Cummings "Because We Are Shy..."

I thought it was interesting to find out about the Japanese culture, especially in the university setting. The students don't have much say-so in their class choice--they are assigned to classed alphabetically!

I had a few questions about the relevance of the study. I think it is excellent that Cummings found a way to interact with her students so that (almost) no one was uncomfortable, but I don't see how we can use this information on a basic writing class. I think it would be useful in a second language learning classroom, but unless we are teaching a basic writing class full of EFL students I don't think that we can utilize Cummings' methods. In order to practice some of that Cummings suggests, we need to look at our students individually and assess their needs from there. It all comes back to the case-by-case situation.

It was also interesting that there is an attitude that once he students enter the university they become the teacher's responsibility--whether they pass or fail is linked to the teacher's success rather than the students. This is sort of like our high school system, right? We discussed this in class on Tuesday--how standardized tests are more a check on the teachers rather than an assessment of the students' learning. What I find most interesting about this is that our students are now bringing this attitude to college. They'll say things like "I'm going to fail because you gave me an F" instead of "What can I do to bring my grade up?" I guess my question is, at what point do they realize that they have to take some responsibility for their own education? don't they know that if they don't understand something all they have to do is ask questions? or do a little extra research? It seems like as much as we tell them these things, they don't understand. And in the end, they always want someone else to blame for their grades or their lack of understanding.

As for the section about Attitude and Motivation, I like the quote that Cummings uses: "Teachers, instructional aids, curricula, and the like clearly have an effect on what is learned and how students react to the experience" (308). When I read this, it reminded me that everything we do in the classroom affects the students willingness or eagerness to learn the material. I think that sometimes teachers forget this. What we do, the visuals we use, the attitude we have during class, all of this affects students motivation about writing. If we treat it as a research assignment, they'll treat it just like every research assignment they've ever completed. But if we somehow make it relevant to them, maybe they'll try a little harder. This might just be wishful thinking, though. I think it goes along with the "take responsibility for your learning" thing.


Melanie Mayer ENGL 5361 Reading Response March 29

From TDW Leki’s “Reciprocal Themes” and Cummings’ “Because We Are Shy”

It occurs to me that on a small scale, some weaker first language readers share characteristics with ESL/EFL readers: they worry so much about just reading the words that they miss the meaning altogether. In this they parallel weak writers who do the same thing in the writing process, agonizing over where to put the comma in the first sentence of the introduction instead of making meaning out of it. It is painful to observe in a classroom. Leki presents some good ideas for helping all readers who struggle.

Two main premises emerge. First, and it is interesting I haven’t heard this more often, strategies that improve writing also improve reading. Since I believe the two are closely connected, this is not a real leap for me. We intervene in the writing process – why not the reading process (131)? Leki suggests modeling our thought processes as we read, conferencing to assess where the problems exist, and teaching strategies for the different types of reading. I think students in lower grades get this type of reading instruction and intervention. I never thought much about doing it with older readers, though. Yet I do it with older writers.

The next premise is that reading should have a purpose. Readers skim, scan, chunk, and guess – we take what we need for our own purposes. As a good reader, I take this for granted, but in fact I do read everything differently depending on my purpose for reading. If only I could make a meaningful purpose for my students, they would read more and enjoy it more. That is a real dilemma, particularly with some of the British literature in the English IV curriculum. What real purpose can I defend for having twenty senior boys read the Bronte sisters, or Jane Austen, for example? Responses to reading (like this one) are good because the readers get to make meaning for themselves from the text. They must reflect and apply what they have read to their own experiences, which is much better than answering questions about main idea or content. I don’t read these articles for this class necessarily to find the main idea, as some students have to do, and especially on standardized tests (what – another flaw in the test??), but to find what is relevant and useful to me, what I didn’t know, what I can use in my classroom or research. We are all reading them differently, which is obvious in discussions. Research supports this: “the meaning of a given text depends on who is reading it” (133). Yet curriculum does not support this research and much as with writing, assessment does not acknowledge it.

I like the idea that students read each other’s writing, not to edit or suggest things about the writing, but to use as reading for their own writing: to address, respond, agree, disagree, even cite (135). I also like the idea of having them read and respond to more of the types of non-fiction, critical, and documented essays I am asking them to write. This is common sense yet we seem to get caught up in the fictional literature, instead of even reading essays about the fictional literature, if that makes sense.

Regarding the Cummings article - I don’t have a lot of experience or information to draw from on computer mediated communications for educational coursework. In a world in which people strike up conversations, become intimate, even date online, why wouldn’t computer mediated communications in educational coursework be available? As a teacher I would miss the face-to-face interaction with students; on the other hand, I often see what Cummings reported – that some students will not speak up in class and yet have volumes to say. My 1301 students here in Port A. do the online labs at Del Mar and they help each other and do fine without the face-to-face instruction.

