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Reading Becoming Writing Rather than Writing about Reading - An Example from the Classroom

By Kyle Bjorem

styles, rhetorical forms, and so on, is absolutely necessary. The standard research paper or argumentative essay is simply not broad enough. The second sense in which I understand process is on the micro-level. Here the focus goes to the experience of the subjective individual the singular student and how they learn. It is an abject waste of time to present our students with a reading/writing duality, in which the two are basically turned into abstract entities. Reading and texts will then become for students a garbage heap of facts and other peoples thoughts a standing reserve thats purpose is to be dug through for bits and pieces to be shoved into a writing assignment. The writing assignment itself thus becomes simply an exercise in organizing these facts not actually writing at all, but some sort of Tetris inspired punishment that students rightfully complain about as being pointless.

One of the greatest difficulties that teachers of English often face is how to seamlessly transition from the reading of a text to the writing about that text. Too often I have witnessed (and participated in as a student) a unit in which the class spends a large chunk of time working our way through The Grapes of Wrath or The Hunger Games only to have a rather arbitrary writing assignment tacked on at the end . Usually, this is that threadbare vestige of a past pedagogical age the five paragraph argumentative essay.

What is the alternative you may ask? One must read a text and then write about that text, youre over-thinking the whole ordeal, surely. Use some common sense! The first thing I would say is that my goal is to have my students be able to transcend the We are now in an era in which the bounds of common sense and see things a little bit interdependence of the vast network of global more critically than that, but more to the point is that processes is becoming more and more apparent. The reading is a part of the writing process. One does not skills that were once necessary for the autonomous read a text and then write about that text. When one person to navigate the complexities of civilization reads a text it is not a matter of picking up have changed drastically. information from an outside source No longer should the and then placing it within the mind it locus of education, and We are now in an era in which the is an active process of co-creating specifically reading and meaning. The text and the subject are interconnection and writing instruction, be ultimately a synthesis, not a duality. interdependence of the vast about picking out The text is nothing but ink and paper isolated facts and until this synthesis occurs with a network of global processes is stringing them together subjective consciousness. It is then becoming more and more towards some end refined via contemplation, product that now solidly brainstorming activities, drafting, and apparent. The skills that were once exists as an finally piece of writing that can be necessary for the autonomous unchangeable, objective read by another (thus continuing the entity. perpetual process). person to navigate the complexities

of civilization have changed Rather, what is I have utilized this becoming more and understanding of reading and writing drastically. more important is with several projects and activities in process and process as my own classroom and one recent understood in two ways. The first sense that I mean is example was working with the short story Good Old what could be called the macro-level. The way we Neon by David Foster Wallace. If you are familiar understand society has evolved the zeitgeist ebbs with the story or at least the author you may know and the zeitgeist flows, it does not operate via a that it is not an easy text. Most adolescents, if thrown formal progression of logical steps. The successful into this sea flippantly, are going to be swimming individual in the 21st century is going to be one who over the their heads which is why I devote an entire is able to comprehend and be aware of and open to week to the reading of the story out loud in class, slight shifts coming from every direction. The ability scaffolding them the entire way through. to receive and be critical of multitudes of media,

Diagramming the story visually is incredibly helpful, delving deeply into point of view and voice as well as keeping awareness up are necessities, giving the students adequate background knowledge on metafictional devices and connecting the experiences of the protagonist to experiences that the students live daily is a must. The writing process has already begun theoretically and concretely. During this time I have students write responses to prompts, brainstorm scenarios they have experienced or they have witnessed or seen in the media that mirror the story, and begin to craft their character with input and collaboration with the other students.

when there is a dissonance between these two yous? This theme is looked at in class before even beginning to read the story by looking at the phenomenon of online personal profiles such as Facebook and the dichotomy that exists between that objective presentation of yourself and your subjective self as experienced every waking moment of your life.

Wait, what do you mean character? Let me explain. As I have stated, the seamless flow from reading into writing is a large part of what makes activities like this successful. Therefore, whenever I can, I try to have the students mirror the techniques, style, devices, and themes they have just immersed themselves in with their are ultimately a synthesis, not a writing assignment. That may even Finally, when duality. make more common sense than all the groups have having students write the same type of completed their thing no matter what kind of text they read narratives, they are collected and published either onespecially if you cover a broad array of different line or using self-publishing site lulu.com to print actual copies (5-8$ apiece) to be put in the school types of writing in your class (which I do). library, classroom, or to keep personally. Each So, what the project basically entails is that groups interconnected cluster of narratives are the student will write a first person narrative using marked as different chapters. the story not only as a groundswell for investigating themes and arguments (the traditional use), but also This seems like a lot of work. Well, I suggest for the act of writing itself. The students narrative you look into the wonderful world of insurance sales. (mostly interior monologue) can be autobiographical In order to prepare our students for a global if the student so pleases. The student can also community that is more competitive and complex to imagine a fictional person and attempt to inhabit their the nth degree than it was just a generation ago, and consciousness. One rule is that all of the characters in order to reach students that addresses the way that live in the same city we, as class, decide on certain cognition actually works rather than forcing them landmarks and traits of the city (which we also name) through worksheets, rote memorization, and essays completely disconnected from reality, these types of that everyone can use in their story. multifaceted, processional projects are a necessity. The main theme that we work with All the while trying as much as we can to smooth out concerning Good Old Neon is the difference the seams between areas of study and necessary skills, between ones interior life and ones objective image attempting to form an organic unity that allows for a that they project to the world (or that the world more malleable and adaptable student who is able to invents about them). Adolescents, since they are inhabit as many perspectives as possible. generally quite self-conscious and are just entering into having a public persona are particularly adept About the Author at analyzing this sort of theme. Are you who you Kyle Bjorem, a teacher, has a background in English, think you are or are you who other people see you as? Philosophy, Communication, and publishing. He is How can they be drastically different? Which one is currently giddy with excitement about the Detroit the real you? What kinds of problems can pop up Tigers in the World Series.

The students, in addition to crafting their own first person narrative, work within groups of five. The other four students characters must all either show up or be mentioned in the narrative. So, in the end each student in a group will have a narrative in which each other person in the groups character When one reads a text it is not a also plays some part, the matter of picking up information subject in one story becomes an object in from an outside source and then another. Its less placing it within the mind it is an complex that it may seem, and the students active process of co-creating generally have a lot of meaning. The text and the subject fun with this.