Professor Belli | Fall 2022 | City Tech

Blogging Workshop

As part of our “take stock of where we’ve been & where we’re going” work this week, let’s take some time to revisit blogging as a genre, its expectations, and your work so far this semester.

*A friendly reminder that blogging consists of both posting and commenting, and I collectively refer to this as “OpenLab Composing” on the Syllabus and in the course.

Below you’ll find some clarification on some common issues I’m seeing with blogging, along with more general information about my expectations for blogging in our course. And, of course, the OpenLab Team’s OpenLab for Students is a wonderful resource to help you with all-things-OpenLab!

Posting vs. Commenting
Sometimes you need to make your own post (which only members of this course on the OpenLab can do), and sometimes you will simply need to comment on one of my posts (e.g., a Class Discussion or a Writing Workshop) or one of your classmates’ posts. The Schedule page is always clear about what you need to do (look for the capitalized bold instructions: if it states you should “write a post,” then make your own post; f it states you should “comment,” then you comment on the relevant post).

Of course, you can (& should) comment on anything whenever you feel drawn to do so … I love the way that you’re all interacting with one another (and me!) – that’s great! Keep up the wonderful conversations 🙂

Each time you make a post of your own, you need to “categorize” it before publishing it. This organizes the content so that others can find it more easily. I always indicate what category you should choose next to the assignment on the Schedule page, so make sure to look there. You simply uncheck “uncategorized” and then check off the right category (or categories) — don’t choose anything else.

In addition to organizing the course site, categories also ensure you get credit for your work. I will only be looking in the assigned category for your post, so if it’s not there, you’re not getting credit. Think of it this way: if you did an essay, printed it out, but handed it to the wrong professor (in the wrong classroom), what would happen? You did the work, but you wouldn’t be getting it to the right person and the right place, so you unfortunately wouldn’t get credit for your work. Same concept.

*Friendly reminder: NEVER check “Stick to the top of the blog” (in top right column under “Post Format”). This makes your post stay at the top of the blog, and as a result other important posts may be missed by others (I only really use this myself for the Weekly Announcement posts — that’s why they stay at the top). If upon reviewing your blogs you find you had checked this, please uncheck it.

Content Summary (don’t use!)
Don’t type your blog post into the “Content Summary” box at the bottom of the post editor. This will make the formatting weird and in a grey box. This option is if you wanted to provide a “summary” or overview of your longer blog post, for quick reading. We may play around with this later in the semester, but for now, you shouldn’t be using it.

Blogging Expectations & Guidelines

We are using City Tech’s OpenLab (built on the blogging software WordPress) for our course site. On the course site you can find everything you need this semester. However, this is not just a place where you will come to find information and read what I or others have already written. Instead, you are expected to consistently and actively participate in creating content on the site by blogging: posting reflections and analyses of texts, discussing ideas with me and your classmates, reading and commenting on what others have posted, and linking to/reflecting on interesting and relevant material you have found through everyday experience as well as outside research. Below are detailed guidelines for OpenLab Composing (blogging) for the course, which is a significant portion of the low-stakes / informal writing component (30% of your overall course grade).

Blog Audicence
But who is really reading our blogs?? Well, I am 🙂 But you should be too!

A friendly reminder that you are expected to read all blog posts/comments on our site (including those made by me and by your classmates), ideally before each class begins. This is a part of the required reading for the course. So yeah, you have to do it because it’s required, but it’s also an awesome way to learn from / with one another.

Blog Formality & Mechanics
Blogging has a particular form and genre‚ conventions/characteristics unique to it (just like any other mode of writing), and we will continue to discuss this style more as the semester progresses. For now, keep in mind that your entries are informal writing assignments (you can–and should!–use “I”) and you do not need to be revise them as meticulously as your formal essays or projects. However, you must still edit/proofread them for coherence/meaning as well as obvious spelling/grammar mistakes. And, always categorize your posts so everyone can find them easily (and so that I can give you credit for your work).

Blog Purpose
Blogging prepares you for the work of this course (especially the more formal assignments), but it also is an opportunity to reflect on your everyday experiences, current news/events, and personal thoughts/emotions that are related to our course content and to your progress as writers, researchers, and critical thinkers this semester.  You are not restricted to just blogging when you are assigned to do so … you should blog about things you are interested in and you feel would be of interest to others in the class. Additionally, if you want to strengthen your writing skills or increase your English language proficiency, you’re in luck: simply writing on a regular basis will aid you tremendously in reaching these goals. I encourage you to blog often!

