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Quality Enhancement Plan

"Reading Matters" Interdisciplinary Summer Conference

  1. Spotlight Lecture: The Books that Mattered by Frye Gaillard:
  2. Embracing the First year and College Read Initiative: A Dean's Story by Dr. Maryjo Cochran
  3. Reading, Music, and Social Work: Analysis and Implications for Practice with Diverse Populations by Herbert I. Burson and James L. Christensen

"Reading Matters" Video and Presentations

 

 

"Reading Matters" Photo Gallery

Below you will find the schedule for the conference. Please click on the links below to go directly to the session of interest.

To download the June 11-13, 2014 conference schedule select here.

To download the June 11-13, 2014 conference flyer select here.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014
Session 1: 1:30 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.
Session 2: 2:45 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Thursday, June 12, 2014
Session 3:
8:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.
Session 4: 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Friday, June 13, 2014
Session 5: 10:15 a.m. to 11:45 a.m.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

1:30 p.m. - 2:30 p.m. – Session 1:

“Why Reading Matters at Troy University”
Panelists will include members of Troy University's Quality Enhancement Plan team to discuss the five year project which has focused on "Creating a Culture of Engaged Readers" Hal Fulmer, Ivan Merritt, Maryjo Cochran, Priya Menon, Elaine Bassett.

2:45 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. – Session 2:

Chair: William Christopher Brown, University of Minnesota-Crookston

Engaging the Disengaged

As an avid reader of College English, one of the most important essays I've read in that journal is Min Zhan Lu and Bruce Horner's "Composing in a Global-Local Context: Careers, Mobility, Skills" (2009, volume 72.2). I value this article for its clear articulation of the difference between pragmatic pedagogies, which focus on students' career concerns, and critical pedagogies, which focus on students' ability to think critically about the world around them. In the pages of College English, this pairing regularly appears in opposition to one another, i.e., college instructors are either pragmatic pedagogues or critical ones. My own view is that one has to combine these two pedagogies to best serve students. Likewise, I think that a writing course helps students best when it improves their abilities to write well about what they read. In my COMP I course at the University of Minnesota Crookston, I begin the semester with a Personal Statement that asks students to pretend that they have to write a 500 word Personal Statement to be accepted into their majors. As part of the assignment, I ask them to research their major department's website to determine what keyword they should use to connect with their audience. This close reading of their major department's website pushes students to think critically about what their audience values. I ask them to convey their relative experience through the lens of the keyword they derive from the website. This type of assignment synthesizes the goals of both pragmatic and critical pedagogies. Pragmatically, it allows me to teach students a genre that they will need to understand for many professional development opportunities like internships and scholarships. The assignment asks students to think critically about their relation to their future fields in the idealistic terms that major departments' websites conceptualize.

Pat Warren, Troy University

Reading in Science

The term “reluctant reader” is often taken to mean “less able” reader. This is not always the case. There are an endless number of reasons why children become reluctant readers. Some children simply lack an interest in the books they are being offered; some children find it difficult to sit and concentrate for long periods of time; some children are kinesthetic learners and prefer a hands-on approach to learning rather than through books; some children find reading difficult and tiring and learn to dislike books; some children haven’t had the opportunity to read books before starting school; and finally, some children would rather spend their time doing other activities. This presentation offers helpful hints in winning reluctant readers.

Benjamin Burrington, Troy University

Life Lessons and Reading

Reading in science, as textbooks or research articles, requires a different approach to reading other sorts of written works. Scientific writing is intimately connected to the way in which science is learned, and how one uses the knowledge it provides. First, education in the sciences is cumulative, and requires firm foundations in fundamental concepts before moving on to more complicated ones. Reading in the sciences reflects this: it is difficult to open a text in the middle and start reading without reading earlier sections first. Next, the ideas need to be made as precise as possible, and so scientists employ a very technical language, which results in a very high “idea density” in science writing. Because of this, reading in science is a laborious task. Students will often average about 20 pages a week for textbooks, and a single research article may take many months to fully understand. To help comprehension, it is often beneficial to write notes, do example problems, or flesh out the consequences of an idea. Doing this makes the ideas personal, and part of the way a scientist or student thinks about and analyzes the world. It is necessary for scientists and students of science to learn ideas in this way to be able to apply them to new situations, in controlled laboratory setups, or making observations of natural phenomena.

