Student Writing Resources

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Reading Strategies

Cognitive and Rhetorical Strategies for Increasing Reading Comprehension

Cognitive models

The brain gathers no more than 8 or so bits of information before seeking storage [meaning].

The brain processes communication by guessing what comes next based on current info and checking guesses against evidence [abetted by conventions and expectations].

Meaning is the pattern your brain grasps; the pattern lets you say, "I see what it means."

  • Known + new or general + specific = comprehension
  • Comprehend means, "gather together"
  • "Text" shares a root with "textile" and "texture"

Mostly rhetorical

If you don't have a question, you won't find an answer.

If you don't feel you are part of the intended audience as you read, you won't expect to understand, and you won't. The following strategies and suggestions are intended to put you in the scene as you read:

When you talk about a text don't say, "they say in the book." To hear a human being wanting to communicate with you, learn the author's name while you read, "Didion says here," "Leakey and Leakey say..."

Write in your books—questions, ideas, whatever comes to mind. Draw lines connecting one point to another. Don't just highlight what you don't understand hoping it will make sense later. Seeing your words on the page creates a conversation and puts you in the picture as part of the audience.

The Book Store says the buy-back price for a pristine book is only $1.50 more than for one fully marked-up. What percent of your tuition is that?

READ does not mean "allow your eyes to flow once over the words." Experienced readers, engaged in the text, always re-read sentences, or whole sections as they read, just as, engaged in a conversation, you often ask "say that again?" or "What did you mean by______?"

All texts can be understood as half a conversation with an intended audience. Writers are always guessing what the reader needs to know, what questions the reader has now. To become that reader, expect to have your questions answered.

If the text prompts an emotional response, write it in the margin. Then turn it into a question and read the passage again.

For a dense or lengthy text, or any reading that becomes confusing, read the first sentence of each paragraph first rather than just slogging through. Make a list of questions based on that read-through, questions you expect the text to answer.

Talk to someone about what you are reading [class maybe?]. You react differently as you read imagining your own audience later [this is why teachers learn so much while teaching]. This is why students get together to talk about a class. The talking itself does the trick.

Close Reading

Not all "readings" are equal. A better reading accounts for more of the evidence in the text. This principle answers this frequent statement: "It's a free country isn't it? We're all entitled to our opinion, aren't we? That's just what I got from it."

From Gallop, Jane. "The Ethics of Reading." Journal of Curriculum Theorizing f2000: 14-17.

The problem is that just reading a text, the way most people read most of the time, will not disrupt the reader's stereotypes. The reader will use her stereotypes—her preconceived notions, the ideas she brings with her into the encounter with the text—to help her understand what she is reading. Reading like that, she is quite likely to find confirmation for her prejudices.

. . . We have been encouraged to read for or against . . . worse still, we don't just treat books this way; all too often this is how we greet people.

By "reading" here, I mean of course close reading, learning to hear what's really on the page, listening closely to the other, and being willing to catch what the other actually says, and able to hear what we didn't expect him to say. If we can learn to do that with books, we might learn to do that with people.

submitted by Jim Noland

Weaving Sources

Our semester long research project asked that you

  • locate potential source material (Search Strategies assignment)
  • evaluate those sources for quality (Source Evaluation assignment)
  • read, summarize and understand your source material
    (Annotated Bibliography assignment)
  • use those sources to support your thesis (Research Paper assignment)

Research papers require more than reporting existing information—note that your sources did not answer the research question for you—they require you to synthesize your source material into a coherent argument.

In order to develop that effective argument, you need to weave your sources together. A series of source reports, or a series of paragraphs using only one source each, does not develop your credibility as an author. A series of source reports indicates that you do not understand your sources or how those sources fit into the larger picture, and it implies that you did not do enough research.

The following exercise is designed to help you see how you’ve used sources and where your research paper needs more source variety.

Rainbow Revisions: Creating Source Variety

  1. Number the hard copies of your sources 1, 2, 3, and so on.
  2. With your yellow highlighter, highlight any material borrowed from source #1. Then go to your paper and highlight that material in your paper.
  3. With your blue pencil or fine marker, underline any material borrowed from source #2. Then go to your paper and highlight that material in your paper.
  4. With your red pencil or fine marker, underline any material borrowed from source #3. Then go to your paper and highlight that material in your paper.
  5. With your green pencil or fine marker, underline any material borrowed from source #4. Then go to your paper and highlight that material in your paper.
  6. With another color of your choice, underline any material borrowed from source #5. Then go to your paper and highlight that material in your paper.
  7. With a purple pencil or fine marker, underline any material borrowed from source #6. Then go to your paper and highlight that material in your paper.
  8. With a brown pencil or fine marker, underline any material borrowed from source #7. Then go to your paper and highlight that material in your paper.
  9. Continue until you’ve marked material from all your sources on the original and in your paper.

If you don’t see a rainbow on your paper, your sources need more interweaving. Revise!

Complete another rainbow revision on the final draft before you submit it. Papers without color coded sources will not be accepted.

