieu of their reading anyway. This way, I’m a bit more involved in the conversation.

As for the final concern about a student’s creativity, I think some students need that extra assistance. Current students, for instance, would not have necessarily caught — on their own — the moment in Henry IV, Part I when Hal breaks out of prose and speaks in poetry to Falstaff to which Falstaff responds after Hal’s departure in a short poetic soliloquy beginning with the words, “strange words.” They got it, and — frankly — I got it, only after class discussion. Similarly, some got, and some did not, the moment in Henry IV, Part I when Hotspur refers to Hal in a parody of the Greek epic stock epithet as: “The nimble-footed madcap Prince of Wales” (IV, i).

In short, I want this to serve as merely a tool for discussion purposes. The question is, how to do that?



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3 Responses to “Comment on Summer Reading”

  1. Jenn Says:

    I’ve never had to do summer reading, but I like the idea of moving the discussion onto the internet. I certainly don’t think that being able to read other responses is a BAD thing. That would allow you to move away from the setup you have currently where every student writes an essay, and you respond to each one of those. You could have an actual discussion with all of the students rather than the one way responses you’ve had in the past.

    Do students have to read the books in a certain time frame or in a certain order? If not, a blog might not be the best choice as it wouldn’t take very many prompts before some of them start moving off of the front page. Have you considered a forum? It sounds to me like it might be a better set up for what you’re wanting to accomplish.

  2. RedButton Says:

    “In short, I want this to serve as merely a tool for discussion purposes. The question is, how to do that?”

    Perhaps a forum would be a better way of accomplishing that? I can’t really speak for the rest of my peers, but I think that a blog post has an element of finality to it- “here it is, it’s published, what do you think of it?” Whereas a forum is typically seen as a place where back and forth discussion occurs.

  3. Markiv Says:

    “First off, many students are self consious about their work, so they could be very hesitant about posting.”

    Well for me personally, I think a forum would have been helpful. Yes, I was self conscious about my work, but that’s exactly why I would have liked a forum setting. Because if I didn’t share my thoughts in class, at least I could share my thoughts on a forum more easily, without being self conscious. It seems you had your students create their own blogs this year, and I think that was a great idea. But those are just my thoughts.

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