Anything that promotes more success and enjoyment with reading and writing in ordinary citizens – I am for it. Literacy is a good thing. How blessed I am to be part of a profession that furthers that goal. --mm


I am completely interested in the reading-writing connection! I loved the Leki article because it provided more useful information for my research paper, and it just seems that the more I read about this topic, the better the conversation gets!

So my research paper is on the reading/writing connection within the basic writing class, but like Melanie said in her post, sometimes weak writers share the same characteristics as ESL writers, though Smoke would vehemently disagree with this broad generalization.

I have to agree completely with Leki. I think that the writing classroom needs to include reading in order to show students the transactional model that this practice endorses. What I learned with this article is that teaching students to employ certain cognitive strategies is definitely not what the goal of the reading/writing connection stresses: "If meaning did reside in the text, then well-honed cognitive strategies would be sufficient to unravel meaning" (Leki 133). However, in my research, I found that Carol Olson argues otherwise. She maintains that teachers should teach students what expert readers and writers do and have them learn to do the same thing. But, now I see why that's wrong. Leki argues that expert readers/writers can do that because they know how: "The problem with teaching these cognitive strategies is that even if our students accomplish these goals, they are still not learning reading; they are learning strategies for reading, which can at best be only imitations of reading behaviors...But these strategies are the result not the cause of reading proficiency" (128).

So I guess all we can do is have our students read for meaning and have them write about that meaning, thus creating a conversation that would otherwise be ignored when reading or writing with no real context or purpose occurs. Leki also offered some great tips for using the reading/writing connection effectively, such as using longer texts that connect somehow (as opposed to the shotgun approach) so that students can make connections and draw meaning from the text. I also liked that Leki suggests that students cite each other's work, so that when the reader and writer meet in the classroom, they model what it is that real readers read for and what real writers write for and literally create the place where reader and writer meet through a text (133). Publishing student work is also a great idea.

In the Cummings article, I was interested in how teachers sometimes have assumptions about their students without taking into account their cultural upbringing. Because our university is a Hispanic serving institution, I think it's important that teachers understand the Mexican culture, and how that plays into classroom conduct. For example, I understand that I am reticent in class, but that is due to the way I was raised, which stressed that women remain reserved in public. And I would hate for people to think that I am not interested in learning or unmotivated, which is furthest from the truth. About CMC, I think that's a great way to share the floor, so to speak, but I don't think that it's the only medium by which teachers get to know their students; there are some limitations, as Cummings addressed, of CMC that teachers can't overlook.


Not that I do not enjoy the readings (I feel like I am learning something by reading these ESL chapters) but I question why they are included in a Basic Writing book when it seems clear that ESL writers are not necessarily Basic Writers. I also understand the importance of learning strategies that will help us with the ESL students who appear in our Basic Writing classes because there is no ESL alternative, but I feel like these two readings today focused so much on full ESL classes, or FL classes, that it is hard to draw conclusions about a non-ESL Basic Writing class. Even still, I will try.

One thing I found interesting in the Leki article was the idea of Reader Response theory being used to both improve reading and writing. I thought it was an interesting discussion because we in English seem focused on a New Critical model, which supposes that a "qualified reader" (aka someone from this privileged discourse community) will be able to read a piece and come up with the "right" interpretation. However, a Reader Response Theory allows students to interact with a text in a way that connects to their own understanding. This ties in with what I have been reading about in personal writing. My sources so far show that when students are allowed to connect to topics (or readings) in a personal way, they become more relevant. I think this would work in a non-ESL Basic Writing class as well.

Heather Dorn

Leki discusses the connection between reading and writing for L2 learners. She relies heavily, I believe, on Reader Response Theory and the idea of social construction of meaning through reinvention of the text. In essence it is skills vs. meaning. Leki problematizes the skills approach to teaching reading (and writing) and urges to teaching reading combined with writing which enables a natural purpose and attention to the social aspects. Reading in isolation at home has no real benefit for L2 readers. The only negotiating of meaning that occurs is between the text and the reader—in a collaborative view, the class is able to negotiate the meaning and add depth rather than relying on searching for the author’s intent and main focus and comprehension questions. Continuing to practice reading in this manner is “reductionism” and does little to foster student’s development. Leki states, “ If we use reading and teaching reciprocally in L2 classrooms, focusing less on teaching language, reading, or writing and more on allowing students to engage intellectually with the text, this engagement with the text fosters a view of reading and writing as active construction of meaning.”

Cummings tackles the issues of participation and interests as she journals her experiences of teaching an online English course in Japan to EFL students. She argues that this step in her teaching method facilitated better participation and interest as well as practice with writing and reading English. The student’s were more engaged because of the somewhat safety of the anonymity that an online environment offers, as wells as the benefits of having to not worry about the turn taking and interruption factors. Students were more engaged and more likely to respond to the teacher, each other, and to the writing assignments. This gave their language practice a definite context and placed them in a community of learners that were engaged collaboratively of constructing meaning—they negotiated the meaning of their writing with each other as well as the teacher. Cummings research experiment, I believe, proves much of what Leki was discussing and supplements the notion of writing as a social act. (Olaf should love this!).