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Irene Clark's Summary from the “Teachers for a New Era” English  Study Group on October 8, 2004

 

Topic:  Reading and Writing Connections”

 

The TNE English Study Group began last spring by addressing the question:  “If you knew that most of the students in your class were going to be teaching, how might (or should) that knowledge impact your teaching?”  This question has served as a springboard for discussing the nature of the learning we want to promote in our classrooms, not simply in terms of presenting particular content, but, more importantly, of enabling our students to continue to learn, to grapple with new texts, and to critique new ideas. Moreover, if many of the students in our classes are potential teachers, everything we do in class may serve as a model that they will imitate in their own classrooms.  Because we want to “model” good teaching and to promote strategies for continued learning, we have a dual responsibility—to teach our students specific content and to communicate a method for learning it. Fostering connections between reading and writing thus constitutes an important means of fostering this continued learning,  and the topic for discussion focused on how to promote effective reading/writing strategies..

 

In many classes, both reading and writing are simply “assigned,” the presumption being that students already know how to read critically and write effectively—or at least that they should know as a prerequisite to college admission. Of course, we all know that many students lack these abilities, but for many professors, the only response is to express dissatisfaction about student inadequacies—a phenomenon that has been referred to as the “assign and complain” method of teaching.  How transcend assigning and complaining in order to teach students useful strategies constitutes a significant challenge for those of us who teach potential teachers (and, in fact, any students).

 

The opening question for this session was:  “What do you do in your classes to help your students read deeply and critically—different from the way in which they read for pleasure (or are used to reading)”—and discussion focused on a number of extremely useful approaches and strategies. These are as follows:

 

 

The second question focused on how instructors connected reading and writing in the classroom. Responses were as follows:

 

 

During the final part of the meeting, a breakout session was held in which participants

discussed a list of critical reading strategies which had been compiled by Sally Diessner from Dr. Kroll’s “Reading and Writing Connections” class and a handout which outlined a comparison between the reading and writing processes. Participants noted which strategies they used in their classrooms and then shared with the whole group which strategies they had found most successful. The group concluded that reading and writing are part of the same continuum; one cannot be done, or taught, without the other; and further, that modeling and reading aloud are privileged in the classroom as ways to communicate this.

 

            Everyone enjoyed the Indian food, and during this week, several participants have already noted that they have incorporated some of these reading/writing strategies into their classroom teaching.


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