Bill Llewellyn, Troy University-Montgomery

Why W. Shakespeare shot M. Bulgakov? Or the importance of Literature in Developing Second Language Literacy

Strange as it may seem, with all the emphasis on optimism, dynamism, enthusiasm professionalism, and, all of which are of great value, we sometimes miss the way to depth humanness. Those who would live well are more in need of patient judgment, a universal empathy, a penetrating understanding of the character and thinking of others, and a focused and filtered commitment to worthy ends. Reading carries those channels. Reading allows us to learn important lessons without having to suffer for first-time failures. This presentation looks at stories that bring home human experience in each of the four areas. The stories range from Shakespeare to Louis L’Amour. Stories pointing us to careful decisions are about the king who disinherits the only daughter who loves him because she does not caress his ego, the man who kills his faithful dog because of telltale blood on his mouth, and a man who condemns another man because in his sorrow he fails to discipline his children. A story from Denmark of the death of a little match girl, a mother finding the shoe of her daughter killed in a Birmingham bombing, and the story of an elderly slave that helped fuel cries for emancipation before the Civil War are stories that bring home the inner feelings of others. Patton before the battle with Rommel and Darrow in the courtroom with Bryan illustrate the edge that reading about another’s concern gives us in a standoff. A couple of stories of one lover doing the other wrong can make us more selective to whom we relinquish our heart. Finally, there are stories to make us pick our goals in life carefully and then pursue them steadfastly. A story of a seeker, an inventor, and a Louis L’Amour gunfighter can encourage us to buck up and pursue.

Natalia Henderson, Troy University

Cross-cultural Conversation as Reading

Clinton Davis, Troy University

 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

8:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. – Session 3

Chair: Priya Menon, Troy University

Reading Warning Texts in a Globalizing World

Jennifer Rickel, University of Montevallo

Reading as an Act of Civic Engagement: The Importance of Teaching Multicultural Literature in US Colleges

How is the relationship between reader and text evolving as literature is marketed in a globalizing world? Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak has posited that readers might approach literary works as “warning texts,” but how do engagements with literature under neoliberal capitalism inhibit readers from perceiving textual warnings? What reading habits and preoccupations prevent readers from thoughtfully considering the implications of such warnings in their own lives? Furthermore, how does neoliberal packaging of literature commodify the universal human and paradoxically prevent readers from recognizing the ways in which structural inequalities undermine a common humanity? Conversely, what reading practices see past distracting marketing and allow for a work of literature to be effective as a “warning text”? This paper will take up David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas as a case study to explore these questions. While the marketing material surrounding Cloud Atlas presents the novel as a celebration of universal humanity, the novel itself reveals how such a commodification of the universal human circumscribes reading practices to such an extent that readers become unable to perform the kinds of transformational critique that would be required for real social transformation. Cloud Atlas cautions its real-world reader by featuring characters as readers who fail to recognize the narratives they encounter as warnings. The novel advises against an exceptionalist logic that not only sustains a false universal but also forebodes an apocalyptic future. This paper examines the dialectic between text and reader in Cloud Atlas to argue that consuming the novel within a neoliberal framework, which detracts attention from structural inequalities, undermines literature’s potential for critical analysis. Close reading key scenes in this novel as well as the interchange between its stories reveals both the challenges and possibilities of reading potential “warning texts” in today’s globalizing world.

Bishnu Ghimire, Alabama State University

“To Make the Universal Language is Not a One Gentleman Job” ”: Readership and Cultural Authority in G.V. Desani’s All About H. Hatterr

Jhumpa Lahiri’s short story “A Temporary Matter” (1999) is an ideal short fiction to teach American youth about the increasingly important role of diversity and difference in the nation’s social-political life. Lahiri’s story presents a second generation migrant couple, who struggle to find a place for themselves in their adopted home away from their ancestral/cultural homeland. Even more compelling is the parallel Lahiri draws between the story of these young Indian Americans and their American counterparts. While the young Indian American couple manage to occasionally bring in the unmistakably melancholic aspect of displacement, they still don’t let the past of their cultural transference from South Asia to North America consume their present life wholly. Like many young American couple, Shukumar and Shoba struggle to make sense of their lives when they come of age and move into a new house together. Despite the fact that their lives are pretty much empty and colorless in the absence of their extended family and Indian cultural connections, the couple keep their cool and remain committed to the American way of life--individualism and independence. Although Shoba’s mother was there with her briefly during her labor and spent some time with her daughter, including time at the hospital, the mother’s presence is presented as a source of unproductive friction between the couple. The mother is gone as soon as she is done with her daughter’s pregnancy is over. Thus, Lahiri’s story presents a unique perspective on the life of immigrant communities and their desire to integrate into the host societies. Moreover, since Shoba and Shukumar both ate the products of the Western social and academic machine, they are completely entrenched in the culture of the West. As the story abounds in immediate reference to college life, conjugal life, and struggle to find a career, themes all too familiar to college students, it allows them to readily relate with the story’s world personally. So, teaching such literatures of inclusiveness, Lahiri’s story, to college students, especially undergraduates, helps them prepare for a world that is more diverse and challenging than the one imagined by the mainstream texts of more canonical nature.

