Dawn Boeck – Response for 11.1.11
The readings for this week gave me faith in the reading and writing strategies I employ in my own classroom – for the most part.
Haas and Flower (1988) discuss the importance of teaching rhetorical reading strategies to our students. Rather than teaching students to ONLY read what the text is about or how to identify its discourse features, Haas and Flower argue that we need to teach them how to locate and interpret the purpose or the text, its context, and its effect on the audience.
I assigned this text to my students while working on our rhetorical analysis project. I had the students read the article and answer a question for HW. I grouped the students into six groups, each with a question related to the reading. Students used their individual responses in their group meetings to decide as a group how they would teach their question to the class.
We had read Keith Grant-Davie’s “Rhetorical Situations and Their Constituents” prior to this assignment, so I worked to make connections between the two readings as well as to their rhetorical analysis project. One of the group’s questions was to identify the rhetorical situation of the Haas and Flower article – what is the exigence of this article (its purpose/context – what prompted it?), who are the rhetors? who was meant to read it – and how can you tell?, what are the constraints to the article – its liabilities and assets? The last question in this set of questions asked the students to discuss how their understanding of the article can be/was improved by their identification of its rhetorical situation. The responses from both sections revealed the importance of understanding these elements as a means of constructing meaning from the text and applying it in a meaningful way.
The students used the “Framing the Reading” section to understand what prompted the writing of this article by Haas and Flower (real humans!) in 1988 as well as how they created and implemented the study. They also pointed out (as mentioned at the end of the “Framing the Reading” section) that this section, by definition, is an exercise in rhetorical reading. In discussing who was meant to read this article, the students highlighted the constraints and assets of its construction. Written for an academic journal, the article has the intended audience of academics. We discussed how their role as secondary audience members could create constraints on the construction of meaning through issues of vocabulary, discourse traits, and prior knowledge. We also discussed their assets as college freshman, making connections between these scholarly articles and applying them in meaningful ways to their writing projects.
Haas and Flower emphasize the importance of teaching students to “interweave” rhetorical reading strategies into their reading of the text – their identification of what is being said and which discourse features are accomplishing this. We should teach students all three readings strategies as a means of “building a rich representation of a text” (135). In doing this, we can help students both their reading AND writing.
Leki (1993) discusses the importance of combining the teaching of writing with reading in the L2 classroom, and all language-learning classrooms. She suggests that we incorporate reading into the writing classroom and vice versa. Leki makes connections between the research that has been accomplished and implemented in the field of writing pedagogy and the lack of implementation of this research in the field of reading pedagogy. She argues that while writing pedagogy no longer places an emphasis on error or reductionist definitions of process and product, reading pedagogy continues to do so. Leki argues that by requiring students to identify the main idea of a text, we are appropriating the meaning of the text from our students and denying them the opportunity to construct and negotiate meaning, thereby negating important research done on reading comprehension and meaning-making processes.
Leki advises that we take the time to ask students what THEY got out of a text and how THEY are applying it to what they know and what they need to know. She goes on to explain, “A de-emphasis of error also implies our acceptance of the idea that our students cannot understand everything they read and that they do not need to. They need to read actively and selectively, picking out what they can use to advance their own agendas” (107). I think that this suggestion can be most effectively played out in the 1302 classroom at TAMUCC. By taking a semester-long research focus, students are given the opportunity to read actively, make connections, and integrate new knowledge into their own writing.
The most useful thing I took away from Leki is her discussion of teaching cognitive reading strategies to students.The third assignment my students are working on this semester (currently) is an annotated bibliography on the discourse community they will be researching for their fourth project. In discussing how they can work to achieve this assignment, I shared with them some of my own reading strategies, something that Leki suggests we do with our students (107). However, I was discussing “strategies for reading,” not actually teaching them how to read more effectively. Skills such as skimming, scanning, focusing on headings, topic sentences, and major key terms are simply “reading behaviors” of an experienced reader – not to toot my own horn. Leki explains, “These strategies are the result not the cause of reading proficiency” (99). With this, I may not actually be teaching my students anything if they do not already possess some of the capabilities necessary for this type of reading.
Leki’s discussion connects back to many of the discussions we have had this semester about the growing divide of understanding between teachers and their students. How can I effectively teach students how to learn and utilize the various strategies that may work for their individual processes? We, teachers, continue through our educations, gaining more knowledge, and resituating the meanings we have gained through our experiences into the knowledge we now attain and attempt to share (as Leki mentions – revisiting a text “with new knowledge structures” 98). The problem comes when we can no longer see or understand how to cross to growing barrier between our students and us, or how we once crossed that barrier.
