Revolution Lullabye

November 17, 2014

Freedman, “Reading to Write” in East Asian Studies

Freedman, Leora. “‘Reading to Write’ in East Asian Studies.” Across the Disciplines 10:4 (11 December 2013). Web.

Freedman describes how teaching students specific reading strategies, many developed for English language learners, can help both ELL and native-English speaking students read disciplinary-specific texts better. She describes an partnership at her institution, the University of Toronto, between the East Asian Studies department and the English Language Learning Program that used TA-led discussion sessions to help students in introductory-level East Asian Studies courses develop stronger reading strategies and skills. The TAs taught students specific reading techniques, asked students to apply those techniques on other texts in the course, and asked students to write several low-stakes writing assignments, like reading responses and summaries, that gauged students’ reading comprehension levels. Freedman claims that given feedback from the students, TAs, and faculty involved in this partnership, that students seem to understand the course material more deeply and their writing seems to be improved. Freedman argues that reading pedagogy belongs at the college level for all students.

Quotable Quotes

“Linguistic development, like students’ intellectual development in general, is often uneven and non-linear. Students need to understand that successful performance in academic writing, which may be a more immediate goal, is linked to efforts in other areas which are often invisible to the people marking their papers. (e.g. a grader will comment on an overly general sentence, and it will be identified as a writing problem, but the same grader may not comment on or necessarily perceive the student’s vague grasp of the reading material; the grade is given officially for the quality of the writing).”

“Reading was seen as the most fundamental area to address, underlying the difficulties many of the students have with research, writing, vocabulary, and speaking.”

Notable Notes

need to change the institutional culture around reading – it is not remedial education, but something that is tied to students’ writing and critical thinking

TAs led weekly sessions in each 12-week term (fall, spring) to 25 students. The sessions complemented the lectures (200 students in the lecture.)

low-stakes writing assignments used to gauge reading comprehension included writing an account of previewing strategies, writing summaries, writing informal responses in preparation for a bigger, critical argumentative/analytical paper

TAs used a technique dubbed “question-based active reading discussion” where they came to the sessions with prepared questions, a mix of comprehension and more critical analysis to lead small group discussion

Faculty and TAs noticed less patch writing, less plagiarism in the students’ writing

Reading techniques taught in the TA-led sessions:

  • previewing
  • skimming and scanning
  • active reading
  • learning vocabulary from context clues
  • summarizing
  • distinguishing an author’s opinion from the opinion of a cited source
  • distinguishing between argument and information
  • how information is used in an argument
  • visual mapping of an article
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