Jason Marley, Georgia Southwestern State University

Reading World Literature in the Dual-Credit Classroom

Following the conclusion of H. Hatterr’s narrative in G.V. Desani’s 1948 postcolonial novel All About H. Hatterr, readers are met with an appendix, written by a minor character in the text, titled, “With an Iron Hand I Defend You.” The appendix serves as a justification of the narrative that comes before it—a narrative told in broken, hybridized English by an Indian writer obsessed with British and American culture. Because the language of the text is potentially unclear or confusing to the English reader, the reader must be cajoled and convinced that the text they have just read has merit. To be sure, some readers may view Hatterr’s disjointed and disorienting articulation of his adventures with frustration or skepticism. The appendix thus attempts to convince the reader that the improbable, bizarre narration of events that he or she has just completed is, in fact, a literary work of much importance. Indeed, Desani’s novel—set mostly in India and narrated in what critics have labeled a form of “Babu” English—repeatedly confronts questions of audience. In my essay, I examine how, in an effort to examine its linguistic and cultural vulnerability as a multicultural text, Desani’s novel repeatedly attempts to authenticate and verify the contents of its own narrative. At its core, Hatterr is a confrontation with linguistic hybridity which depicts a struggle to make its narrative readable and relatable to other cultures and readers. While critics have addressed the complexity of the novel on a linguistic level, few have considered the role Hatterr’s form plays in this process. My essay examines how the novel’s structure—composed of two prefaces, a primary narrative told in seven sections, and a lengthy appendix—problematizes the textual themes of social, cultural, and linguistic anxiety expressed by the narrator. In doing so, I show how the formal peculiarities of Desani’s novel reveal both an examination and a critique of practices of multicultural reading.

Hannah Swamidoss, Independent Scholar

Monday morning and one of my students dramatically proclaims: “You’ve ruined movies for me!” He looks at me in mock disgust. “I watched Mulan over the weekend,” he continues, “and I couldn’t help asking questions like: is that a stereotype of women? Are the characters doubly marginalized because of race and class?” My position that reading matters, that reading shapes us and humanizes or dehumanizes us, is something that students in my classes become familiar with from day one. As we keep reading, talking, arguing, writing, and reading, my students become more skillful at examining the ways in which authors support or subvert different aspects of culture, including complex interactions between gender, class, race, and global politics. Interestingly, certain texts prove more problematic than others. These adept readers can appreciate Clytemnestra’s rage in Agamemnon yet also recognize the need for a legal system to change the endless cycle of revenge and applaud Aeschylus’s attempt to create cultural change through narrative. On the other hand, Rudyard Kipling’s “If” with its prize of a certain type of manhood and inheriting the earth proves more challenging, especially when students read “The White Man’s Burden.” Students see a disconnect between the two poems, easily dismissing “The White Man’s Burden” as jingoistic but admiring the honorable qualities of “If.” Yet when we discuss what students value in others or themselves, their ideal person does not share qualities with Kipling’s individual, and students can see how this individual could go on to become an empire builder. The allure of “If,” its power of narrative, becomes a conversation in itself. My paper will discuss the types of reading and readers found in the dual-credit classroom, college-level classes taken at high school. While some students rarely take reading or narratives seriously, they still engage with reading, gaining skills in the midst of mocking it. Many students, however, already astute readers, begin to see connections between texts and culture and the implications behind these connections. I believe by examining the challenges and special opportunities of these classes, my paper will add to the larger discourse of collegiate reading.

