Those who argue in favor of reading in the writing classroom claim that reading inspires students, introducing them to great ideas and improving their ability to think critically and analytically. Moreover, reading centers class discussion, giving students something to talk about beyond their own personal experiences.
Reading also gives students something to write about: at eighteen, students often lack the experience to come up with sophisticated subjects for their essays; texts provide these ideas. Finally, reading illustrates models of truly excellent writing, thereby offering students instruction in voice, organization, syntax, and language.
Still, professors who teach writing often find themselves questioning the role of reading in the first-year writing classrooms. These professors are concerned about the amount of class time they devote to discussing readings as opposed to the amount of class time they devote to teaching writing.
They worry that the attention to reading and analyzing course materials risks crowding out writing instruction—which, they feel, should be the priority of the course. But we needn't think of reading and writing as disparate course activities.
In fact, reading and writing work best when one process fuels or informs the other. In order to make sure that reading and writing are working together effectively in your classroom, you might wish to consider the following:. The discussion of how writing might be used to improve our students' learning has been with us since the early seventies, when James Britton in "Writing to Learn and Learning to Write" and Janet Emig in "Writing as a Mode of Learning" illustrated how and why writing was essential to learning.
Emig's work, which argues that writing is a unique mode of learning, is especially persuasive in convincing us that writing should be a part of all of our courses. According to Emig, writing is unique to learning because it originates a verbal construct that is graphically recorded. The italics point to what Emig feels is the important distinction between writing and the other ways of learning, like listening, reading, and talking.
Listening is passive: it neither originates with the reader nor is graphically recorded. Reading involves communication that is graphically recorded; however, the ideas do not originate with the learner. Talking can offer original ideas, but because talking is not graphically recorded the learner's thinking and communicating don't need to be as sharp as when writing.
When writing, students must both originate and record their thinking.
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They must attend simultaneously to process and product. Emig and other write-to-learn proponents claim not only that students' learning is improved when writing is part of the learning process, but also that courses that rely on lectures, reading assignments, and quizzes are "anathema" to student learning, because students are not required to be active in shaping their own understanding of the course materials. Courses that use class discussion are more effective, because students are required to participate in the learning process by articulating their ideas.
However, class discussion cannot provide the same learning benefits that writing will, in that talk is loose and inherently redundant, "leaning on the environment" to communicate its point. Writing, on the other hand, must be structured, meticulous, and concise.
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It must provide a context for an audience that is not part of the environment but that exists apart from the writer. In sum, writing forces students to become more careful, more engaged participants in the learning process. So far, we have been discussing why writing is important to the learning process. We've yet to consider how professors might incorporate writing into their students' learning processes. Typically, write-to-learn exercises are of two types: those that parallel or are part of our students' reading processes, and those that are part of our students' discovery or invention processes.
We'll look at each in turn. Using writing to enhance our students' reading experiences is perhaps the most common write-to-learn exercise. Professors who use these sorts of exercises typically have developed them because they understand that students often read texts passively, simply to glean information.
Write-to-learn exercises like the ones listed below insure that students work closely and carefully with texts. Perhaps the most difficult challenge for first-year students is coming up with a good academic response to course content. Students are sometimes bewildered by the prospect of coming up with original responses to the materials they are reading or the lectures they are hearing in class. Even if they can find a topic that intrigues them, students often don't know how to transform their interest into an academic question.
Once the question is developed, students are often at a loss as to what position they might take. Writing can help students to discover interesting questions and to make interesting responses. Students need to be told that writing isn't just a way of telling; it's a way of knowing as well.
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Indeed, experienced writers often don't know what they think about a particular subject until they write about it. Lewis said about his own writing:. I do not sit at my desk to put into verse something that is already clear in my mind. If it were clear in my mind, I should have no incentive or need to write about it, for I am an explorer When I have discovered the meaning to me of the various fragments of experience which are constellating in my mind, I have begun to make sense of such experience and to realize some pattern in it; and often I have gone some way with the poem before I am able to grasp the theme which lies hidden in the material that has accumulated.
How can instructors use writing to get students to discover what it is that they think about a topic? Some ideas follow:. Institute for Writing and Rhetoric. Read more. This means that we are teaching at the discourse level, not just at the level of sentences or individual words and phrases. This means that teachers have to be skilful is selecting or designing integrated activities for their students.
The importance of integrating skills in the teaching of english as a foreign language
On the telephone, for instance, we listen and speak - maybe we also write down a message and read over what we have written. Integrated approach helps to build new knowledge and skills on to what students already know and can do. So, if students are able to read a short story, this skill will help them to write their own story. Also, integrating the skills allows you to build in more variety into the lesson because the range of activities will be wider. Instead of just having listening, the students can have speaking, reading and writing practice. This can raise their motivation to learn English.