Reading Becoming WritingRather than Writing aboutReading - An Example fromthe Classroom
By Kyle Bjorem
One of the greatest difficulties that teachersof English often face is how to seamlessly transitionfrom the reading of a text to the writing about thattext. Too often I have witnessed (and participated inas a student) a unit in which the class spends a largechunk of time working our way through
The Grapesof Wrath
The Hunger Games
only to have a ratherarbitrary writing assignment tacked on at the end .Usually, this is that threadbare vestige of a pastpedagogical age
the five paragraph argumentativeessay.We are now in an era in which theinterdependence of the vast network of globalprocesses is becoming more and more apparent. Theskills that were once necessary for the autonomousperson to navigate the complexities of civilizationhave changed drastically.No longer should thelocus of education, andspecifically reading andwriting instruction, beabout picking outisolated facts andstringing them togethertowards some endproduct that now solidlyexists as anunchangeable, objectiveentity.Rather, what isbecoming more andmore important isprocess
and process asunderstood in two ways. The first sense that I mean is
what could be called the “macro
he way weunderstand society has evolved
the zeitgeist ebbsand the zeitgeist flows, it does not operate via aformal progression of logical steps. The successfulindividual in the 21
century is going to be one whois able to comprehend and be aware of and open toslight shifts coming from every direction. The abilityto receive and be critical of multitudes of media,styles, rhetorical forms, and so on, is absolutelynecessary. The standard research paper orargumentative essay is simply not broad enough.The second sense in which I understand
process is on the “micro
level”. Here the focus
goesto the experience of the subjective individual
thesingular student and how they learn. It is an abjectwaste of time to present our students with areading/writing duality, in which the two arebasically turned into abstract entities. Reading andtexts will then become for students a garbage heap of facts
and other people‟s thoughts –
a standing reserve
that‟s purpose is to be dug through for bits and pieces
to be shoved into a writing assignment. The writingassignment itself thus becomes simply an exercise inorganizing these facts
not actually writing at all, butsome sort of Tetris inspired punishment that students
rightfully complain about as being “pointless”.
What is the alternative you may ask?
Onemust read a text and then write about
that text, you’re
over-thinking the whole ordeal, surely. Use somecommon sense!
The first thing I would say is that mygoal is to have my students be able to transcend thebounds of
sense and see things a little bitmore critically than that, but more to the point is thatreading is a part of the writing process. One does notread a text and then write
that text. When onereads a text it is not a matter of picking upinformation from an outside sourceand then placing it within the mind
itis an active process of co-creatingmeaning. The text and the subject areultimately a synthesis, not a duality.The text is nothing but ink and paperuntil this synthesis occurs with asubjective consciousness. It is thenrefined via contemplation,brainstorming activities, drafting, andfinally piece of writing that can beread by another (thus continuing theperpetual process).I have utilized thisunderstanding of reading and writingwith several projects and activities inmy own classroom and one recent
example was working with the short story “Good Old Neon” by David Foster Wallace. If you are familiar
with the story or at least the author you may knowthat it is not an easy text. Most adolescents, if throwninto this sea flippantly, are going to be swimmingover the their heads
which is why I devote an entireweek to the reading of the story out loud in class,scaffolding them the entire way through.
We are now in an era in which theinterconnection and interdependence of the vast network of global processes isbecoming more and moreapparent. The skills that were oncenecessary for the autonomous person to navigate the complexitiesof civilization have changed drastically.