Read, Write, and Learn Improving Literacy Instruction Across the Disciplines
A student walks into History 101 and sees the evening's assignment on the chalkboard—“Read Chapter 10 on the Mycenean Greeks.” Like many content-area teachers, the instructor believes that every student will interpret this assignment in exactly the same way. Yet, “reading” is a different experience for each person. To some students, this assignment will mean running their eyes over the text and looking at accompanying pictures of vases. For others, it will mean underlining and memorizing every name and date. For the history teacher, “reading the chapter” could mean either of these two. Or, it could also mean gaining an understanding of Mycenean Greeks that would allow students to formulate a thesis on how the Mycenean age contrasts with the classical age. “Reading” is a term so open to interpretation that without an exact frame of reference, “read the chapter, ” could become an almost meaningless command.
It would be wrong to assume, as some students do, that all readers open a book, start at the beginning, and run their eyes over the words, automatically absorbing knowledge in the same way for each text. Reading, like writing, is a process which can differ for each individual and task and which is essentially active, cognitive, hierarchical, and recursive. Experienced readers, like experienced writers, are not at the mercy of their evolving texts but are constantly in charge. Their cognitive actions range hierarchically from “decoding” written words to bringing questions, testing ideas as they evolve, and developing concepts or “schema” as they go back and forth within the text as well as between the