Revolution Lullabye

December 20, 2012

Middleton, Recognizing Acts of Reading

Middleton, Holly. “Recognizing Acts of Reading: Creating Reading Outcomes and Assessments for Writing.” WPA 36.1 (Fall/Winter 2012): 11-31. Print.

Middleton argues for clearer outcome statements for reading comprehension in writing programs, pointing out that good college writing practices are inextricably linked to successful college reading practices. Together with the instructors of her institution’s basic writing program, she wrote specific, measurable reading outcomes for the basic reading course and designed a pre- and post-course assessment to determine whether or not those students’ reading comprehension (tested by true/false reading guide statements and a summary of the problem presented in three related texts) improved over the course of the semester.  Middleton kept data for four semesters (two academic years), and found a positive, statistically significant improvement in students’ reading abilities. She argues for WPAs to develop and align reading outcomes and assessments for their writing programs that fit the needs of their institutions, and calls for further research in the field on the relationship between reading and writing.

Notable Notes

the program was designed for students at New Mexico Highlands University, a university that enrolls a large number of Hispanic, low-income, and first-generation college students.  The English 100 (basic writing) course is one that is an important part of the university’s mission and the subject of administrative interest and oversight.

Middleton instituted a common text (Integrations), a common reading assessment (pre- and post- text), and asked instructors to privilege open-ended, inquiry, problme-solving questions and responses instead of one-answer-is-right reading assessments.  Reading is assessed through writing.

Tehaha O’Reilly and Kathleen Sheehan: framework for reading assessment – “model-building” and “applied comprehension” (15) – assessment not easily accomplished in multiple choice.

consistency in this assessment was key – in course text, assessments, grading practices, teaching strategies

rely on Adler-Kassner/Estrem’s “Critical Thinking, Reading, and Writing: A View from the Field” (The Outcomes Book) and “Reading Practices in the Writing Classroom” (WPA 31 (2007))

increase in word count between pre- and post- test (more fluency, if not better summary/content)

Quotable Quotes

“If we do not recognize the role of reading, the other act of composition, in our writing programs and our field, we aren’t recognizing the complexity of our textual world” (27).

Long-range assessment: the US Air Force Academy mathematics study (instructor/student pairing, Carrell and West): “The study is a compelling one, because it points to the limits of each assessment in the context of a learner’s intellectual life and within a sequenced curriculum. We assess what we value, but that does not mean that everything we value is or can be captured.” (25)

“We would do well to remember that learning to write for a new discourse community requires learning to read for it” (12).

“Rather than an elementary activity, reading comprehension is itself a complex set of practices implied, but not usually elaborated, in our writing programs” (15)…connection to summary writing/using sources

“It is the activity of rereading and returning to the text, of referring to the text in class discussions, that we wanted to prioritize.” (16)

“Students tended to experience each reading as compartmentalized and discrete, rather than as the sequenced intellectual journey we imagined for them” (18).


January 1, 2009

Samara, Making and Breaking the Grid

Samara, Timothy. Making and Breaking the Grid. Gloucester, MA: Rockport Publishers, 2002.

The typographic grid – “an orthogonal planning system that parcels information into managable chunks,” creating meaningful relationships through the placement and scale of its informational elements – is considered by some graphic designers the foundation of good graphic design, and by others, a “stifling cage” that must be deconstructed or thrown away (9). Samara’s text is divided into two sections, “Making the Grid,” which contains a historical essay about the evolution of the modern design grid in the 19th-century industrial revolution, and “Breaking the Grid,” which begins with another historical essay that documents the movement against grids and rationalist design starting with Dada and other post-WWI reactive movements. Each section also has an exhibit section, where Samara displays examples of the different kinds of grid and non-grid layouts. Samara does not argue one school of thought – making or breaking – over another (though his deconstructed grid design of an MPH admissions flyer is in the “Breaking” exhibit section); rather, his balanced explanation and description of each camp calls upon graphic designers to make a conciencious choice whether to use grids in their design, not to rely on them as a default organizational tool.

 In “Making the Grid,” Samara dissects the fundamental elements of a grid and uses these elements to describe how grids in both the Making exhibit and the Breaking exhibit function. The elements include columns, modules (individual spaces), margins, flowlines (horizontal lines that form rows and guide the eye across the page), markers (consistent placement of running text, like headers or page numbers), and spatial zones (groups of modules serving a distinct purpose as a field.) He highlights four grid-based designs- manuscript (used in book publishing), column, modular, and hierarchal (used in Web design) – and five non-grid-based designs – grid deconstruction, linguistic deconstruction (altering type to echo spoken rhythm), spontaneous optical composition (form-based placement), conceptual/pictorial illusion (a concept forms the governing structure), and chance operation (controlled random placement.)

Quotable Quotes

“All design work involves problem solving on both visula and organizational levels” (22).

The benefits of grids include “clarity, efficiency, economy, and continuity” (22).

“Sometimes that content has its own internal structure that a grid won’t necessarily clarify; sometimes the content needs to ignore structure altogether to create specific kinds of emotional reactions in the intended audience; sometimes a designer simply envisions a more complex intellectual involvement on teh part of the audience as part of their experience of the piece” (120).

Notable Notes

Interesting historical context for Making the Grid – ancient belief of the grid as an organizing structure following the axis of the intersection of sky and earth, Arts and Crafts movement in 19th century Britain favored design that had form follow function (continued by Frank Lloyd Wright in the US), the industrial revolution drove a need to order the world, International Style, 20th century modernism favored simplicity, corporations liked grids because they introduced continuity of design in which many workers could collaborate on the content of a project, redesign of the National Parks Services brochures in the 1970s with consistent bars and grids.

Interesting historical context of Breaking the Grid – Dadaism, Cubism, collage and montage, using Saussure and Pierce semiotics to see text as signs (semiotics), WWI reaction, WWII reaction, opposition to the status quo, rationalism, order, reaction to the horrors of the wars, Civil Rights movement, hippie movement, underground culture, 1984 Apple computer gave amateurs the tools to be designers (without having the formal grid-design training graphic designers had, so these new designers relied on intiution and felt-sense), look-at typography  (not look-through)

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