Eda's Response - 11.01.2011
Meaning. I think this is the key word for today’s readings. It is the key for teachers to see what goes wrong in their developmental writing classes; why cannot their students write by presenting meaning coherently? Why cannot even present meaning in their writings? Our two readings today give use the answer: lack of reading abilities.
Christina Haas and Linda Flower’s article presents a good discussion about basic writers’ lack of reading abilities. First of all, the most important thing we need to realize in this article is the fact that it builds its discussion on the idea which is the strong connection between reading and writing: they have an effect on one another. Especially, good reading leads us to good writing. Using “good” is really important in here, since it is not in the terms of good in regular exams or tests (standardized exams, exit exams etc.); it is good in the terms of perceiving and presenting meaning coherently by applying rhetorical devices. What Haas and Flower offer in their article through their research on students representing readers/writers on different level such as graduate student, freshman writers (average, above average). What they see about these students confirms their idea: developmental students cannot analyze a text critically; they are not able to present what they think about it (assessing the text); they cannot find connection between different ideas; they are not able to use their previous knowledge on the subject (maybe they do not even have a previous knowledge, reading experience). Basically, they are not able to use rhetorical devices to “read” a text. What they do as reading is not an actual “reading”: they identify introduction, body parts, conclusion, thesis sentence, the main idea etc. They try to find the elements in a text which they also try to use them in their writings. This shows the fact that their only concern is to figure out the structure to reach the meaning; and they do the same thing in their writings: build up a structure to present meaning. However, what they do cause them to reach or present limited meanings. As Haas and Flower expresses, when it comes to meaning, a text has multi layers. Rhetorical devices help us to see these multi layers. This helps students to do the same thing in their writings: presenting multi layered meaning. Ilona Leki talks about the same problem in her article; but she takes her attention to a different group of basic writers: ESL students. She presents the fact that L2 students have separate reading and writing classes; however like Haas and Flower express, the collaboration between reading and writing is the key to help these students to improve their skills on presenting and perceiving meaning in higher (academic) level. Leki basically presents the same obstacles that native speakers have: not being able to see the multi layered meaning in a text, not being able to present a coherent, deep meaning in writing, lack of connecting ideas in a text to different ideas (previous knowledge) etc. Like native students, what they learn is to techniques to read a text fast to find specific elements that they can use to identify thesis, main idea etc. Also, they do the same thing in their writings; since this the way how they read a text, and it means that they should write their own text in this way too. Basically, they do not learn rhetorical skills to be able to present and perceive “meaning”.
The solution that what these readings suggest to this problem is the same: applying reading and writing together to develop rhetorical skills in students to perceive and produce “meaning”. They need to learn how to read critically, how to analyze what they read to be able to do the same thing in writing. Working on these skills in a same class in a parallel way will help them to do more practicing both on reading and writing. It also help students to not to confuse about what they read all the time their different writing and reading classes; since combining them in one class will give a chance to these students follow a path on their reading (text connected to one another in context)’ and it will help them develop their thinking and writing process.
Mike Brown Nov 1 R/R
I found the essay "Reciprocal Themes in ESL Reading and Writing" by Ilona Leki to be an interesting one to read. In the essay, Leki talks about the value of combining the teaching of writing with reading in the second language classroom. I see this as an overly obvious statement. I would think that the teaching of reading and writing together in an ESL classroom (or any other English classroom) would be the norm. How else would a student learn one without the other? If a student, regardless of their language skills, cannot read, I would think that the writing abilities of that student would also be lacking and vice versa. The article "Rhetorical Reading Strategies and the Construction of Meaning" by Christina Haas and Linda Flower illustrates how the reading and writing abilities of students are built over time through reciprocation. There is not one individual in the world who just magically becomes a great reader and writer. The ability of a person to break down a particular reading and then to be able to relate the article to actual experiences, to recognize the author’s rationale in his or her writing, and the overall effect the writing has on the reader are all attributes that are essential to completely generate an understanding of the reading. This article is ultimately about how readers make use of different strategies in order to understand the content that they are reading and also to make sense of what they are reading. All readers build their own unique methods in order to make sense of the same text in their own personal ways.
I like the idea of changing the machine-like practices of regular-skilled readers that Haas and Flowers explore. Unskilled readers tend to just read the text and not understand other ancillary elements to the text that can enhance the reader’s reception to the text. Haas and Flowers claim reading is constructive rather than receptive. The meaning the author expresses is under a state of flux while the reader constructs his own meaning of the text.
