Reading in the Writing Center

This post was written by Angela Zhang ’19, reflecting on her 2019 spring project at the BMC Writing Center.

For my spring project, I made a handout about reading in the writing center. The contents of this handout can be found here. On one side of the handout, I explained how reading works as an interaction between the text and the reader’s prior knowledge. On the back, I created a list of reading strategies that can be used to improve comprehension of a text, which ultimately helps with the writing process as well.

This project came out of a final research paper I did for a class called Changing Pedagogies in Math and Science Education. As a result of my field experiences in a high school science classroom, I became interested in the role of reading and writing skills in STEM classrooms. Many of the roadblocks that students ran into involved the scientific texts they worked with. I ended up writing my final research on this subject, where I explored reading and writing strategies that could be useful in science classrooms. Interestingly, having a base knowledge of reading and writing literacy allows one to recognize the scientific process as constructed and human, rather than absolute truth.

While I was working on this paper, I realized that many of the same concepts are applicable in the writing center. While our purpose is not to support student reading skills, reading and writing are inextricable from each other. Tutees often come in with papers that use class readings in some way. I used many of the same ideas from my paper in my spring project, such as paraphrasing or setting reading goals to improve reading comprehension. I also did further research, which introduced me to concepts such as “reading like a writer,” where one considers using (or not using) the choices of other writers as they read their work. When I presented my project during a staff meeting, fellow tutors added strategies to the list such as annotating and reading subheadings and figures first before diving in. We also discussed how students at Bryn Mawr learn how to read scholarly articles. Some had professors who explicitly addressed the issue, sometimes in discipline-specific ways, which tutors found helpful. As someone who struggled with readings when I first got to college, I think the writing center can also provide supports for academic reading in a way that supports writing as well.

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