Posted in CCCC 2013

J.37 Fostering Reading Identity for Students in the Developmental Writing Classroom

Again, excuse typos and autocorrect, folks! iPad typing is difficult.

Cheryl Hogue Smith, Kingsborough CC: Basic Writers as Basic Readers: Addressing Obstacles to Academic Literacy

Students act as “miners for gold”–looking for the correct answer the teacher wants them to find. But they miss the “gorillas” that appear in the text. They have “inattentional blindness”.

Students can never out-write their reading abilities, acc to Hogue Smith.

Reading with purpose: Louise Rosenblatt’s efferent (what we take away from the text) and aesthetic (what we enjoy about the text, the feeling that comes with it) stances

Hogue Smith proposes a deferent stance. Students defer to those who they think have the “right answers.” these students assume, when reading a confusing text, that the problem is them, not that the text is difficult. This is deferring to the emotional baggage of reading–they bring past struggles to bear on the current reading act.

Hogue Smith then moved the audience into a reading activity that she uses with her students; the activity requires students to summarize and collaborate. Activity moves students from summary to analysis.

1. Students re-read and revise their interpretations of the text

2. Students discover the value of their interpretations as well as the value of alternative interpretations.

Article on this topic is forthcoming in the Journal of Basic Writing.

Maureen McBride, U of Nevada Reno: Fostering Reading Identity for Students in the Developmental Writing Classroom

They began with an overview of Salvatori, Rizzi, and Donahue’s College English article, “What is College English. Then they discussed the genesis of their critical reading course at U of Nevada, Reno and the course outcomes.

Their initial study aimed to understand what students identify as difficult in dull, uninspiring, required readings. They began with Salvatori”s difficulty paper:writing about what students find difficult when reading. Gives teachers better understanding of student perspective and gives students agency.

Not enough knowledge of reading pedagogy, especially among graduate TAs, acc to the speakers.

Have collected over 200 papers over three semesters. These papers asked students to summarize the reading and identify what they found difficult.

Themes that emerged: identity and expectations. They will only discuss the identity results.

Used Gee’s identity model for analysis: nature, institutional, discourse, and affinity identity.

Core categories that emerged:

Students were intrinsically or extrinsically motivated (nature–“I am not a person who reads”). The idea of outgrowing reading (I used to read, but now I don’t). “This is a waste of time” attitudes that compartmentalize reading from other classes.

Rejecting an affinity identity.

Personal desires and institutional requirements for reading.

How do we adjust our pedagogy?

Addressing reading like a writer: give direct instruction on the reading-writing connection. Teach the reading process as well as the writing process. The reading process is invisible to our students.

Described the students’ idealized college reader (responses given when asked to define the ideal college reader) : has no problems reading, finds interest in assigned readings, reads for pleasure, reads at any pace, absorbs info easily, reads once and understands, doesn’t get distracted, can move between genres and text lengths with ease.

Cites Joliffe and Harl (2008): high school students do not read extensively, critically, or sufficiently. Gallagher (2004, 2009, and 2011): secondary students need far more instruction in the processes of reading and writing. Don’t just assign reading, but teach how to read.

Testing culture has produced a narrow view of writing that creates a mismatch between what we expect them to write and what they read. They are required to write very simplistic texts, thanks to standardized testing, so why aren’t their assigned texts simplistic? (acc to students) That is why students say, “Why don’t they just say what we need to know? Why don’t they come out and say it?”

Students often approach texts with an aesthetic expectation. You should always enjoy everything you read, and if you don’t there is something wrong with you–so don’t read it. You’re not supposed to, because clearly that text is not for you.

Reading like a writer can build resilience and give them agency: “It’s OK to give up because it’s going to be hard,” acc to the students. Must fight that.

Writing centers also need training in how to read critically, how to tutor students in reading critically.

Making the struggle of reading a complex texts visible is important. Must choose textbooks that support this work. Require evidence of a reading process: annotations that are turned in, reading checklists/questionnaires/etc.

Disciplinary Reading in the Composition Classroom–Megan Sweeney, U of Nevada Reno

Disciplinary reading should be integrated in composition. Education leading the way right now. Shanahan and Shanahan are the leading scholars in this area.

Sweeney explains how she integrated disciplinary literacy in her classes. Had students read Shanahan and Shanahan’s work and had grad students come in to discuss how reading works in their disciplines. The grad students taught those classes in their own way.

These activities gave them an opportunity to negotiate an identity that was new to them. Guest speakers enjoyed the chance to reflect on their reading, too.

Q and A:

How do these reading strategies affect their writing? Students can now read and implement assignments more critically and reflect on and defend their rhetorical choices in a more informed way.

How do you address turf wars when preparing TAs to teach reading (Ed depts teach reading pedagogy, English writing pedagogy)? It’s really tough. We need to meet with our colleagues in other depts and talk out these issues. Develop courses that you can show don’t deal with the same issues. Think politically and strategically about course titles and descriptions.

What about the reading apprenticeship approach? It’s important to have metacognitive conversations with students about reading and model our own reading strategies. That can be hard for many teachers, because we take our own reading strategies for granted.


I'm an Associate Professor of English at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, where I teach graduate and undergraduate courses in writing, literacy, and folklore.

One thought on “J.37 Fostering Reading Identity for Students in the Developmental Writing Classroom

  1. This semester is my first with the developmental/developing/remedial readers at our campus. I used a survey and essay to get to know their impressions of their reading identity. My results are similiar to yours. The students at this South Texas university see themselves much the same as your students! I look forward to reading your article.

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