Reading is an interpretive act. It is the reader who must integrate information into meaning. The information readers carry with them into a text can manipulate the writer’s words into a scramble of signifier-signified meanderings. But these meanderings are not mindless whims but the freedom to construct their own meaning from the text instead of the text constructing the meaning for readers. I’m not sure if all readers and all students can attain this level of freedom to construct their own meaning into text. The tracking of the students shows how certain individuals may not ever be capable of ever developing the rhetorical reading skills Haas and Flower implore readers to implement. The talking out of the reading of the text can show readers or make them aware of stylistic differences in thought processes. This, however, can also serve to make a student seem inadequate in an academic classroom as Haas and Flower note Kara’s “own affective responses …are somewhat more limited that that of other readers” (128). But does this mean a student is deemed as reading regressively? Are instructors and researchers inferring intelligence on students not able to attain a higher level of interpretive skills? Do instructors understand the implication on students unable to apply different reading strategies that would lead them to progress into another dimension of reading?
Moving reading and writing into the same classroom might seem like a good idea, but this would not be an absolute solution. Leki tells us that opening up the concept of interpreting text with a rhetorical perspective can enhance writing. Reading and writing should be brought together in a developmental classroom. The problem lies in what remedial readers are able to comprehend in a more mind-expanding manner. Again, it all points to the individual student. Not all students will be receptive to this pedagogy of interpreting text in a different manner than just the surface meaning. Instructors can show students different methods, techniques, and styles of reading texts. Some students, no all, will adhere to this basic imploration to broaden their rhetorical horizons to begin inferring and articulating their own textual meanings. Instructors should content themselves with the notion that they have opened up the discourse and dialogue to help students begin to convey their own ideas. They have presented students with an opportunity to enhance and broaden their existence in college and on this planet. Remember, all it takes is one.
end of ed's response
Kohut post 11/01
Again thought that the reading was very interesting, which I feel like I say every week, but I have to be me. The Leki reading hit a nerve because I too have wondered how we are ever truly teaching to our ESL students with all of the rigmarole and forms etc., which we jump through and fill out incessantly without ever speaking to the child. Even the ESL students we have that are higher-level in one area may not be in another. Once a year I am on the committee that evaluates our 7-8 grade ESL students in three distinct areas: reading, writing, and speaking. I often wonder how I am supposed to evaluate the genuine abilities of young men and women that do not speak as freely and thus not as authentically to me, an adult and an educator in another country basically. And although these kids may have great skills in their home countries, are they learning to think differently in a second language in a way that will be detrimental to them in the future?
The Flowers and Chambers writing spoke to me about how we are not teaching our kids to think in a way that is conducive to anything other than taking tests. I fear I may have read that into it at some point, but I stand firm to my overall idea of theme. We want our kids to think deeply and really consider what skills they are personally employing in their reading in order to really dig into it, but how can they do this when we are teaching them exactly how we want them to do it so they can pass a test or a series of tests? We are not letting them read enough for them to develop their own strategies and plans. At this point to them reading is a means to an end, not something to do in order to become mentally stimulated or learn something for the sake of learning it.
This past week I attended a workshop about the STAAR writing test and the first significant thing that happened was that a heated verbal debate broke out amongst the attendees and the instructor. The majority of the concerns voiced by the teachers were about the rigorous conditions of the test being merely another ploy for teaching to the test, disguised as authentic writing. The conditions of the test reminded me of Mike Rose’s students so dejected and defeated by writing for specific criteria within a set time limit. This test is exactly that! The instructor was very patient and understanding with the comments directed at her, but her bottom line was that THIS IS HAPPENING. She said we need to get past the what-ifs and the accusations and prepare our kids as best as we can.
I agree with her, but how can I best do that knowing what I know now from this class? I am constantly questioning whether what I am doing for my students is the best practices based on my most basic writers and their needs. How can I help them when they are resentful of this test? How can I help them when they don’t know enough about what they lack to ask me for help? There are so many more questions than answers at this point, but I feel positive and I feel proactive in the sense that I have more information than most people because of this class. I am grateful for that. And all the questions I ask make me think and develop strategies so my students, all my students, can write well and defeat this monster that is standardized testing! My resolve seems pretty strong right now, but a lot of times I am scared and I feel powerless. I am still writing my anthem, but I won’t give up.