Chapter 2: Reading in Writing Class

Reading to Build Content Knowledge

Creating or recognizing content knowledge is important because you must have something to write about before you can actually begin writing. Many students assume that he or she can simply read one or two articles and then write an entire essay, but that is hardly ever the case. Whether you are writing about yourself, responding to a topic chosen by the instructor, or crafting a research essay for history class, you need to build knowledge about the content area first.

Scenario 1

You are asked to write about a scary moment in your life. Before writing, you need to sit and think about what scares you, what it means for you to be frightened, what experiences you have had with fright, etc.

This process, even though it is content only about your experience(s), is still part of the content building process because you need to sift through many other experiences and also define what “fear” or “scared” means to you.

Scenario 2

Your instructor assigns everyone a debatable topic and you are asked to write about the benefits of the death penalty. You are excited because you have seen a lot of Law and Order and have decided that the death penalty is a “good thing” for American society. So, you sit down and write your essay using all of your ideas about the death penalty. Sounds good, right? Wrong.

To form a strong argument, a writer must consider all sides of an argument and in this scenario the student doesn’t really have a lot of experience with the topic, which means he or she must build content knowledge first. This will most likely require finding opinion articles, statistics, and personal experience stories to develop an understanding of the topic. From there, an ethical writer (which you are working to become) must evaluate those sources to ensure credibility because if a writer relies on faulty sources, then his or her work becomes faulty or inaccurate, too.

Building content knowledge is key part of the writing process, which is why we will not read as many articles are you might think we would in this class. Instead, you will be practicing the act of building content knowledge by closely analyzing the content, context, and credibility of various articles.

In This Chapter

This chapter provides information pertaining to active readings strategies that students can and should use to help them become better readers, which in turn helps them formulate stronger content knowledge. It also provides a Reading Entry Template, which is a required part of the course.