1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. – Session 4

Chair: Hal Fulmer, Troy University

Re-reading Film

Johanna Schmertz, University of Houston

Downtown Reading, Music, and Social Work: Analysis and Implications for Practice with Diverse Populations

In a freshman writing class years ago, I asked students to watch the same film clips multiple times through multiple contexts, using the double-entry journal method (also known as the dialectical notebook) after each viewing. I would show the clip to them blind first, then add a little context—the scene leading up to or following it, for example, or the movie’s title—and then ask them to track something specific, such as props or closeups. Students would list “What I see” on one column of the journal and “How I know” in the column beside it. They found they had more to say than they thought. More importantly, they realized that re-entering a text—rereading—was crucial to revising their work and making it accessible to audiences. What they succeeded in doing, over the course of the class was constructing what Elbow calls “rough draft(s) of reading” that eventually became fully elaborated, audience-aware critical interpretations (Schmertz, “Movies of the Reader’s Mind”). A byproduct off this extended exercise was that students became junior semioticians studying signs and signifying systems. This byproduct became important and useful later in my career, when I began teaching introductory courses in film. In introductory film classes, students generally begin by examining the elements and qualities of the shot—the basic signifying unit of film—and move on to examine editing, or shot-to-shot relationships: what James Monaco, in How to Read a Film, has called the move from paradigmatic to syntagmatic knowledge. The first kind of examination—analysis of shots—is fairly easy to teach: I base my instruction on the model of “what I see” and “how I know” that I developed during the freshman writing class. The second, analysis of editing, proves more difficult, and therefore more interesting: in editing, one examines cuts, not shots—what is deliberately NOT made visible. In moving toward syntagmatic knowledge, students are still uncovering and making explicit their own assumptions and hidden acts of reading, as before. But this time, they must consider what lies between the shots that viewers supply (or construct) for themselves. My piece will begin at this place of difficulty. It takes as its starting point Christian Metz’s observation that film is predicated on the absence of the objects it signifies, and looks for ways that students can read this absence productively across and between the cuts.

Herbert I. Burson, Troy University; and James L. Christensen, Auburn University-Montgomery

Young Adult Literature in College

The correlation between music and reading enhancement and comprehension is well documented in the literature. Studying music (learning to play an instrument), listening to music, and creating music are all linked to improvement in reading skills. The literature also documents the correlation of music to reading enhancement and comprehension with diverse populations, including children, adult learners, and persons with special needs. Thus, the implications for practice are broad and are potentially of significant use in professional practice. Social workers encounter clients on a daily basis whose needs include improved reading skills. Such client populations include children with learning deficits, children from low-income families, and children from homes in which child maltreatment has occurred. They also include adults who wish to further their education, but cannot do so without addressing deficits in reading ability. Utilizing a case management approach to social work practice, social workers are continually seeking effective interventions for families, using a person-in-environment perspective. Addressing literacy and educational issues are often a critical element in addressing clients’ needs. This presentation will include a review of selected literature on the relationship between music, improved reading comprehension, and enhancement of reading skills. It will also present practical applications of this relationship in work with diverse and at-risk populations.

Ryan Taylor, Troy University

Relevance of Notation in Music

For my presentation, I want to focus on a few key points in regard to teaching young adult literature in a college classroom: writing style, relating to a novel’s characters, and the inherently broad category in which young adult literature belongs. In regards to writing style, I want to talk about literature as a sort of staircase. Many students who enter college are not yet ready to read a William Faulkner or a James Joyce, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t smart and can’t learn to read this sort of upper level literature; they just need scaffolding. Like with math, it doesn’t make sense to jump from adding and subtracting all the way to using the quadratic formula. It is important to realize that students come in at all different reading levels. However, while many young adult novels have a simple writing style, not all do. At this point, I want to introduce The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing by M.T. Anderson, which is written in a modern interpretation of 18th century writing style. Reading something like this while in college can help prepare students to read exponentially more difficult works. Next, I want to talk about relating to a novel’s protagonist and discuss some of the scholarship behind this idea. Students naturally want to relate to the main character of the novel they are reading. What qualifies as young adult literature is changing, and the age group for which the protagonist belongs is quite fluid. At this point, I also want to discuss the category of New Adult fiction, which includes novels written similarly to a young adult novel but the characters are typically older, and the themes discussed are much more mature. Finally, and perhaps the most important point I want to discuss, is the inherently broad category of young adult literature. Here, I will mention the previous point once again – it’s about relating to the novel’s protagonist. A book like All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy can be considered young adult literature because the protagonist is young. Reading a difficult work like this, for a college student, is often seen as easier and likely more enjoyable than reading a similar book with an older protagonist, simply because the reader can relate to the main character. I want to close by going over my previous points and talking about how the most important thing of all is that college students are reading. If college students want to read young adult novels, we should let them; we just need to pick the novels carefully and make sure that the novels hold weight, just like what we do when picking any novel to teach in a classroom setting.

