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Reading Response Guidelines/Portfolio Assessment Rubric


Martin J. Heade

Reading Response Guidelines

Please treat these guidelines as "guidelines," only--not rigid rules for responding to the texts we read. Read these guidelines, try to get their spirit, and then set them aside when you write. But do re-read them from time to time during the semester, especially when Midterm and Final Portfolios are due.

A "reading response" is what it sounds like--it's a written response based on something that happens within you in response to what you are reading. Reading, real reading--not the kind that happens when you sit and stare at the words on the page--stirs up associations, connections, thoughts and feelings. So a reading response won't be a summary, and it won't necessarily relate to the "main idea"--though either of these could be part of it. It will also be more than just an immediate reaction. I think of a reaction as being spontaneous and unconsidered; a response is more subtle and nuanced and lends itself to further exploration.

The best reading response are those in which you explore some specific aspect of the assigned reading, one that has real significance for you.

*It might relate to something in your own experience--something you've done, or something that happened to you;
*or it might relate to another "text"--a book you've read, a movie you've seen, the lyrics of a song you know;
*or it might relate to something you've been thinking about;
*or it could stand out for you because it's something that you've never thought much about before, or because it offers you a perspective that you haven't ever considered, or because you strongly disagree with it.

Suggestions for writing:

*Quote the passage(s) of the text that prompted your response. You might not know why you reacted, but for the moment that does not matter. Simply note places where you do have a strong response (and that response can be positive or negative).
*Write your thoughts, but also write your feelings.
*Deepen--by trying to get "under" the thoughts and feelings you are writing about. Listen and write about what is going on between the lines. Where in your experience, or in your culture do these thoughts and feelings come from?


Reading responses will always be shared with other class members in the class session following the assignment and I will read them in your Portfolios.

Since the prompts for these Reading Responses will come from you, you should consider these Guidelines when formulating your questions/prompts.

Be sure to save your responses on your hard drive or a flash drive or make an extra copy for yourself (just in case your response is not returned to you) and as with all of your writing, make sure to leave room in the margins for your reader to comment. Please double space your responses but feel free to print on both sides of the page.

Portfolio Assessment--Grading Rubric

General criteria for writing assessment (formal and informal):

**Are you willing to take chances in your writing?

**Does your writing show evidence of your engagement, care, and thoughtful reflection?

**Do you "go beyond the obvious," in order to express your ideas from a perspective and in a manner that is unique to you?

Written work (80% of grade):

Finished Essays (50% of grade):

A/A-: Your essays consistently fulfill the following criteria, or other criteria of your choice that serve similar goals or purposes:

**SO WHAT? It is obvious that you have an intellectual or emotional stake in the journey you undertake in the essay--and that the rest of us have something to gain from reading it.

**Your LANGUAGE, VOICE, AND APPROACH have a unique quality that show the working and thinking of your mind, from your particular perspective in your particular manner.

**The essay has a BEGINNING that catches the reader's interest, and makes some kind of "promise"--explicit or implied--about what the reader can expect from the essay.

**It has a MIDDLE that develops that promise or idea in an interesting way as you reflect upon specific details of a narrative, image or situation. As the essay moves along, the idea is not simply repeated or reinforced by examples, but develops or unfolds a bit at a time.

**It has an ENDING that is not a simple summing up, but rather a tying together of the threads of the idea in a way that results in a kind of closure (not necessarily a simple or neat "conclusion"), but at the same time opens questions for further thought, leaving the reader satisfied, but with something to ponder. The ending will often reflect some image or aspect of language from the BEGINNING.

**IDEA DEVELOPMENT: as the essay progresses, you continually find ways to deepen it by making choices that favor complexity rather than simplicity, and by examining details and asking questions in subtle, nuanced ways.


**REVISION: You have shown your willingness to re-think what you have written (form and/or content), to consider other perspectives, to look beneath the surface details of your writing for deeper meaning.

**LANGUAGE, GRAMMAR, AND CONVENTIONS: you give careful attention to spelling, grammar, paragraphing, and bibliographic conventions. Your work is virtually error free.

**All of your drafts have been completed and submitted on time and workshopped in class on the due dates.

B+: Your essays consistently fulfill many or most of the criteria above, but lack the complexity of "A" essays. Or some of your essays fulfill the above criteria, and some more closely match the criteria for B/B- essays.

B/B-: Your essays are consistently focused and follow a course that clearly serves your purposes or goals, but your analysis favors simplicity over complexity, and the essays tend more toward generality than specificity. You tend to favor evidence that supports a particular stance or foregone conclusion, rather than trying to "open up" your question or exploration by introducing complicating evidence and considering it carefully.

C+/C/C-: Your essays only fulfill the minimum requirements.

D+/D/D-: Your essays do not fulfill the minimum requirements.

F: No work is submitted.

Informal Writing (20% of grade):

A/A-: You are always in class on time and engage in the ten minute Journal Writing that begins each class. Your Reading Responses show a deep engagement with the reading. They extend the ideas that you're responding to. They make interesting connections between those ideas and your own experience and/or with outside texts and they reflect those connections in some depth (see reading Response Guidelines for a more detailed description).

Your Metatexts show that you have clear insight into your composing and revision processes (or that you are attempting to gain that insight); they show your awareness of your motives or intentions in writing the essay, and they show an understanding of the qualities you are trying to pursue in order to strengthen your writing. Your responses to workshop partners show that you are a careful and attentive reader and responder. They show an awareness of the qualities necessary to achieve a strong piece of writing. They show sensitivity to the needs of the particular writer and the particular piece of writing you are responding to. Your Reading Responses are turned in on time in order for peers to respond to it.

B+: Your informal writing meets most of the criteria for A/A-, but does not do so consistently.

B/B-: Your Reading Responses show some degree of engagement with the reading and an understanding of it, but tend toward summary and don't pursue the connections you make with your own experience or with outside texts in any depth. Your Metatexts and responses to workshop partners do not completely fulfill the criteria for "A" work. You are often late to class or do not participate in the Journal Writing that begins each class.

C+/C/C-: Your Metatexts and Reading Responses are general and cursory. Your responses do not consistently indicate that you have done the reading. You are often late to class and miss the Journal Writing that begins each class.

F: You are routinely late for class and do not engage in the required Journal Writing that begins each class. There is no indication that you have done the assigned reading for the course--your responses never make a real connection to the texts.

Journal Writing--Free Writing (10% of grade)

Attendance and Participation (20% of grade):

A/A-: You consistently arrive on time with your assignment and/or essay draft. You are prepared to assign prompts for Reading Responses. You are an active member of your small group in workshop sessions and when you are facilitating discussions of the readings. You have missed no more than one class. You contribute your ideas in a manner that invites the response of others. You listen thoughtfully and attentively to others.

B+/B/B-: You are a thoughtful and attentive member of our classroom community, but you do not regularly offer your ideas in class discussion--or--you do contribute to class discussions, but not in a way that shows the connection of your ideas to those of others, or in a manner that encourages the participation of others.

C+/C/C-: You are frequently late to class and are often unprepared. You have missed at least three classes and have not contacted me to arrange for submitting your work in order to meet deadlines. You do not actively participate in class discussions, particularly when your group is facilitating the discussion. You offer cursory comments to your workshop members in response to their essays/Reading Responses.

F: If you miss a significant number of classes (five absences in a class that meets once a week), you regularly miss deadlines, and you do not actively participate in all of the activities of the class, you will receive a failing grade.

Note: These rubrics were originally developed by Phyllis Schlesinger who graciously allowed me to adapt and borrow them.

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