Grading and Assignment Overview

Grading System:

Blogs – 30 pts (5 pts per post x 5 blogs, 1 pt per response x 5 responses)

Paper 1 – 30 pts

Paper 2 – 30 pts

Mid-Term – 30 pts

Final – 30 pts

Quizzes and short writing assignments –12 pts (subject to change)

General Participation –20 pts

Digital participation – 8 pts (with possibility of 4 extra credit points)

Total: 190 points (subject to change)

Breakdown of Assignments:

Blogs (5 posts total, 5 responses total): Students will be asked to post a bi-weekly blog entry (around 300 words, or 1-pg double spaced) in which they will discuss aspects of the assigned readings for the week. Blogs will be due by 11:30pm on the Thursday before class, and students will be expected to have read their classmates’ posts before class. There are two types of blogs that students may write. The first type is analytical. The majority of your blogs should be of this kind. Here, you may brainstorm about important themes, quotes, motifs, problems, characters, questions, etc., or you may relate the reading to other discussions we’ve had throughout the semester. It will help you to focus your blog on one specific topic rather than trying to write an overview of the book. You should think of each analytical blog as having a mini-thesis statement, or a hypothesis/argument that you are trying to make about your interpretation of the text. These posts may be in conversation with other classmates’ posts or they may be of your own initiative. Either way, the requirements for the analytical post remain the same. The second type of post you may choose to write is a research post. Here, you can provide any type of historical, political, or cultural background that you find might help your classmates to better understand the assigned reading. In all cases though, avoid posts that are centered on your likes or dislikes – this isn’t a book review – or that center primarily around your own feelings. You need to focus on analysis or research rather than on what makes you happy, or sad, or angry. Blogs may be informal, but they should be grammatically correct and articulate.  I want to emphasize that blogs are places for you to think through problems and issues and pose questions or concerns. I am NOT looking for a fully developed essay and I therefore will not provide individual feedback for each post unless I feel that you haven’t met the requirements described above. Blogs are meant to provoke discussion and thought and therefore are, by definition, incomplete and not fully developed. Posing questions that you don’t know the answer to is entirely legitimate and even welcome. Each post will be worth 5 points and students will receive all 5 points as long as they write a satisfactory post. If a student receives less than 5 points for the blog, I will provide them with a reason and let them know how to improve. Please check the gradebook on Blackboard to see how you are doing. I encourage students to include images, links, videos, etc. and to be creative. PLEASE REMEMBER TO TAG YOUR POSTS WITH AN APPROPRIATE KEYWORD!

Students will be divided into two groups: Group A and Group B. When Group A blogs, Group B will be required to post a response and vice versa. When it is your turn to respond, you should post a comment to one of your classmate’s posts. There is no word limit to your response comment and there are no specific requirements. However, as with the blog posts you should avoid posts that do not have substance beyond a like or a dislike, or an agreement or disagreement. Responses are worth 1 point and are due before class begins on Friday.

The three students with the most responses total to their blog posts at the end of the semester will earn extra credit points. (3 pts for 1st place, 2 pts for 2nd place, 1 pt for third place, plus bragging rights). You can boost your chances of winning by responding to comments made on your post, as I’ll count those as well. (So, for instance, you write a post. Your friend says she disagrees with you. Then you respond to your friend’s comments to prove how right you were all along. I’ll count that as 2 responses even though you authored one of them.)

Papers: There will be two papers 6-8 page papers due throughout the semester. Essay topics will be handed out for both papers, but students are also welcome to develop and propose their own topics. You are strongly advised to start the writing process as early as possible and to bring drafts to my office hours. I will not, however, comment on drafts over email.

Quizzes and Short Writing Assignments: There will be occasional quizzes and short writing assignments. The number of quizzes depends on whether the class is keeping up with the reading. If it seems like everyone is on top of the assignments, there will be no need for quizzes. If participation falls, I’ll add quizzes. If students fail to bring the reading materials to class, I will begin giving open-book quizzes. Shorter writing assignments, like thesis statements, first paragraphs, drafts, etc., are always designed to help you prepare for longer papers.

General Participation: This grade will be determined by the quality and quantity of your contributions to the course in general. The general participation grade will be a factor of the following four elements: your level of engagement during class discussions; your demonstrated effort throughout the semester; your attitude and openness towards others; and your improvement and progress throughout the semester. For students who are less comfortable with speaking in large groups, I encourage you to email me with questions and comments about the readings, to attend office hours, and to earn extra credit by increasing your digital participation. Also, please note that part of participating in class means having the assigned reading materials in front of you and ready to reference. If you do not bring your books/assigned reading (either in digital or printed form), you will not receive participation credit for the day!

Digital Participation: I include this assignment because I want students to be active participants in the digital world. I want to encourage digital literacy by forcing students to learn from and contribute to the flow of information on the Internet. Your digital participation will be out of 8 points total, but students may gain up to four points of extra credit by completing additional assignments. There are four ways to earn your digital participation points, and you can do any combination of them that you choose:

  • Post a video or a link to our class blog that broadly relates to our class discussion and write a few sentences about why you found it interesting/how it connects to our class. Note: you do not have to post only about literature. You can post about film, music, politics, health, economics, etc. (Worth 3 pts per post)
  • If you’re on twitter (or are looking for an excuse to be), you can tweet relevant links and ideas at me. My twitter handle is @GreenSimms. (Worth 1 pt per tweet)
  • Write a review of an African film that was not assigned for this class and post it on our blog. I love African cinema so I have tons of recommendations and can suggest a film to you based on your interests. These reviews should be about 300 words and unlike the blog posts, here you can write about your likes and dislikes because it IS a review. You can also analyze the film if you’d prefer. (Worth 5 pts)
  • Write a book review of an African novel or short story collection that was NOT assigned for this class and post it on So that we can see your review (and I can give you credit for it) also post a link to it on our blog. Again, unlike the blog posts, here you can write about your likes and dislikes because you are, in fact, reviewing the novel for others. However, you should still be specific, and you should show off your newfound expertise in African literature. I’ll provide a list of recommendations. (Worth 10 pts, which means you get all your digital participation points, plus 2 pts extra credit.)

If you have another idea for how to earn digital participation points, I’m very open to creative proposals. You can edit a Wikipedia article, create a Tumblr post, or do something I’ve never even heard of. Just bring your idea to me, and I can tell you how many points I think it’s worth.