Robby Gibson, Troy University

A note on a page is not music. Music is an experience and must be shared through a performance of some sort. This would include large public performances as well as performing for yourself for you own enjoyment. Music notation is merely a constantly evolving tool that serves as an aid in the performance. As trends and styles of music change and evolve, so do the trends and styles of notation. While many cultures do not have a standardized system of notation for their music, (many cultures only pass down music aurally) it has been thought that standard elements in music notation helped unite the Western European continent. With the spread of the early Christian church, it became necessary to replicate chant melodies and practices to unify Christendom. Early music notation is quite primitive, only showing the contour of a melody with no real relationship to an actual pitch. Lines were eventually added to show the relative size or distance between intervals. More lines were added to the staff and rhythmic components also made their way into the notating process. As time went on notation rapidly grew in complexity, and so did the compositions! Advancements in notation allowed composers to analyze, develop, and share compositions with other composers and performers. In addition, notation made it possible to expand the size and scope of musical ensembles. This of course required greater detail in notational methods. Over time composers were able to express, in a notational format, every pitch, rhythm, dynamic, and timber, among many other expressive parameters they desired. Notational and compositional complexities reached such critical mass in the mid twentieth century that composers began using computers, because the compositional complexities surpassed human ability. Only computers could execute these demands with precision and accuracy. In the early centuries, music was primarily written down in the church because it was expensive and that was where the educated class resided. Notation of secular music became much more common place as printing became less expensive. As this happened, commoners learned to read music. Reading music was no longer for the elite class. Preservation and transmission of music performance created a need for notation; developments in notation allowed for the use of larger ensembles, greater creativity, complexities, and development within a musical composition. This led to greater virtuosity in performance practice, which gave composers freedom to do even more, thus continuing innovations in notating. Consequently the cycle continues. Much of today’s music is being produced without the use of traditional western notation, but rather by using a primitive, less developed style that can even be followed by musicians that can’t read music. Among these are the Nashville number system, lead sheets/chord charts, tablature (this style of notation predates what we would call standard notation). Because of the vagueness of these notations, most of these performers depend on stylistic awareness and improvisational skills. However, without the use of a more detailed notation system, they are limited in the size and type of ensemble they can use. Audio and video recordings are probably the most widely used method for preserving musical content. Advances in technology have made it possible for the musically illiterate and untrained, at least in the formal sense, to create, and perform music at acceptable levels. Notation software can now transcribe the notes played or sung. It can even fix your mistakes for you. This can be replicated in live performances with the help of auto tune and other similar technologies. (Take notice of the fact that most of today’s “pop” heroes look great! They no longer embody the look of an artist who has slaved away hours each day honing a craft and refining his/her skills. They don’t need to anymore. Technology will do that for them.) The problem with the growing musical illiteracy is that the music is even more formulaic and simplistic now, than ever before. Note reading can be approached many different ways. There are methods for teaching note reading that involve coming up with your own artistic way for representing a composition. These then segue into an introduction of standard notational practices. Because music notation is to be at the service of a performance, it is best to have a “sound to symbol” approach rather than the opposite. This is congruent with the way humans naturally learn a language. Most students of music can already read their written language. This makes it easier to introduce the concept of abstract symbols that represent a sound. Students can then interpret the symbol as an indicator for some kind of physical act that will produce a particular sound. There are many similarities between written music and written language, or at least the English language. Both are read from left to right and progress down the page. With this being said, I think it is still very important for students to first experience music before learning to read it, just as children generally participate in spoken communications before they learn the written language. This does not have to take place entirely at a formal music lesson. Regardless of the student’s age, the most important element in teaching music is the actual music. For this to happen successfully, the teacher should carefully sequence the material being taught so that the student is always making great music. If the music is carefully selected, the student should always be able to perform at a high level. A beginner can successfully do what a veteran or professional musician does if they are playing level-appropriate pieces. For example, great musicians hold their instrument correctly, keep a steady beat, and play the right notes for the correct and full amount of time. Great musicians also use dynamics and other expressive elements correctly. They can play through the piece without stopping. This may seem like a lot for a beginning student to accomplish, but it really isn’t if the teacher assigns the right piece. Careful selection of the repertoire and tempo gives the teacher a tremendous amount of control over the success and failure rate of the student. The goal for each lesson is to build habits of great musicianship and confidence in the student. People generally enjoy things they are good at. They tend to stick with these activities. That is why it is crucial to make each lesson inspiring, (play great music like a great musician) informative, (the student must learn something new) and successful (the student needs to achieve these goals). Don’t set them up to fail. Ensembles provide another opportunity for students to play music that is appropriate to their individual level, while at the same time learning how to play with a group. This allows them to perform at high levels and build the habits of great musicianship. In addition, the repertoire tends to sound more complete with each student adding his/her part to the group. These basic ideas about teaching can and should be applied to other domains outside of music. For older, more experienced students, I believe it is crucial for them to understand and be aware of other forms of notation that they may come in contact with. Just as a rock musician may not be able to read traditional notation, many classical musicians have little experience deciphering a lead sheet or other vague form of notation.

