Chapter 7 Effective Practices in English: Specialty Supplies Primary Author

A Twist on Integrated Reading and Writing

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A Twist on Integrated Reading and Writing

Katie Hearn, Chabot College, realized that her students were not always writing essays at the level she desired, so in order to help her students become better writers, Katie decided to try a new approach in her classroom. She moved from teaching a traditional developmental writing class to the innovative practice of teaching students very little about writing itself and instead centering upon reading. Through this practice, Katie discovered that her students produce much better essays, and they are much more successful in their writing than they were when she taught them specific writing principles. Following is Katie’s narrative as well as handouts she uses to help her students learn about writing through reading. See Appendix 4 for Katie’s instructional material.

Engaging the Reading, Eliciting Stronger Writing

In 2006, Chabot College Instructor Sean McFarland worked with several of his students to create a documentary video called Reading Between the Lives. Comprised of entirely student interviews, the video details the intense emotions and insecurity tangled in their experience of reading, how students often don’t complete assigned readings at all, how the fear of looking stupid keeps them from asking questions, and how they get little reading help from teachers beyond the instruction to “read chapter 2.” (Video available at

After watching the video, I recognized that I had spent the first decade of my career calling myself a “writing teacher” and making two assumptions about my students: 1) that they were doing the reading, and 2) that they understood what they read. The video makes clear just how flawed those assumptions had been.
In Spring 2007, I conducted an experiment in my developmental composition course two levels below transfer. I decided to make reading the primary focus, with reasoning the next most important, and writing a distant third. I didn’t spend class time teaching brainstorming techniques or the general principles of paragraph writing, using transitions or writing topic sentences. I had a hunch that if students were reading more effectively, they would produce stronger papers.
Instead of working on the form and techniques of essay writing, we spent almost every class period discussing the books Fast Food Nation and The Wal-Mart Effect. I wasn’t teaching reading in the traditional sense. Instead, I broke students into groups to answer questions about each chapter or generate their own questions. I organized debates where they had to assume a particular role (e.g. small business owner, McDonald’s executive) and then use the readings to make an argument from that perspective. Sometimes our goal was simply comprehension – could they explain a key point from the reading in their own words? Inevitably, though, comprehension evolved into higher order discussions as students made inferences about the causes of a problem they’d read about, or evaluated the merits of an author’s solution, applied the reading to their own lives, or made connections between the two books. Overall, class time was about getting students to actively work the reading.
I also had students writing the whole time. They completed informal exercises in class, posts on online discussion boards, short-answer tests every few chapters to assess their comprehension of the readings, and several essays over the semester. I provided guidance and feedback on their writing by discussing sample student work as a whole class, giving them detailed rubrics of assessment criteria, and meeting with them one-on-one to discuss their drafts. But writing was an extension of our in-class discussions – a way to process and critically engage the reading -- rather than an end unto itself. Writing was another way to work the reading.
Despite much less instruction in academic writing, by the end of the term, students were writing stronger essays than they had in previous semesters. Most interestingly, I realized that a lot of what I had considered writing problems were in fact reading problems. Their essays had strong transitions, not because I had given them handouts and class activities about transitions, but because our discussions of the books gave them a strong internal sense of how one idea related to the next. They had clear thesis statements because they had a main point they wanted to make about the issues we’d read about.

The biggest effect I saw was in how students used the readings in their writing. They weren’t as likely to offer empty and unsupported generalities or stick disconnected quotes into paragraphs where they didn’t fit. Instead, their comments were informed by, and layered with, relevant ideas and information from the readings. Perhaps most telling, students were more likely to express these ideas and information in their own clear language, rather than over-relying on long, undigested quotes, something I now understand is a red flag for poor reading comprehension.

