“We need to encourage ourselves and our children to ask ‘who says?’ and ‘who sees?’.” P.15 These questions are prompting the reader to read in a critical way, which goes beyond the decoding process by seeking comprehension of it. This comes with the understanding that all texts are bias because they: “reflect the cast of mind of their compilers.” P. 33 I think this speculative approach to reading is best encouraged when the children have the teacher as an example to follow. Wray and Lewis offer suggestions that may help with the reading process:
“Activities such as cloze procedure, sequencing and text restructuring…appear to be useful in enabling this interaction.” These operations come under the title DARTs (Directed Activities Related to Texts). Neate (1992) writes that there are three possible ways of reading information texts. He calls them skimming, reading for specific facts and reading a text in detail. The strategies are designed to help the reader use the text for their purpose. Text-highlighting is one strategy that we looked at in the module. I think that it would be useful if you were focusing on two or three facts that the text offers.
From the decoding of texts, comes the encoding of them. The reading that the child undertakes will shape the outcome of the writing. The more meaningful the child makes the reading, the more that will reflect itself in the writing. Writing frames have been suggested as a means by which the teacher can help the writing process. These frames have also been developed by Wray and Lewis (1997) and are seen as a way of ‘scaffolding’ the writing process. They write that they: “give the basic structure for a piece of writing by setting out a sequence of cohesive ties to which the writer supplies the content.”
I think that these indeed have some use in the classroom, particularly for children who have difficulties with reading. Wray and Lewis appear to view it as a visual prompt: “Reciprocal prompting is missing from the interaction between a writer and a blank sheet of paper.” It has the potential to help them put what they’ve learnt down on paper in a cohesive way. Moreover, it can reduce the pressure of having to begin a piece of writing. Half-completed sentences appear less daunting than a blank piece of paper. Writing frames can give the prompting that is needed and be adapted to whatever genre is intended.
Although writing frames are beneficial, they need to be correctly used to ensure this. Riley and Reedy point out that they could be used for the wrong reasons: “The frames may end up as the reason for engaging with the information: the end product becomes a ‘filled-in’ writing frame rather than the occasion for organising connected thought.” This is a reminder that their purpose is to connect the writing with the reading.
If writing frames are depended on, then children will simply read to get the writing over with. They need to be used to help with the structure; they are not intended to dictate content. This is why I think it is important that they are constantly being modified to keep up with the development of the writer. With this all taken into consideration, writing frames then provide a useful scaffold for writing in non-fiction genres.
In conclusion, it is important that the significance of non-fiction texts on children’s development of reading and writing is not overlooked. Children need to have access to a range of genres throughout school in order to become fully literate individuals in society. I have discussed several strategies that relate to using non-fiction texts to develop these skills. However, it must be remembered that although all have proven benefits, they also have flaws and their use in the classroom must be approached with the interest of children’s learning in mind.
Barrs, M. (1991/2) Genre Theory. What’s it all about? Language Matters No 1. London: CLPE Hilton, M. (2001) Writing Process and Progress: Where do we go from Here? English in Education Vol. 35, No 1 Mallet, M. (1992) Using and Sharing Ideas from Information Books in the Context of a Primary School Project British Educational Research Journal Vol. 18, No. 1