Caleb’s Reading Response: 11.01.2011

The article by Leki on ESL students and writing, and the article by Haas and Flower about reading (or meaning making) strategies focus on the red-headed step child of Basic Writing scholarship, reading. Although Leki speaks about ESL students while Haas and Flower are talking about any student in a composition classroom, both texts speak towards important issues, namely: that (like writing) reading involves language making it interpretable, the interpretability of language makes meaning vary reader to reader, and using reading within the writing classroom is necessary, but must be submerged in a real world context.

In regards to the necessity of reading as applied in a real world context, Leki seems to assert that disassociating reading from the real world actually makes the process useless, as classes structured this way rarely push for students to make connections between different reading assignments. Leki goes deeper than this, however, noting that the need for real world context is meaning. The more readings are associated with students’ interests/needs and are interconnected, the more chances that students actually make deep connections that go deeper than surface level observations.

Because it incorporates communication and language, all scholars seem in agreement that writing is a necessity in the composition classroom, as students need to understand not only how to make meaning from writing, but reading as well. Haas and Flower note that standardized testing currently only tests surface reading skills such as summarizing a text or providing its details; however, because reading and composition have become so disconnected (Leki), most students are unable to make deeper connections between readings and past experiences, past readings, deeper social, political, and scholarly issues, etc. As Haas and Flower point out, knowledge of these surface features does not appear to help students grasp on to deeper issues when reading, and limit their ability at making meaning from what they read.

This is where the concept of rhetoric comes back into play. Although most scholars/students associate rhetoric simply with writing or speaking, as Haas and Flower point out, rhetorical reading would go a long way in helping students actually make meaning of texts. By assessing reading assignments rhetorically, students can have opportunities to make these deeper connections between themselves, the world, and the text. Additionally, teaching roles will need to change, as teachers will need to allow student’s the ability to make these connections while acting as a guide, rather than pointing to one correct meaning for a text. Just like writing instruction, teachers should allow students the chance to make connections on their own, almost like a process approach to reading.

Haas, Flower, and Leki share similar ground with scholars like Rose who argues that all writing should be set within some social context as opposed to being treated as merely a classroom activity. Although Rose doesn’t speak directly about reading, he does not that the interpretability of language makes it essential to teach it within context, as students will gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for what writing actually entails, and will be more capable of making meaning in a world dominated by rhetorical language.

Overall, I really enjoyed both readings this week. I never made these connections between reading and writing before (shame on me), but after these readings, I can see the necessity for reassessing my approach to reading in the writing classroom.