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When we live in a world where college students “found it difficult to assimilate, transform, and use information by reading it” it is a time to take a stand. That is what David Heiller and Helen Richards do in this article titled Do We Have to Read All of This? – Encouraging Students to Read for Understanding. While the article is referencing problems in the graduate and lower division study of History, the arguments they make appealed to me as applicable to the general condition of American Colleges.
When I approach an assignment, it has been my first reaction on many occasions to think exactly in the same way.
I wonder if my professors think I have no life, or a stopwatch that puts the world on hold while I wade through mountains of text. By the time I am finished with half of my research I am so burned out that I hardly want to do the assignment, much less feel any enthusiasm for it.
The point that they make in this essay, however, has encouraged me to reconsider my approach to the texts. “This kind of reading – reading for understanding – is a central skill not only for history, but for life. ” They go on to discuss note-taking skills and some of the different approaches to helping students cope with large texts.
The point is made that the more a student can understand of what is being read, the smoother it goes. In addition, once the student can assimilate the text better and more rapidly, the more energy they are left with for writing.
The direct correlations between being a conscientious reader and a solid writer are clear. Heiller, AuthorDavid, & Richards, Helen (2005). Do We Have to Read All of This? – Encouraging Students to Read for Understanding. Teaching History. 118, 44-48. I was talking to a friend of mine about this assignment the other day.
She is currently applying to a PhD program in Composition and Rhetoric and had the following statement about writing. “Good composition skills are only important when you have something important to say. ” This is something that I think we can all agree on. Whether you are writing for a job, a class assignment, or a letter to convince someone in your neighborhood to stop letting their dog run loose, you would not be putting forward the effort if it was not important to you to be heard. There is more to writing than getting from point A to point B.
There is a matter of pride in a job well done. I went to the Google search engine and started to look around for sites that discussed what actually makes for good composition. There are a few key points, such as clarity, informative prose, and organization. However there were a great deal of divergent ideas as well. I came to a simple site, actually put up for a high school, that addressed composition in such clear and approachable terms that I felt I should share it. I had to agree with them, “There is no single way to write an effective composition. ”
MHS, MHS Composition Guide - What Makes a Good Comopsition?. Retrieved October 21, 2006, from Maryville High School Web site: http://www. ci. maryville. tn. us/mhs/studyskills/CompGuide/goodcomp. htm Example 1: I agree that re-reading the work often will help to clarify misunderstandings on the first read, but sometimes it is equally important to recognize multiple possible translations. Example 2: I disagree that there is no such thing as bad writing. I think that when it is sloppy and incoherent, the writing can be considered bad because of the lack of effort put forward by the writer.
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