Responding to Reading Before Writing

Whether or not courses are officially designated as writing-intensive, students often must complete writing projects in which they respond in some way to other texts: chapters, articles, fiction, film, advertisements, songs, art, etc. We are fairly used to using freewriting, written journals, or on-line discussion as invention tools to help students generate and shape their reactions to these texts. We are also used to using class discussion to do so, though the "discussion" may be two or three students contributing a professor-led lecture. We do recognize, therefore, that playing with written or oral language can help us think about, and make connections between and among, the texts we're reading. However, using multi-sensory, multi-modal responses, in addition to conventional written or oral responses, can stimulate intellectual connections and insights that might not happen if students are asked to think only in words.

For these reasons, we might supplement conventional written reading-response logs or journals with a series of multi-modal reading logs, in which students react to the readings in a variety of ways: voice mail, e-mail, sketches, 3-D presentations, and conventional logs. Students could complete them on a rotating basis so that the instructor is not faced with 100 logs at once. (For a more detailed explanation of these multi-modal reading response logs, see pages 139-143 in Dunn's Talking, Sketching, Moving.)

We might also use mock panel discussions, with students playing the part of the published writers or scholars they've read for class. By articulating the views of these writers orally, taking on their arguments temporarily as if they are their own, students can make the connections they need to make if they are to write their own analyses of course issues.

High- or low-tech dictation is another way to experiment with drafting. (For details on this option, see Talking a Draft.)

Additional Discussion on These Methods

For more information about these methods, please see the following sections:


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