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Monthly Archives: November 2014

Reading in a Sociology Class

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When I began teaching Sociology of Education, there were certain skills that I was assuming my students would have acquired by now. These were basic skills of reading. But after my second class, I realized that my students are not used to reading in fact they have been spoon fed till now and are used to rote-memorization of guide books. A huge challenge was facing me as my students were finding reading classics a difficult task. I assured them that I will spend enough time on each original text but I will not dictate notes. Now I had to think about strategies to build their reading skills. Till now I had assumed everybody devises his or her own ways of reading. Imposing one way of reading takes away the independence of a reader, which is against constructivist approach to reading.

By reading I mean, an active engagement with the text. A reader attempts to establish a dialogue with the writer through the text and construct meaning from it. Once the meaning is constructed, the reader then, reflects on the text. This is the process of reading for me. This process requires certain skills such as awareness, curiosity, questioning and reflective thinking. Now I had the task of initiating the process of reading in my class.

I began with thinking about how I read and what steps do I follow while reading? I realized that I read a text minimum of three times before going to my class. Following is the description of these three readings that I often do:

First Reading: I read the back page of the book first. Then I read the text in its entirety in one go. I try to focus on the introduction and conclusion in this reading.

Second Reading: Before reading the text second time, I read up on the author, her area of specialization, her other publications and her biographical sketch. Then I read slowly for the second time trying to understand how the author has constructed her argument. What are her philosophical leanings?

Third Reading: I read for the third time only to take notes.
Following the third reading, I summarize the text.

This requires time, therefore, I began my preparation for a class at least three days before it is scheduled.

My students gave me an opportunity to think about reading as a process. I had always taken this skill for granted. I explained my process of reading and asked them to see it just as a suggestion. They should try out different strategies of reading to develop their own most helpful reading strategy.

This class certainly helped as students begin to engage with the text and not leave it after one reading. But I understand that reading is a long and continuing process.

Preparing to Write

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In my last blog post I talked about my plan to deal with my fear of writing by taking up a fourteen week-long writing challenge. For successful completion of this challenge, I need to do some preparations. This post deals with my preparations for the challenge:

Fixed Time: Though many people have said begin your day with writing, but one doesn’t follow it until one realises its importance. In order to complete this challenge, first thing I need to do is to fix up a time for writing and I have decided to begin my day with writing. I am hoping that this habit will make writing the central activity of my day. In other words, my entire routine will then be centred around writing.

Uncluttered Mind: My experience tells me that I cannot write if I cannot think clearly. Confused mind gets reflected in our writing. Problems that come up while drafting cannot be dealt with thoughtfully by a confused mind. Meditation and long evening walks generally help me gain perspective and clarity. In other words, I require some quiet time to think clearly.

Reflective Thinking: It is related to the previous requirement but I thought spelling it out will help me. I need some time to reflect or to draw connections between different ideas. I require this time to make sense of the phenomena.

Reading: Reading triggers our thought process, therefore a dedicating an hour to reading is essential for me. I am not a full-time writer, so I know this requires a lot of manipulation but I understand how essential reading is for writing. Reading like a writer helps me in carefully noting the style of writing used by the writer; how she has organised her paper; how is she arguing etc.

Outline: I am quite lazy, so I prefer to discover while writing which adversely affects my performance. I have observed that every time I prepare an outline first, my writing is much improved. So before I begin drafting I need to prepare an outline. This outline is nothing but a formal space for reflective thinking. This outline helps me figure out what it is that I want to say and how am I going to do it. It just helps me control my writing. In other words, it will demystify the process of writing for me.