Using class time for sustained, deep engagement with the assigned reading helped students to break down and process what they had read. I found that this is a critical step in understanding the material, and an antidote to the experience students often have with reading, which they describe as “going in one ear and out the other.” It also greatly improves the content of student essays because it gives students something to say.
(Katie Hearn is in the process of creating a website which will include video footage, assignments, classroom activities, assessment instruments and rubrics, and samples of student writing from her developmental English classes at
Departmental Integrated Reading and Writing

Examples such as Katie Hearn’s tell us that integrated reading and writing certainly can be highly effective at the classroom level; however, integrating reading and writing on a departmental level has the potential to provide an even greater impact on student success. In fact, the Basic Skills as a Foundation for Success in California Community Colleges literature review tells us that “the literature strongly supports an ‘embedded curriculum’ model, where students are immersed in a learning environment which strongly promotes simultaneous reading and writing development, using reading to help students write and using writing to help students read.” (Center for Student Success, 2007, p. 41)

While research strongly supports a reading and writing connection, the process of implementing such a structure on the departmental level may not always be easy. (Center for Student Success, 2007, p. 41) Integrating reading and writing on a large scale takes time, patience, and faculty who believe in and are thoroughly committed to the process. Such a change also requires strong and dedicated departmental leaders who are willing to seek proactive solutions to challenges which may arise when trying to integrate all reading and writing courses in a department. Fortunately, for those wishing to make such a change, good examples exist of other community college departments who have previously blazed the trail of integrated reading and writing.
Nancy Ybarra, Co-coordinator of Developmental Education at Los Medanos College, describes the process of implementing integrated reading and writing in her department.

Integrated Reading and Writing at Los Medanos College (LMC)
In 1998, the English department of Los Medanos College began offering integrated reading and writing courses in our developmental English sequence instead of stand-alone courses in reading and composition. The department made this change based on low enrollments in the stand alone reading courses despite an institutional research study that indicated that poor reading comprehension was students’ number one academic concern. In addition, integrated reading and writing approaches were receiving increased professional support as a more effective approach to academic literacy. This research was extensively documented by two faculty members who attended the Kellogg Institute for Developmental Educators at the National Center for Developmental Education at Appalachian State University in the summer of 1997. The newly developed courses, each five units, were written as their culminating project for that Institute, and were approved by the English department in the fall of 1997; they completely replaced the stand alone reading and composition courses the following fall semester. Student enrollment, success, and persistence in the developmental course sequence are higher in the integrated courses than they were in the stand alone courses.
The LMC English Department consisted of 12 full-time faculty in 1997; all were supportive of this change. In submitting the course outlines of record to the college curriculum committee, we agreed to list English and reading as the disciplines which would qualify a faculty member to teach these courses; in other words, faculty could be qualified in one or the other of these disciplines. We did have six full-time faculty who were qualified, or became qualified under the discipline of Reading through formal course work.
Others, including adjuncts, took advantage of staff development opportunities such as the Reading Apprenticeship training offered by the Strategic Literacy Initiative, or participated in teaching communities that used the Reading Apprenticeship model.
Over time, a body of work including lesson plans, curricular materials, and assessments became available and were systematically given to all new faculty, full- and part-time, during their orientation to teaching in our department. This work was facilitated by a Title III grant at the college from 1999 – 2004 which initiated reassigned time for lead faculty in the department to do this work; this structure has been institutionalized and is now on-going.
We also developed student learning outcomes for these courses and plans for assessing them at the same time. The following are the outcomes as listed in the course outlines of record:
English 70 (two levels below English 1 A) Student Learning Outcomes:
Students successfully completing this course will:

  1. Demonstrate the behaviors of an engaged and organized college student.

  2. Read actively and demonstrate comprehension of assigned readings through the ability to summarize, question, and respond to text.

  3. Make connections to and among texts, considering issues of personal, cultural and societal importance.

  4. Write, revise and edit paragraphs and essays that are clearly focused and comprehensible.

English 90 (one level below English 1A) Student Learning Outcomes:

Students successfully completing this course will:

  1. Read actively and demonstrate critical thinking skills, through the ability to summarize, analyze, evaluate and synthesize pre-college readings. Analyze how the social-cultural-historical context of both the reader and the text influence the meaning-making process.

  1. Write, edit and revise expository essays which integrate and synthesize course readings and are clearly focused, fully developed, and logically organized. Compose essays with sentences which display a developing syntactical maturity and whose meaning is not impaired by excessive grammar, usage and proofreading errors.