Sometimes you will be blogging an individual reflection or reading response (similar to a journal entry), sometimes you will be posting a writing assignment (such as a proposal or draft of essay), and other times you will participate in an on-going conversation with others in the class (a prompt will either be provided by me or another student).  You may be expected to kick off a discussion on our blog, and then others will be expected to respond to you by commenting on your post. The material you post on our course blog will become part of our course content: I will discuss excerpts from student blogs (both to facilitate writing workshops and to use as a jumping-off point for the week’s reading or discussions).  In addition, everyone in the course will be reading your writing, so you should spend as much effort as possible composing your writing there. Please note that our OpenLab course site is public, so anything you post (whether a post or comment) is visible to anyone on the Web. Think about the type of content you would feel comfortable with your parents, employers, other professors, and friends seeing as representative of your work, and then post accordingly. Don’t be intimidated to put your writing out there, but be intentional.

Blog Titles
Make sure to title each blog with a concise, relevant title that clearly reflects the content of your contribution. Blogs posts will automatically provide your name and the date/time you post, and they will have the category attached to them, so there is no need to put this information in the subject line. A reader should be able to quickly glance at your blog title and have a good sense about what it contains (much like the title of an essay or a book chapter). No one wants to read 20 posts all entitled “How to Reader Like a Writer” or “Education Narrative” — be specific and creative with your titles (think of them like a “hook” that entices your readers to keep on reading the rest of your post!).

Blog Content
Unless otherwise noted or provided with a specific prompt or discussion question/s, your assigned blogs are a response to the course texts (remember, a “text” can be a short story, film, newspaper article, novel, website, advertisement, TV show, video game, song, draft of your own/a classmate’s writing, etc.). Reading response blogs should be grounded in the text(s) they are responding to: include concrete details and quotations (with correct citation, in MLA format) from these texts.

*Don’t become dependent on secondary sources to understand the texts we are reading, however. Unless specifically stated otherwise, I am primarily interested in your close reading of the texts. I want to see you work through the assigned texts, not simply report back what someone else has already written about them. When we get to the research component of our course (which we will be doing soon, with Unit 2!), this will of course change, but we’ll discuss that change when it comes.

If you feel stuck and don’t know what to write, consider one of the following approaches:

  • Find a quote, passage, or idea from one of the texts (or multiple texts) that particularly grabs your attention, is provocative, raises questions, or confuses you (however, make sure to try to grapple with the issues, not just state, “I don’t know what this means!”). Provide the excerpt (properly cited, with quotation marks and page number in parentheses) and then build your blog around engaging this excerpt.
  • If we have a number of readings for the day, you don’t need to blog on each one individually (no need to create four separate blogs!) or to simply list a few lines about each one in isolation. Instead you might try to synthesize the readings, or to focus on only one or two of them, making thematic connections among various texts.
  • Additionally, you can relate the text(s) to an outside source (another text). In this case, you should link to the material, if possible using the “link” button in the post editor (if you are unsure what an editing button does, just hover your cursor over it and then it will provide text that explains the function). Make sure to provide citation for the text (including images or videos!) and to clearly explain how/why it is related to/significant for an understanding of the assigned material. This outside information is acceptable (and often even encouraged), but you should always make sure to ground your responses in the texts that we are reading for the class, providing quotations and analysis of them as the foundation for this additional discussion.
  • Finally, even though we interact online frequently, you may not always get to discuss everything you want, or perhaps you have a new thought on something after the fact. Therefore, you can continue this line of inquiry in your blog. Don’t merely repeat what has already been discussed … make sure to flesh the ideas out in some way and build on them. Feel free to ask questions that you think should be taken up during a future class discussion.
  • And of course, you should post whenever you want: if you see a relevant on the subway – snap a photo of it, post, and blog! If you saw a TV show that made you think about some of the concepts/themes related that we’ve been discussing in the course, blog away! If you believe something in another one of your classes at City Tech, or your major, or your job, or your dreams or hopes or fears, or relates in some way (even tangentially) to what we have been discussing and you want to share with us, blog blog blog 🙂

Blogging Deadlines
Like all other work in this course, follow the deadlines for assignments as listed on the Schedule. As a general rule, I don’t accept late work. It’s important to keep up with the posts and comments, so that you can fully participate in class discussions, workshops, and assignments.

