Reading Teaching Writing

Strategies to Support Mindful Reading

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Since we are still feeling inspired by the Stearns Center’s fantastic conference and its theme of “Small Changes, Big Impact,” we thought that we’d share a few more ways to support reading in the writing classroom.  This week, however, we are offering a more complete resource with a series of useful reading strategies that we can teach to our students.

In her book A Writer’s Guide to Mindful Reading, literacy scholar Ellen Carillo advocates for writing pedagogies that foster mindful reading practices: “Reading mindfully means paying attention not just to the content of the text—what it says—but rather to the process of reading itself by adjusting how you read based on what the piece asks of you” (p. vi).  While Carillo realizes that students read every day, she also recognizes that academic reading differs from the kinds of reading that students most frequently practice.  Students will be asked to read more complicated texts across various disciplines that will elicit varying responses.  “While you may be used to reading literature in a certain way, that reading approach might not lend itself to that dense biological research study you have been assigned to read” (p. vii).  That is, academic reading presents new challenges that need new strategies.

Carillo offers some simple strategies in Chapter 2 of the book.  To introduce these strategies, she emphasizes the importance of knowing the purpose of a reading task; what is the intended outcome: developing a summary, comparing texts, learning the conventions of a genre?  Different strategies work better for different purposes, and knowing the purpose can help students select an effective strategy.  For instance, if instructors want their students to engage deeply with a section of text but also understand how the writer is developing that text, Carillo recommends the Says/Does Approach: writing annotations that summarize a portion of the text but also describe what that portion does for the overall text.  Here are two more compelling strategies that Carillo offers:

  • Mapping: visually representing the relationships between concepts in a reading
  • The Believing/Doubting Game: annotating a (portion of) text by listing the particular strengths (believer) and potential weaknesses (doubter)
  • Reading Aloud to Paraphrase: reading portions of text out loud in order to process and translate that text into their own words; this strategy also works well for revision

Carillo’s A Writer’s Guide to Mindful Reading is available for free online through the WAC Clearinghouse, a repository for many useful resources on teaching writing.