  1. Demonstrate awareness of their own reading, thinking and writing processes and monitor their learning.

Institutional Integrated Reading and Writing

While the process of implementing reading and writing at the departmental level can be highly effective in increasing student success, as was the case at Los Medanos College, this same process may have the ability to create even greater success when implemented at the institutional level. In fact, research suggests that integrating reading and writing has a positive affect on the development of students’ metacognitive abilities. (Center for Student Success, 2007, p. 41) Perhaps increasing students’ metacognitive abilities may help them to understand and adjust their own learning on a cross-disciplinary level. (p. 41)

Even though the process of integrating reading and writing on an institutional level holds great promise, it is also time consuming and requires campus-wide faculty commitment on a sustained basis. Fortunately, we have a good example of institutional integration of reading and writing. Jennifer McBride, Merced College, explains the time commitment and process of change that occurred on her college campus while implementing concepts of Reading Apprenticeship on an institutional level.
Reading Apprenticeship at Merced College: Progression of Implementation

Currently, the two teachers trained in the Reading Apprenticeship program have offered informational and training workshops through the Teaching and Learning Academy (TLA). Attendance at TLA workshops is required of all new first-year teachers. They have also presented Reading Apprenticeship strategies to our Supplemental Instruction (SI) leaders for integration in their sessions. A presentation was made to our administrators and during our fall flex day for the general faculty campus-wide. These presentations were designed to affect class-room practice by encouraging teachers (and SI leaders) to incorporate Reading Apprenticeship strategies into the classroom.


In October 2006, we held a faculty retreat to discuss academic literacy and Reading Apprenticeship theories. Thirty-three teachers from the majority of our disciplines attended; we had representatives from English, mathematics, sociology, philosophy, chemistry, music, vocational education, nursing, biology, and history. During this retreat, we heard from a consultant from the Strategic Literacy Initiative and discussed our current reading program, reading pedagogies, and ideas for change. This retreat led to the development of a new cross-disciplined faculty inquiry group that meets monthly to discuss all ideas concerning reading.


Our involvement with the Strategic Literacy Initiative has deepened. In addition to training all first-year full-time faculty members in Reading Apprenticeship techniques, we have moved into training our SI leaders in these techniques. This seemed like a natural move on our part in that SI and Reading Apprenticeship share common goals: collaborative learning, making learning visible, and creating independent learners. In addition, SI relies heavily on the cognitive apprenticeship theory. Since SI leaders have mastered a specific course’s curriculum, they, in turn, share their techniques for success in that class with the novice students. Part of the leaders’ successful course completion was due to their effective reading strategies. Training SI leaders in making reading visible has helped combat our student population’s difficulties with literacy and critical thinking.

In Spring 2007, a team of researchers from the Strategic Literacy Initiative spent several weeks at Merced College, interviewing teachers and students, observing classes and SI sessions, providing professional development to both teachers and SI leaders, and filming all of these activities. Our time spent with these researchers forced teachers, SI leaders and students to reflect upon Merced College’s reading program and curriculum. The resulting footage is currently being used to analyze the connections between SI and RA on our campus and in a broader context as well. Merced College and the Strategic Literacy Initiative have presented this information at two conferences: The Tillery Institute for Community College Leadership and Innovation at UC Berkeley and Strengthening Student Success. Not only has SLI influenced curriculum design and SI training at Merced College, our campus has provided SLI with valuable insight regarding adult literacy and reading programs in the community colleges, an avenue which SLI wishes to explore.
For more information on various methods of integrated reading and writing, please refer to Chapter 10, Effective Practices in Reading.
Professional Organizations

No matter what methods or programs we choose for helping students learn to become effective writers, we all want to maintain currency in those chosen methods, and we want to continue to peruse the latest research in other effective methods for helping our students become successful writers. The following professional organizations have excellent websites, publish journals, and sponsor yearly national conferences where writing instructors and administrators can learn a wealth of valuable information or strategies for the classroom and the department or institution.

  • NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English)

  • 4 C’s (Conference on College Comp.& Communication)

  • TYCA (The Two-Year College English Association)

  • CRLA (College Reading and Learning Association)

  • NADE (National Association for Developmental Ed)

  • Strengthening Student Success Conference

  • TIDE(Technology Institute for Dev. Educators)


Not only do developmental writing instructors want to know and implement as many research-backed strategies as possible for helping developmental students, we also want to assess the strategies we have implemented in order to be sure that our students are actually learning those writing principles we believe to be most important for college, career, and daily life.

