Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Two areas that don't get much discussion in writing center research

I've recently become interested in two areas that don't seem to garner much discussion amongst people writing about the writing center: the read-aloud portion of tutoring sessions and tutoring creative writers. Granted, these two topics don't seem to overlap (though I promise they do have an overlap in my odd brain, but since it isn't completely relevant to my point here I won't bore you with it), except in their shared absence of discussion, but I think both merit looking into a bit more, especially reading aloud.

In my experience, and from what little I've found to read, it seems like most of us read aloud for a combination of fairly standard reasons:
  1. It's the least awkward way to find out what a client has written (having a client just sitting there silently while someone read through, and took notes on, their paper would probably be nerve-wracking and awkward).
  2. It seems to help clients notice things they wouldn't otherwise pick up in their writing (most commonly this seems to be grammar or spelling self-correction, but there also seems to be a general hope that it is a way for writers to distance themselves from their writing and hear it more from an audience perspective).
While I certainly agree with both these reasons, I've also noticed reading aloud can create issues--the most common one seems to be that reading aloud makes it harder to discuss higher order concerns first, because grammar and spelling errors tend to stand out in the reading more dramatically than organization and content (though those certainly can stand out sometimes).

I'm wondering, in other words, whether it might be worthwhile to experiment with reading aloud, to try incorporating some rhetorical questioning into the reading aloud process (or other things). Not that these would necessarily improve this portion of the tutoring session, just that it seems worthwhile to consider tinkering with something that has become so standard as to be almost unnoticed by anyone investigating ways of improving consulting sessions.

So, what have your experiences been with reading aloud? What do you think about the practice?

Oh--and since I mentioned it at the beginning--I'd also be curious to know whether anyone has seen discussions of either reading aloud or of tutoring creative writing that I might not have found in my searching. Feel free to make suggestions :)