Blog Grading
I will be reading/assessing your blogs regularly, and as it says on the Syllabus, if you do the work completely, thoughtfully, professionally, and on time, you will be receiving credit for your work.

Please note, however, that simply skimming a reading and jotting down a few words about it does not mean that you have satisfactorily fulfilled a blog post. Similarly, only using spelling/grammar check on your computer does not count as revision/proofreading. You will be graded on the quality of your engagement with the material and the effectiveness of your presentation of your ideas. Missing blogs and incredibly short, general, and/or sloppy blogs will be given no (or very little) credit and will negatively affect your overall course grade. Also, note that all blogs are time-stamped automatically and late blogs will receive no credit. Blogs that are not properly categorized with the appropriate content category will receive no credit.

You can review the Blogging Grading Rubric below for more detail about how your OpenLab compositions are evaluated.

Sometimes I may leave feedback to you, either publicly or private (if it is private, I will leave a “private comment” on your post, which will be visible only to you and me — this means that the other students in the course cannot see them, and neither can the broader public). Periodically, I will designate certain blogs that are particularly strong/successful as a “Professor’s Pick” (one of the “Featured Posts”). Throughout the semester, students may also be asked (required) to nominate a blog each week for a “People’s Choice Post.” It is an honor to have your writing chosen for a Professor’s Pick or People’s Choice Post (though you shouldn’t feel badly if yours isn’t chosen … everyone can’t always be featured!), and you can use these excellent blogs as models for your own work.

Our Writing Workshops, peer review, self-reflection, and my feedback provide an ongoing assessment of your writing, but I am always more than happy to discuss your writing in more detail with you. You are welcome to visit my Office Hours at any point during the semester to get more detailed individualized feedback on your blogging and to discuss strategies for improvement

Blogging Grading Rubric

Blog Post GradeGrade Criteria
ExcellentThe post meets or exceeds the required minimum length (as stated for each assignment), is submitted on time, categorized correctly, and follows all guidelines/expectations (for blogging in general, and for that particular post, if there were additional instructions/prompts provided). The post displays a clear/competent understanding of the text(s), but moves beyond mere summary to critical engagement/dialogue with the text(s) in the context of the overall themes of the course. It extends class/online discussions with its excellent analysis, and offers compelling, insightful, and developed claims and evidence.The post is structured logically/coherently, with multiple paragraphs, each with one main idea (fully developed) and topic sentences that reflect that focus. While multiple ideas/points may be discussed, there is a unifying theme/argument to the post: a sense of how all the various points fit together. The post is virtually error free, at the sentence-level, having been carefully proofread/edited. Texts/ideas are cited completely/correctly in MLA style.
SatisfactoryThe blog post is the required length and on-topic, but offers too much summary and too little analysis. It has some good points and potential, but it does not push these ideas further to show why/how they are significant in the context of their overall response, and the overall themes of the course. The blog post is structured relatively well, but has some ideas jumbled together, sentence-level errors, and/or incorrect (or missing) citations that interfere with its clarity/persuasiveness.
Borderline / UnsatisfactoryThe blog post is submitted on time but is underdeveloped, either because it does not meet the minimum length requirement and/or does not critically/completely engage with the text(s)/assignment. It presents a great deal of summary of the texts ideas and/or the professor/classmates’ ideas (either in class or on the blog), and/or only responds tangentially/superficially/generally. It is not structured effectively, with many ideas jumbled together, no clear argument/topic sentences, incorrect/ineffective use of evidence/summary/paraphrase/citation. There are many sentence-level errors.
Not passing / no creditThe blog post was either not submitted, submitted after the deadline, very short (just a few sentences), irrelevant/off-topic, and/or doesn’t follow the assignment instructions.

Let’s Review, Reflect, & Revise!

After reading + annotating the above material, complete the below activities:

  1. Check/correct categories: Go back and review all of your posts. Make sure that they are categorized correctly (and that you haven’t checked the “Stick to the top of the blog” option). If they were not categorized correctly, please correct it now (and uncheck the “Stick to the top of the blog” if you have that checked) and then send me an email with a heads-up (and the link to all the posts in question), so I can go back and give you credit for your work.