Following are writing rubrics that writing instructors can use to assess student paragraphs and essays. The rubrics can easily be edited, changed, or adapted to your own course level or to your department or institutional needs. The first rubric is for your use in assessing your students’ writing. The other is a student-friendly rubric that you can use directly with students to help them understand the specific standards for writing in your classroom.

In an effort to make the process of assessment as practical and applicable as possible, we have also included some types of examples of writing assignments that could be used as assessments to measure student writing growth with the first rubric:

  • Portfolios (a collection of student writing, usually gathered over the course of the class)

  • Pre-essay/post-essay (this could be used at the beginning of the semester and at the end, or it could be used every time an essay is assigned, with the “pre-essay” being a rough draft the instructor or peers comment on, and the “post-essay” being the final copy.)

  • Diagnostic essay at the beginning of the semester, and a final exam essay at the end where all students are required to write an essay under the same time constraints and criteria.

Completing the Assessment Loop
Don’t forget that the assessment loop is not complete until you have assessed your student learning outcomes and then made adjustments to your classroom material based upon the findings of your assessments. For example, if your assessments indicate that your students are not meeting the SLOs that your department has established for your course, you will likely want to meet with your colleagues to discuss changes you may want to make to help your students be more successful writers. For a more detailed discussion about this, see Chapter 15 of this handbook.

Writing Rubric for Instructors







(Controlling Idea)

Thesis is clear, well stated and pointed; demonstrates a superior understanding of the assignment.

Thesis represents sound and adequate understanding of the assigned topic.

Thesis is weak, but demonstrates some understanding of the assignment.

Thesis contains unfocused ideas with little or no sense of purpose or direction for the paper.

Thesis is essentially missing.

Support & Development


Main points are well supported with specific evidence that show a depth of ideas; the ideas work together.

Ideas are supported with logical facts and examples; most are specific and many of the ideas work together.

Support is mostly sufficient, but some are not specific and are only loosely relevant to main points.

Primarily insufficient support that is often non-specific, and/or irrelevant.

Lack of support for main points; frequent and illogical generalizations without support.

Organization & Paragraph Structure

Organization is appropriate to assignment; paragraphs are well developed and appropriately divided; ideas are linked with smooth and logical transitions.

Organization is competent with good paragraph development and structure with few limited or illogical transitions.

Paper is partially organized around a thesis; some paragraphs relate to it while others are stand-alones with weak or illogical transitions.

Paragraphs are simple and, formulaic. There are few evident transitions; some are illogical.

Organization is confusing; paragraph structure is weak; transitions are missing, inappropriate and/or illogical.

Audience & Tone

Appropriately written to the specific audience; tone appropriate to the assignment.

Effective and awareness of general audience; tone satisfactory.

Some sense of audience related to assignment purpose but not consistent; tone varies.

Very inconsistent sense of audience; wildly varying tone for given assignment.

No sense of particular audience for assignment; tone inappropriate or inconsistent.


Structure & Mechanics

Well-chosen variety of sentence styles and length. Very few punctuation, spelling, capitalization errors.

Varied sentences; Contains only occasional punctuation, spelling, and/or capitalization errors.

Some repetition of sentence patterns; shows some errors in sentence construction. Contains several (mostly common) punctuation, spelling and/or capitalization errors.

Sentences show errors of structure; little or no variety. Contains many errors of punctuation, spelling, and/or capitalization that often interfere with meaning.

Simple or incomplete sentences used frequently; frequent errors of sentence structure. Contains many and serious errors of punctuation, spelling, and/or capitalization; errors that severely interfere with meaning.






Adapted from St. Mary’s College—School of Extended Education (Melanie Booth, Learning Resource Program)

Special thanks to the following for their feedback and constructive criticism in helping to revise and edit the above rubric: Francie Quass-Berryman, Cerritos College; Laurel Gardner, Sierra College; Cynthia Kellogg, Woodland College; Susan Lucyga, Sierra College

Writing Rubric for Students







(Controlling Idea)

Is my thesis clear, well stated, and to the point?