—Jenny Aune 2006. Adapted from Alzire Messenger's Rainbow Revisions for Sentence Variety

Final portfolio information and tips

General information about the portfolio and its evaluation

  • Earning “credit” on all 6 major compositions is required to meet the basic standards of English 105 and make a student eligible to earn a passing grade for the semester. Also, each composition must first earn “credit” before it can be revised as one of your portfolio presentation pieces to be graded.
  • Once you’ve done at least one revision of a composition after my initial response, I’ll be glad to pre-grade the piece as many times as you turn it back in while you work to refine it for your portfolio.
  • If parts of your portfolio vary in quality, I’ll average together the different grades on pieces of the portfolio and use the pluses and minuses the university grading system allows in order to assign a portfolio grade that most accurately reflects the quality of the work overall.
  • To arrive at the final semester grade, I take into consideration attendance (as explained in the course policies sheet) and deadline issues, adjusting the portfolio grade as necessary.

Packaging

  • Use 3 two-pocket folders to create the portfolio that will house the work you want me to evaluate to arrive at your grade for the semester, designating one folder each for its 3 main parts: reflection, process, and WOVE products and putting those parts in that order. Do not use a 3-ring binder. Bind the separate folders together in some way (e.g. yarn or twine, rubber band, etc.), and put a label with your name on it on the outside of the top folder.
  • If you’re using recycled folders, make sure to remove/change internal labeling of pockets to match your new contents.
  • Label and organize your artifacts clearly and sensibly.
  • The compositions you revise and present as your best written work of the semester (in the WOVE products part of your portfolio) should meet the following appearance standards:
      • typed in 10 or 12 pt. easily readable font (e.g. Times)
      • double spaced
      • regular margins around text (e.g. 1-inch)
      • bound in upper left corner by a staple or paper clip
      • printed on laser or ink-jet printer (not dot matrix)
      • title of composition centered at the top or the paper, in the same style and size font as the rest of the paper with no underlining or use of quotation marks unless something in the title is being quoted (like the title of an essay being analyzed).
      • Note: These standards may be deviated from purposefully in Composition 2 (web site home page analysis booklet) and Composition 4 (“This I Believe”-style essay and companion genre) to achieve an authentic appearance for these genres.

      Reflection section

      • The multiple artifacts you include in this first section of your portfolio have the purpose of demonstrating your ability 1) to monitor your own learning, 2) assess that learning (including judging it against evaluation standards set out by the composition program—see “Final portfolio parts with grading criteria”), and 3) make positive changes based on that assessment.
      • Refer to “Elements of Small-Group Work” to reflect on and assess your participation in group-discussion activities.
      • When you write the reflective self-assessment letter that introduces your portfolio (and, if you choose, any smaller reflections that you attach to individual artifacts), think of it/them as a commentary that gives you an opportunity to explain how each of the artifacts you’re choosing to include in your portfolio meets the evaluation criteria set out in the portfolio rubrics. (See more information about this overall reflection in “Final Portfolio Reflective Self-Assessment Letter”).
      • When you reflect on and assess the artifacts that represent your best work of the semester, be specific in discussing how these artifacts meet the various criteria on which your work is being graded (i.e. use the language of the rubrics found in “Final Portfolio Parts and Grading Criteria” as you talk about the artifacts, discussing how your work achieves the standards).

      Process section

      • Don’t throw anything that you generate on paper or electronically during the semester away even if you don’t immediately see the use of it.
      • When you put your process section together, include lots of artifacts, as one indicator of your engagement with your learning in all 4 WOVE modes during the semester.
      • Out of your quantity of process artifacts, choose several to pull out and highlight in terms of their quality, discussing in your reflective self-assessment letter (and/or in individual reflections attached to these highlighted artifacts) and tell how they demonstrate a “good faith” effort in developing yourself as a writer, reader, discussant, presenter, critical thinker, learner, etc.—in other words how they show your engaged effort to grow as a communicator in 105 this semester.
      • Make sure to accurately label and date these process artifacts (Especially important, here, is to make sure different drafts of the same composition don’t all have the same date on them if you’re trying to show the development of your writing through these multiple drafts).
      • Important: For any work done on the computer, make sure to save different parts of a composing project as different file names (rather than just saving over old work in the same file) in order to maintain a record of your process.

      Product section (subdivided into 4 parts to represent the WOVE modes)

      Written

      • Include at least 2 compositions chosen from Comp 1-5 to demonstrate your abilities in written communication in the areas of context, substance, organization, style, and delivery. (See “Final Portfolio Parts and Grading Criteria” for specifics.)

      Oral

      • Include multiple artifacts to show your ability to work effectively in small groups and to give an effective oral presentation. These will supplement instructor (and possibly peer) observation notes and videotaping in these 2 oral areas. (See “Final Portfolio Parts and Grading Criteria” for specifics.)

      Visual

      • Include one or more visual artifacts that demonstrates your ability to communicate effectively in the visual mode. (See “Final Portfolio Parts and Grading Criteria” for specifics.)

      Electronic

      • Include one or more artifacts that demonstrate your ability to use and/or compose in the electronic mode. (See “Final Portfolio Parts and Grading Criteria” for specifics.)