Reading Reflections

You have a short reading response due most days that there is a reading assignment. The syllabus makes it very clear what you need to do and when.

These are meant to be somewhat creative exercises to get you to compare and contrast different aspects of the reading and to indicate what you thought was most interesting about them (we all find different things interesting!). These are NOT intended to be boring academic regurgitations of the readings. You don’t want to write those, and no one wants to read them. The best advice I can give: do the reading, think critically, and be yourself!

Beginning on the third week, the class will be divided into four groups based on last name. You only need to remember what group you are in (or you can look it up again if you forget). The schedule page makes clear what your group is doing for each day (or if there is no group assignment). In other words, the schedule page will tell you what kind of response you’re supposed to write; this page describes the different kinds of responses. We’ll have either connective or comparative responses (depending on whether it’s M or W) so we will see four different kinds of responses each day.

Standard Reflection

Provide a brief statement of what you found most interesting about the readings. Think about:

  • What ideas did you find most interesting or surprising?
  • What was most unclear or confusing?
  • What questions did they bring up?

Connective Reflection

Provide a brief argument of how that day’s reading assignment connects/relates to the topic from the previous reading (possibly the week’s Friday reading, possibly the previous Monday). Think about:

  • How does the reading extend ideas we’ve seen developing?
  • How does the reading offer new perspectives on diet/health/nutrition?
  • Do you find more continuity or discontinuity?

Comparative Reflection

Compare/contrast the readings for today (Wednesday) compared to Monday. Usually, they are VERY different. In terms of general ideas about diet: What commonalities did you notices? What were the key differences? In terms of writing style: which was more effective? Why, specifically? HINT: saying something was easier to read is distinctly NOT a good reason. Be more specific, like an author assumed the reader knew too much, or used too much specialized jargon, etc.

Prompt Reflection

Before each reading, I have posted some questions to think about. Everyone should think about these, but I those who are doing Prompt Reflections will answer them specifically in their discussion board posts.

Response Reflection

THIS IS A SPECIAL GROUP! This group will POST A ~150-200 RESPONSE TO SOMEONE ELSE for their “reflection” assignment. THESE ARE DUE ONE DAY AFTER THE ORIGINAL POSTS ARE DUE. So if you have this task on Monday, your response will be due Tuesday night. Feel free to respond to another as early as you’d like!

Your responses should SUBSTANTIVELY engage with what the original poster said. You can totally disagree with their post and argue for something else. Plurality of interpretations is an integral part of historical study! You can add to a post by making similar, but related and NEW points. WHAT YOU SHOULD NOT DO: Simply agreeing with a post without any new contribution is totally insufficient and will be graded harshly. YOU NEED TO ADD SOMETHING ORIGINAL, and it needs to be based on or connected to the original post (and obviously the reading).

I realize this adds a new due date into your schedule at times, but it’s relatively infrequent for each student. As a payoff, we get to have a little more of an actual discussion and it will make the discussion board much more useful for everyone.


There is never a reading response due Friday because there is either a weekly learning reflection, a special assignment, or nothing, due.


  • ~150–200 words. Write more or less as you need/want to per assignment, but don’t be consistently too much above or below the target.
  • Original thinking! Avoid summarizing readings except to restate a point that you want to elaborate on.
  • Informal writing (don’t try to sound like an academic), but free of typos and basic grammatical errors. These are VERY short posts, so it takes only a few minutes to revise them. Consistently sloppy posts will lower your grade by 1/3 to 2/3 grade (A to B+, for instance).
  • Posted ON TIME at UNM Learn. ON TIME means by MIDNIGHT on the due date. Late posts are docked .5 points per day. Late work once in a while doesn’t really affect your grade, but consistently late work does, and turning work in a day or two late is FAR BETTER than not at all.

Connect, don’t summarize

These posts are meant to be something of a creative exercise. I (and your classmates) are much more interested in reading about what YOU THINK, rather than a summary of the assignment. This exercise is NOT about just regurgitating information or identifying the “right” answer. There is no right answer. Everyone is going to have a different take on what’s interesting, how things connect, how they don’t etc. We can all learn a lot from each other.

Scoring and how these factor in your grade

  • 2 points: Your post clearly demonstrates broad familiarity with the reading assignment, original thinking, and is clearly articulated.

  • 1.5 points: Your post demonstrates some familiarity with the assignment and some original thinking but could use refinement either in thinking or writing.

  • 1 points: A decent effort, but doesn’t show much engagement with the reading or is primarily summary rather than original thinking.

  • .5 point: You posted something, but it looks like you were posting without reading much at all. Often such posts asks questions that are clearly addressed in the readings or ignorantly contradict them (as opposed to carefully argue against them).

  • 0 points: Nothing posted, or otherwise so unintelligible that I can’t even guess at what you were trying to do.

The idea here is that these reflections should in sum account for a significant but not large portion of your final grade without being unduly stressful to complete. And they should hold everyone accountable for keeping up with the reading and not falling behind.

Bottom line: missing a few posts here and there won’t affect your grade, but if you’re consistently missing them or not adding value to the discussion, they end up lowering your grade by 1/3 (like A to A-) or 2/3 (like B+ to B-).