    *Don’t forget to follow the emailing guidelines when you write me those emails!
  2. Revise your titles: if you have a generic title, come up with a stronger one and edit the title to this new one. Also include 1-2 sentences at the top of your post explaining what your old title was, what it is now, and your rationale for changing it (i.e., why is this new title better)?
  3. Comment here + Discuss: Comment below to indicate what you learned here, what you noticed when you reviewed your posts, and what you’re going to work on going forward with blogging (especially for this week’s post in response to Baldwin’s “A Talk to Teachers”). You can of course ask any questions you might too, about anything I’ve posted here.

*In order to make these fixes, simply click “edit” on your published posts, make the requested changes, and then click “Update.” (don’t change the content; and please note that, as an admin I can view all versions and revision history, so I can see what was published and when).

Thanks all! I hope this Writing Workshop was helpful! And everyone, make sure going forward with the new blogs (starting with this Friday’s post), you have awesome titles & correct categories. Looking forward to seeing you all step up your blogging games 🙂


  1. Holaly Dzakpa

    Thank You professor Belli! What surprised me the most about this was that I should not continue writing in the content summary box. I have been doing that and thought it was the right way. Thank you for taking time to write this and point out mistakes we make so that we can write posts the correct way. Thanks for all this useful information and I will be sure to put it in good use.

    • Holaly Dzakpa

      Good morning Professor, I am a little confused on the requirements for the title of the post. Should I just include the title of the article and author? Does it have to be a 1-2 sentence?

      • Jill Belli

        Glad that was helpful!

        For the title, you should come up with your own (catchy, relevant, creative) title — you don’t need to include the author or title of the text you’re responding to (since that is already in the post’s metadata).

        For the 1-2 sentences, I was asking for students to review old posts and update their titles, and include the old and new titles together with a brief rationale of the change they made (to explain the revision). Going forward, for new blogs, you just make the new (good!) title from the start, so no need to provide a 1-2 sentence rationale.

  2. Jamani Anderson

    I noticed when I reviewed my post is that I started to see that I didn’t have a much creative title and I’m going to work on my creative titles moving forward with blogging especially for this weeks post in response to Baldwin”s “A Talk to Teachers”).

  3. Henry Ren

    I learned that we’re being graded on more than just completing the points required for the assignment. Looking back, I definitely could have included more creativity and development in certain posts I have already posted. In addition, I never really thought much about the titles I made regarding previous assignments.

  4. Brandon Rivera

    After going over my posts I noticed that I like to keep things simplistic. For example with the Educational Narrative post, I simply titled it “Education Narrative” and nothing else. It was just to get the point across. I then changed it to “My first Education Narrative Thoughts.” As it makes more sense and sounds more eye-catching in my opinion. I noticed that all my posts have been categorized correctly which I am proud of myself since at the beginning of the school semester I was worried I might not correctly post my blogs in the right category. For this week’s blog, I will have a more creative title and continue the consistent categorization of my posts.

    • Jill Belli

      That’s great that your posts were originally categorized correctly Brandon!

      As for the title, do you think there is even a more specific / relevant title than “My first Education Narrative Thoughts”? Perhaps sometime that references the particular incident you chose (rather than the generic “education narrative” label)?

  5. Khandoker

    I didn’t actually know we should be giving a title to our posts. I was going to give a different titles for my posts but changed it when I saw everyone using the same title and Professor not saying anything about it. So I thought we were supposed to title out posts the same as the work it is about. Thanks for letting us know about this.

  6. DavidP

    I thought that the blogging thing was just for assignments. I never really thought of using it outside of classwork. It could be a good way to spread freewriting prompts that I think others would find interesting. Blogging could also be a good way to receive constructive criticism on my own short writing pieces.

    • Jill Belli

      Yes, definitely David! While the blog posts on the Schedule are required, you are always welcome to blog outside of that as well (though it’s totally optional).

  7. Jill Belli

    Thanks for all these thoughts everyone — keep them coming!

    One thing though is that in your new posts (on “A Talk to Teachers”), almost everyone still just titled their posts with that essay title (or Baldwin’s name). As the Workshop above indicates, that is not a good use of a title, as it only presents redundant (and generic) information already presented in the metadata of your post. You want to think of a catchy, creative title that is relevant to the argument/claims/point you are making in your response. That means that no two titles should look the same, as everyone is writing from a different perspective (right now all the blog titles are almost exactly the same!).

    Please go back and revise your titles for today’s post. Thanks!

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