 

Friday, June 13, 2014

10:15 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. – Session 5

Chair: Elaine Bassett, Troy University

What Linguistics Can Tell Us about Writing: An Interdisciplinary Approach

Tatyana Slobodchikoff, Troy University

Teaching Students to Identify and Utilize Keywords by Researching and Writing Personal Statements

Language is constantly evolving. It is never static. Yet many freshman think that language doesn’t change, and that freshman composition classes are boring requirements that must merely be met. Further, when students must read literature as part of their composition requirement, they tend to disengage from the analytic process and merely go through the motions of writing without emotion and understanding language. In this paper, I argue that teaching about language change in freshman composition makes students more aware of a close connection between speakers and language. I assume that language change occurs in spoken and written language, and speakers are often unaware of the sources and consequences of such change. Freshman students often do not realize that language constantly changes due to numerous neologisms of the digital era which became a part of their discourse. For example, how do we explain the phenomena of hashtags, selfies, flashmobs, and twerking without reference to language change? The topic of language change challenges traditional pedagogical approaches to composition. Specifically, educators must decide how to treat language change in the classroom? Should language change be loathed and treated as slang, and therefore to be avoided at all cost, or should it be used as an important pedagogical tool and embraced through the writing process? I argue that students become much more engaged with their academic writing when they write about the causes and consequences of language change in contemporary society. Students should be assigned a paper to write on neologisms, where they choose specific new terms. They learn to analyze and define these terms and learn how language and reading affects society. Through writing a series of research essays students engage actively in understanding their own role in effecting language change.

William Christopher Brown, University of Minnesota

Crookston Reading Textbooks (Yawn) can be Fun: Barriers can be a Teacher’s Best Friends

As an avid reader of College English, one of the most important essays I've read in that journal is Min Zhan Lu and Bruce Horner's "Composing in a Global-Local Context: Careers, Mobility, Skills" (2009, volume 72.2). I value this article for its clear articulation of the difference between pragmatic pedagogies, which focus on students' career concerns, and critical pedagogies, which focus on students' ability to think critically about the world around them. In the pages of College English, this pairing regularly appears in opposition to one another, i.e., college instructors are either pragmatic pedagogues or critical ones. My own view is that one has to combine these two pedagogies to best serve students. Likewise, I think that a writing course helps students best when it improves their abilities to write well about what they read. In my COMP I course at the University of Minnesota Crookston, I begin the semester with a Personal Statement that asks students to pretend that they have to write a 500 word Personal Statement to be accepted into their majors. As part of the assignment, I ask them to research their major department's website to determine what keyword they should use to connect with their audience. This close reading of their major department's website pushes students to think critically about what their audience values. I ask them to convey their relative experience through the lens of the keyword they derive from the website. This type of assignment synthesizes the goals of both pragmatic and critical pedagogies. Pragmatically, it allows me to teach students a genre that they will need to understand for many professional development opportunities like internships and scholarships. The assignment asks students to think critically about their relation to their future fields in the idealistic terms that major departments' websites conceptualize.