Does my thesis represent sound and adequate understanding of the assigned topic?

Is my thesis weak, but still demonstrates some understanding of the assignment?

Does my thesis contain unfocused ideas with little or no sense of purpose or direction for the paper?

Is my thesis essentially missing?

Support & Development


Are my main points well supported with specific evidence? Does my evidence show a depth of ideas? Do the ideas work well together?

Are my ideas supported with logical facts and examples? Are most of my ideas specific and many of the ideas work well together?

Is my support mostly sufficient, but some is not specific and is only loosely relevant to the main points?

Do I primarily have insufficient support that is often non-specific, and/or irrelevant?

Do I lack support for main points? Do I have frequent and illogical generalizations without support?

Organization & Paragraph Structure

Is my organization appropriate to the assignment? Are my paragraphs well developed and appropriately divided? Are my ideas linked with smooth and logical transitions?

Is my organization competent with good paragraph development and structure with few limited or illogical transitions?

Is my paper partially organized around a thesis? Do some paragraphs relate to the thesis while others are stand-alones with weak or illogical transitions?

Are my paragraphs simple and, formulaic? Are there few transitions? Are some transitions illogical?

Is my organization confusing? Is my paragraph structure weak? Are my transitions missing? Are my transitions inappropriate and/or illogical?

Audience & Tone

Is my paper appropriately written to the specific audience? Is the tone appropriate to the assignment?

Is my tone effective, with awareness of my general audience? Is my tone satisfactory?

Does some sense of my audience relate to the assignment purpose but doesn’t stay consistent? Does my tone vary?

Do I have an inconsistent sense of audience? Do I wildly vary my tone for a given assignment?

Do I have no sense of particular audience for the assignment? Is my tone inappropriate or inconsistent?


Structure & Mechanics

Do I use well-chosen variety of sentence styles and length? Do I have very few punctuation, spelling, and capitalization errors?

Are my sentences varied? Do my sentences contain only occasional punctuation, spelling, and/or capitalization errors?

Do I have some repetition of sentence patterns? Do I show some errors in sentence construction? Does my paper contain several (mostly common) punctuation, spelling and/or capitalization errors?

Do my sentences show errors of structure? Little or no variety? Does my paper contain many errors of punctuation, spelling, and/or capitalization that often interfere with meaning?

Do I use simple or incomplete sentences frequently? Do I have frequent errors of sentence structure? Does my paper contain many and serious errors of punctuation, spelling, and/or capitalization? Do my errors severely interfere with meaning?






Adapted from St. Mary’s College—School of Extended Education (Melanie Booth, Learning Resource Program)


Chapter 7

Effective Practices in English: Specialty Supplies

Appendix 1: Community Building Activities, Geneffa Jonker, Cabrillo College Appendix 2: Lotus used by Diane Oren, San Joaquin Delta College

Appendix 3: Instructional materials used by Karen Wong, Skyline College

Appendix 4: Instructional materials used by Katie Hearn, Chabot College

Appendix 5: Resources for Chapter 7

Appendix 1: Community Building Activities

Geneffa Jonker
English 255 / Reading 255 Cabrillo College
Sharing Our Gifts
Our next activity as a Learning Community will give us an opportunity to learn more about “things that matter” to ourselves and each other. You have just read “The Gift” by Michelle Serros from Chicana Falsa in your reading class. Now you will go on to write about a significant gift of your own that you will bring in to share at our community gathering (see syllabus for date).
Think about the material things that you treasure. We often hear that it is foolish to covet material things because they are just objects; nonetheless, some objects (like Serros’ desk) may be highly significant because of the special meaning they have for us. Gifts, more than any other objects, whether they are gifts from people we love or gifts that we give ourselves, can have deep sentimental value.
Think about a gift that holds a lot of meaning in your life. Try not to think about human gifts (like your children), or abstract gifts (like education). Focus on an object that has symbolic meaning because it represents more than just an object. It might remind you of the person who gave it to you or a loved one who has since passed on. It might symbolize a particular triumph in your life—an obstacle you overcame, or it could simply evoke pleasant memories. You will be asked to bring your gift (or a picture of it) to our community gathering where we will each display and talk about our gift.
Write an essay about a gift that you received, or that you gave yourself, which holds special meaning. You may use Michele Serros’ personal essay as a model for your own. You may want to address the following questions in your essay.

