Assignment Overview:

  • Longer posts (~500 words) in response to 8-10 prompts added to course Canvas during the semester
  • Students work individually
  • In general, due within two weeks of a prompt being posted
  • Students will submit the number of responses outlined in their grade contracts


“Building a (Better) Book” is an experiential course that moves between discussion of readings and applied activities each week. In order to help you synthesize work across our readings and labs, as well as reflect on the larger themes raised throughout the semester, you will write longer-form, analytical posts in response to prompts. I will post 8-10 prompts over the course of the semester, and students will respond based on their course contracts. Reflective posts will generally be due 2 weeks after a prompt is posted, so you want to check for prompts on Canvas regularly.

Reflective posts should aim for more substance and detail than a typical class forum response, but they are not full-fledged academic essays. Think instead of smart, critical writing you might encounter online: a blog entry or a sharp opinion piece. Formally, that translates to 400-500 words, or 4-5 paragraphs. Your reflective posts should synthesize and bring readings into conversation, and should focus on developing an argument around a few core ideas. You should not spend words summarizing readings or recounting discussions from class, but instead choosing details that help illustrate your own ideas.

Remember what Judge John Hodgman frequently reminds his listeners, “specificity is the soul of narrative.” Avoid broad generalizations and instead use these responses to delve into your own corners of intellectual interest. You might cite a specific idea from one of your colleagues as evidence, and you should absolutely cite specific insights from our readings—I would in fact encourage to quote and cite regularly. You should highlight specific ways that our activities brought our readings into relief, or exposed disjunctures between theory and praxis. And you should connect some of our readings, activities, and course themes to texts and ideas you encounter in other classes and contexts.


This is a challenging and full class. To give you some flexibility, you may choose to forgo responding to reflective prompts a few times during the semester, in line with your chosen grading contract. I strongly recommend you not delay starting this work, but instead begin early and work steadily so that you can use this flexibility as the inevitable stresses of the semester emerge. It’s generally much easier, in other words, to respond to all the prompts early in the semester, so you can ignore the last ones, rather than putting yourself in a situation where you can only fulfill your contract by responding to every prompt remaining.