Ways of Reading

The “Introduction” to _Ways of Reading_ is an interesting essay in its own right. It raises many different and important points about both reading and writing; points which we should consider as we make our way through the various reading and writing assignments this term. Some of you may be learning about the kinds of activities that they describe in the essay for the very first time, and some of you may already be very familiar with them. What I like about this document (and the reason I am asking you to read it in a composition class) is that it gives us a vocabulary with which to talk about reading and writing. Once we have a vocabulary, a way to describe, talk about, and analyze our actions, we are in a better position to make changes to those actions. We tend to think of both reading and writing as products — the finished paper sitting on the desk or the completed and understood reading which sits in our brains. But this is not accurate. It is more true to say that when we read and when we write we are engaging in a variety of processes. Writing happens in stages as does reading and understanding. If we want to make changes to the final product, we have to make a change within the process itself (or, to put it another way, if we want to change the end result, we need to change the process by which the end result is produced). There is a nice comparison or analogy here between reading/writing and sports. Raise your hand if you ever played an organized sport (just kidding; this is an online class, remember; I can’t really see you). When we first start watching sports, it looks like just a bunch of running and jumping. But, when you start playing a sport in which a coach is involved, you can quickly see that there is much more to it than that. Let’s take track as an example. On the surface, track athletes look like they just run from here to there. When you were young, the best runners were those kids who ‘just ran fast.’ How did you win the race? I just ran fast. Once coaches get involved, we see that running is actually a much more involved and complex process than we often give it credit for. A good coach gives us a way of making sense of this process by helping us develop a vocabulary with which to talk about it, ranging from the way we tie our shoes, to the way we hold our shoulders, to the way we position our arms, to the way we breathe as we run. If we want to run faster or longer, we can make changes to the process in order to get a different end result. What I like about this “Introduction” is that it highlights the fact that there is more than one way to ‘read’ something. When we read, we are really engaging in a complex series of actions. The same is true for writing. Read pages 1-21 from the “Introduction” (feel free to read more if you wish) and then move on to the next Module, “Writing as a Process.” In this Module, you are being introduced to what are, for some of you, a set of new concepts when it comes to reading, writing, and revision. I would like all of you to try following these ideas (indeed, you are being graded on it to some extent), but we all come to this class with our own particular experiences and knowledge. The “Introduction” talks a lot about the intersection of reading and writing, but it does not talk a lot about what we will call ‘pre-writing.’ A big part of writing is “pre-writing,” that part of the process where we figure out what we want to say, even if that is tentative. It might take the form of a brainstorm, an outline, a free write, a visual organizer, or something else. What pre-writing activity has been the most effective for you? Describe it and explain why it works for you? What has not worked so well? Why? If you had to identify the best parts of the “Introduction” for you, what is it? Why? Post at least twice (one original post and one response).

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