  1. What is the story behind how you acquired this gift? Who gave it to you?

  1. Has your relationship to this gift changed over time? Does it mean more or less to you now than when you first received it?

  1. Is this gift a legacy? Do you plan to pass it down to your children or keep it in your family in some way?

Your essay is due at our next community gathering. At that time, you will share your gift with the class by displaying it (or a picture of it) and telling us about its significance to you. Do not plan to read from your paper. Think of this presentation as a conversation among friends.
We look forward to seeing your gifts and learning your stories!

Appendix 2

Lotus Planner Used by Diane Oren, San Joaquin Delta College
Read the chapter for a description of how to use this tool for brainstorming writing ideas

Appendix 3
Appendix 3: Analyzing the Causes of Prejudice and Discrimination

Karen Wong
English 846 Skyline College
Rationale: Initiate the shift away from personal, narrative writing and instead to text-based writing

  1. Demonstrate a sophisticated understanding of the roots of prejudice and discrimination by effectively applying Parrillo’s theories to two case studies.

  2. Use reading strategies to accurately summarize the three texts.

  3. Synthesize all three texts into an essay that demonstrates a sophisticated understanding of the roots of prejudice and discrimination, organizing the information in a logical order, providing adequate examples and explanations that support a clear thesis statement, citing sources properly, and demonstrating competence in standard English grammar and usage.


  1. Vincent Parrillo’s “Causes of Prejudice”— in Gary Colombo, Robert Cullen, & Bonnie Lisle’s Rereading America (7th ed.), Bedford St. Martin’s, 504-518

  2. Studs Terkel’s “CP Ellis”—in Gary Colombo, Robert Cullen, & Bonnie Lisle’s Rereading America (7th ed.), Bedford St. Martin’s, 519-529

  3. Charlie LeDuff’s “At a Slaughterhouse, Some Things Never Die” --

Reading Strategies:

  • Previewing the texts so as to tap into and expand their schema.

  • Accurately outlining the Parillo chapter and/or excerpt, identifying the primary causes and their definitions

  • Annotating their texts: (a) Parillo—the primary causes and their definitions, and (b) other texts—the primary contributing causes of racial conflict and/or racism

  • Discussion Questions either on-line or in person, but with time to write before engaging in a group discussion:

  • “CP Ellis”-- What might account for why C.P. Ellis became a racist? How did Ellis battle the racism he found in himself? What specific changes did he undergo, and how successful was he in abandoning racist attitudes? Include at least one passage from the interview to illustrate your points, quoting according to proper APA format.

  • “At a Slaughterhouse, Some Things Never Die”-- What sources of conflict in the slaughterhouse fan the flames of racism? Include in your response a supporting passage according to APA format.

Writing Strategies:

  • Structuring an expository essay

  • Integrating quotes and creating a works cited page using the MLA format

  • Continual practice combining sentences with coordinators and/or subordinators

English 846 Karen Wong Skyline College

ssay Assignment: Understanding the Sources of Prejudice and Discrimination

Critical thinking involves a number of skills, one of them being the ability to apply a theory to real life. For this essay, consider which of Vincent Parrillo's theories best account for C.P. Ellis' and the slaughterhouse workers' racism. In short, how might Parrillo explain the conflicts that C.P. Ellis and the slaughterhouse employees experience?

Unlike the last essay, you will certainly have to draw from all three texts to support your assertions. Include at least five quotes in your analysis and explanations, using the MLA format. Attach to your essay a separate works cited page that is appropriately labeled. Also, underline three sentences that are joined by coordinators and/or subordinators.

When evaluating your essay, I will be taking into consideration these elements:

  • Sophistication and insight

  • A thesis that proposes an arguable assertion

  • Thorough development of the thesis

  • Logical Organization

  • Minimum of five quotes according to MLA format

  • Works Cited page according to MLA format

  • Minimum three underlined sentences that are joined by coordinators and/or subordinators

  • A snappy introduction

  • An original and creative title

  • Spelling, grammar, sentence variety, etc.


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