Ok, more observations of TAs, and THIS time my complaint is not about group work; it’s about reading out loud
Many TAs, and I’ve done this many a time myself, will have their students read out loud—such as portions from their written work, the assignment prompt, or a work of nonfiction or fiction. This seems a good strategy, a mild form of student engagement.
As I’ve been observing, though, what I’ve come to realize is that such reading out loud reveals how awfully our students read out loud. Most of them have absolutely no sense of prose rhythm, of the cadence of a well-crafted sentence, or the movement of sentence into paragraphs. They read in monotones that elide the full stops of periods, and that, in some cases, pause for breath at the end of printed lines, as though the block of text were a bad poem.
I can only assume that, if they read this badly out loud, their reading to themselves mustn’t be much better.
We all know that our students do not read much sustained nonfiction on their own. And while we know that they read quite a bit, it’s often in short bursts, quick messages flashing across a screen.
I advocate for courses in READING. And, specifically, in READING OUT LOUD. I think we need a rediscovery of the word and its movement across the page. To this end, I recently chastised our Director of Composition for not including more oratory in his comp courses. His curriculum is wonderfully rhetorically driven, engaging students in thinking about how texts function rhetorically and move different audiences. But he rarely has his considerable staff work with oration–with the eloquent or powerful reading of prepared texts.
I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but it seems to me that a focus on the public reading of crafted prose might be a small thing to do for the revitalization of our public spheres. Thoughtful reading of considered arguments, for instance, as opposed to the rantings of a Glenn Beck, would offer a healthy change–or at least some variety.
[Image by Flickr user benstephenson and used under the Creative Commons license.]