I saw a weird French film a few months ago; I can't remember the name of the movie. In one scene, an older character writes "1, 3, 5, 7, 9" on a piece of paper without commas. Below the line of numbers, he writes, "A B C D E F." He shows a younger character the paper. He circles the B and the 1 and the 3 which are written close together and which look like a sloppy B. The older character tells the younger character that life makes more sense in context. That these symbols, alone, mean the same thing, but based on the surroundings, have different meaning.
There has been a push for 'real-world relevant' instruction. Everything we do in class should have a real-world consequence for knowing or not knowing the information. This requires the teacher to ask, constantly, "Why are we learning this?" Far too often, it is the Spring testing that is the real world connection most teachers make. That means their reading is followed by (Costas) Level 1 questions and a narrative about the main idea. I agree with Leki that "[t]he unfortunate separation of reading and writing has impoverished instruction in both domains" (95). Bifurcating the two takes the action away from the purpose. "...[T]he issue is less what students read...than what they then do with what they read, how we ask them to engage that text" (Leki 98). This is equally true for all students.
I feel like it takes more effort from the teacher to allow the students opporunities to explore literature and create meaning through their writing. The teachers would rather teach a short piece, teach the targeted content skill, and then, move one to the next short piece. Teachers generally don't take the time for the multitude of multi-faceted "..private mental representation(s) that...reader(s) construct..." (Haas and Flower 168). One of the obvious observations from the Haas and Flower article* is that Content and Function/Features strategies are the easier levels / the levels that require little work. The students don't need to think further. It could be that the students were never shown how to take their thinking further. It is easy to just give students the answers. It requires harder work from the teacher to lead the students to their own discovery. 'Harder' may not be the best word...maybe 'different' work than what they are used to. It requires more patience and a comfort with silence as you stand in the front of the room waiting for the a-ha to happen.
Haas and Flower ask, "What does rhetorical reading do for readers" (178)? My initial answer is that it allows the students to hook and connect the new knowledge to their old knowledge to help them find meaning and purpose. As Leki writes, "Anticipating in writing the content of a text...primes schemata and thereby facilitates reading a text" (Leki 103). This requires the teacher(s) to stop talking and to listen and acknowledge the various right answers that will come from the students. As Haas and Flower state, rhetorical reading is "...an active attempt at construcing a rhetorical context for the text as a way of making sense of it" (Haas and Flower 168). Reading, like writing, is a skill that goes beyond translating letters to words and words to meaning. Good readers are active readers who connect the meaning to outside the text. Teachers should model reading as precisely as we model writing.
(I read the Haas and Flower article from the College Composition and Communication, Vol 39, No. 2, May 1988, 167-183)