Journal Assignment

Assignment Overview

Over the course of the semester, students will complete weekly journal entries in response to the texts, histories, theories, questions, and discussions raised in class. These journals along with respective midterm and final journal reflection sheets will count for 25% of the overall course grade.

Learning Objectives

The goals of the journal assignment is to provide students with a flexible, low-stakes, and intimate, if not also semi-private, space in which they can:

  • practice various forms of active and attentive (close) reading with small, focused exercises that may be furthered developed in future assignments (i.e. post assignment and/or final project).
  • strengthen their awareness of, and ability to think through (analyze), the relationship between a particular text’s form, medium, and content.
  • develop a variety of creative and analytical methods for thinking about and responding to cultural texts in general and black cultural text in particular.
  • keep track of connections between entries, shifts in perspectives, and other aspects of the general evolution of their ideas, perspectives, and questions throughout the semester.
  • earnestly reflect on their personal responses to the course material and how the course material speaks to the concerns of their individual lives and the issues effecting our society today.

Assignment Details

Students are responsible for completing weekly journal entries. Approximately half of the journal entries should be in response to the specific prompt provided by the professor.

The prompts are designed to encourage sustained (close) attention to a particular aspect of the assigned course material. At times the prompts will encourage responses that take the form of a traditional academic responses (i.e. close reading of a primary text or analysis of an argument in a secondary text). At other times the prompt will invite students to take a more artistic, performative, or historical approach to engaging an aspect of the text and its connection to the course.

Student – Generated Prompts

  • As the semester progresses, students will take turns generating prompts for the weekly journal entry. Students may use previous weeks’ prompts as models for their response, but all prompts should be particularly suited to the particular material we’re discussing that week.
Adhering to the Prompt
  • Students are encouraged, especially in the beginning weeks of the semester, to adhere to the prompt, treating it as a impetus, guide, and even foundation of your journal entry. As the semester progresses, students may decide to modify and/or develop the prompt further in the direction of the specific class text, theme, or critical inquiry the student wishes to consider.
  • On the weeks with student generated prompts, there will be more than one prompt from which to choose. Students will be able to modify and/or develop the prompt further in the direction of the specific class text, theme, or critical inquiry the student wishes to consider.

Assessment & Grading

Students are expected to complete journal entries weekly. However journals will only be officially assessed twice–at midterms and at finals:

  • 40% – midterm journal assessment
  • 60 % final journal assessment

Grading Rubrics

Both the midterm and final journal assessment grades will be determined using the following rubrics:

50% Journal Content & Form:

  • 25% Journal contains at least the minimum number of academic and the minimum number of artistic entries required at the time of assessment. At least one of the academic and at least one of the artistic entries have been flagged for closer assessment in a manner that does not distract from any individual entries nor the overall cohesiveness of the journal (i.e. a prefatory note, or a creative insert)
  • 25% Presence of a clear, solid journal medium (i.e. blog site, scrap book, diary, three binder with document inserts) that binds the various entries together as part of one distinct object.
  • 25% Presentation of Individual entries (i.e. the date, format, and content of the entries and the prompts to which they respond are clear and relevant to each other and the course material).
  • 25% Evidence of reflection between posts and sustained inquiry across different entries (i.e. web maps, connecting diagrams, additional entries reflecting on the connection, generative use of tags and hyperlinks).

50 % Journal – Midterm/ Final Reflection Sheet (Separate handouts circulated by the professor closer to the midterm due date. )

Keeping up with Weekly Entries: A Warning

Students are responsible for managing their time and thoroughly completing their journal entries at a regular pace. Because the journals will only be officially assessed twice in the semester, it’s possible that if you miss a week, you can catch up the following week by doing both the new entry and the one you missed last week in the the same week.

PRO TIP: While your journals will not be assessed more than twice, students should strive to complete the entries each week. Skipping weeks and cramming to complete multiple entries in one week is contrary to many of the learning objectives (above) for this assignment. If students wait to do multiple entries in one week, they will be unable to use the journal assignment: 1) prepare for the class conversations relevant to that week 2) reflect on the evolution of thoughts and questions; 3) to utilize the entries as inspiration, if not rough material for, the post assignments and final project assignments, both of which ask students to develop ideas/projects from one or more of their journal entries.