Margaret Stephens, Alabama State University

Using Semiotics to Better Read and Create Visuals

I will be teaching a college-level developmental English course this summer. The course focuses on writing, with complementary attention to reading and critical thinking. The course's objective is to prepare students for success in a regular freshman English composition class. In my teaching of freshman English in the past, I have underused textbooks and not assigned enough reading. When I have assigned reading, I and the students have not sufficiently discussed the readings. I'd like my paper for this conference to be a preparatory study and game plan for how to draw my students into their course textbook this summer. I want to succeed in getting them first to read assigned pages. Then I want to engage them in discussing what they've read and subsequently applying writing techniques learned from their reading to their compositions. I find a few factors serve as barriers to students' desire and ability to read from textbooks on writing: 1. Students have a short attention span. 2. Many students seem to prefer visual images and sound to the printed word. 3. Students lack basic vocabulary and struggle with the meaning of what they read. 4. Students have physical energy and want to move about. Rather than work against these factors or idealistically think the printed word will prevail in spite of them, I will try to devise strategies to use students' short attention span, to use their preference for visual images and sound, and to use their struggles with vocabulary and meaning in creative ways that engage them in reading and application. Likewise, I will seek to employ their physical energy and movement in their learning. For example, we might read only a few sentences together from the text at one time, even incorporating call and response. Writing, using the idea or technique shared, will immediately follow -- again in a brief application. Words in print will be brought to life by visuals and sounds that relate to them. I might even draw on former students majoring in theater, music, and art to make short surprise appearances and contribute their talents in bringing a short passage to light. Students may write poems or raps about what they read; they may draw what they read. Mystery games, scavenger huts, reading bees, role playing, puzzles, and other active tools will help students encounter new vocabulary, describe contexts, and seek meaning from what they read. Creativity does not come naturally to me. However, if I believe students can learn to love and value reading, then I can learn how to be more creative and exciting in my teaching. As the eighteenth-century novelist and playwright Fielding wrote, literature--the word--is meant both to entertain and instruct. Learning should be fun and enabling.

Nicole Amare, University of South Alabama

The process of reading effectively has been taught primarily a text-reader-environment engagement activity. Modern students-as-rhetors, however, must be at least visually literate and preferably accomplished readers and creators of visuals. Using the semiotic theory of C.S. Peirce, this presentation discusses a comprehensive system for reading and understanding visuals, with textual language itself as a type of visual, as a subset of the semiotic system, not separate from graphics or images. Text (written language) traditionally has its own grammar. For English, this language system is verbs, pronouns, adjectives, nouns, conjunctions, adverbs, prepositions, and interjections (although interjections are often rejected as anomalous expressions of emotion). When you ask people if they can name the parts of speech listed above, most will name a one or two, if any, or they will mention parts of the sentence instead, such as subject. However, when asked if they know how language modifies or connects words to each other, some have a basic understanding that certain words describe other words (adjectives and adverbs), some words name a person, place, thing, or idea (nouns and pronouns), and some words connect (conjunctions, prepositions, and verbs) to other words in the sentence. Clearly, individuals read, understand, and engage grammar and language when the discussion focuses on function instead of nomenclature. An analogy would be medical terminology: some patients may go home from the doctor's office and not be able to recall the name of the exact muscle that is damaged or perhaps the condition affecting them, but most can describe their problem based on function (perhaps without even consulting a physician at all): “My arm does not move very well because a muscle was torn.” Similarly, visuals, including textual language itself, can be named: images, tables, graphs, charts, clipart, cartoons, etc. Unlike with traditional grammar, though, readers do a better job at labeling and classifying the type of visual (e.g., a 3-D pie chart) but not necessarily the function, which can cause poor or even unethical readings as well as creation of visuals. Rather than modify, name, and connect, visuals decorate, indicate, and inform. The goal of this presentation is to discuss the basic grammar of visuals in order to produce better student (and teacher) readers of visuals: first are decoratives (images [pictures], typeface styles, color, borders, shading, etc.); second are indicatives (bullets, hyperlinks, arrows, indentation, headers, etc.); and third are informatives (charts, tables, graphics, verbal or written text, etc.). The concise grammar of visuals promotes both the creation and comprehension of visuals based on their rhetorical function, a move which increases readability.

The Reading Matters organizers graciously thank:

Sigma Tau Delta Members, Writing Center Tutors, Troy Board of Tourism and Public Relations, Director of Sponsored Program and her Staff, Associate Vice-Chancellor for Marketing and Communication and her Staff, Dean of Student Services and his Staff, and Members of Center for Student Success


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