Improving Reading, Writing, Study, Thinking and Aesthetics in the Wired Classroom
Anthony Manzo, Ula Manzo, & Julie Jacksons Albee
Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy (2002; 46/01 pp 42-7)
[(Revised: Aesthetic Annotation added: 6/3/09]
iREAP is a proposition for improving reading, writing, study, thinking and aesthetics. It has been waiting in the wings to be discovered for over a generation. The REAP system (Read, Encode, Annotate, Ponder) for responding to text has been in use in elementary through college classrooms for two decades. The “i" in iREAP represents its currency and connection to Internet community building, to several validation studies and to developmental extensions noted ahead. The core REAP system is based on a scaffold form of writing that invites creativity, much as does haiku, or any other such disciplined form of art. In addition to structuring response to text, or the discipline of REAP Broad Spectrum Thinking, the system invites readers to respond to others’ stored responses. It is in some ways similar to developments such as “threaded discussions” – as are found on Amazon.com and BlackBoard.com. Such asynchronous discussions and synchronous chat may have incidental learning outcomes, however, they are not school. They are unstructured interactions, whose discourse tends to follow a personal-social agenda. iREAP contains provisions for converting chat and asynchronous submissions into several goals of school-based learning. For example, it provides a context for “virtual inclusion” and “virtual integration, step-wise solutions to social and legal mandates such as providing every student with a “least restrictive” and non-segregated environment. It also attains some efficiencies for over-burdened teachers in the form of some new levels of assistance with guiding reading, writing and thinking as never before available. (There even are options in the offing for new software that automatically requests different phrasing when inappropriate terms are used.) What is more, iREAP offers the possibility of bringing further organization to the web, a virtual place that also can be characterized as virtual chaos: pieces of library books, homework assignments, family albums, literary masterpieces, tawdry material, and fiery political pamphlets piled in a random heap.
REAP: Background and Backbone
The basic idea for this reader-writer exchange system was proposed some time ago (Manzo, 1975) as a means of improving and supporting a national content area reading and writing project essentially for urban schools. Shortly afterwards it was collected into a teaching-learning approach called REAP - Read, Encode, Annotate, and Ponder (Eanet & Manzo, 1976; Eanet, 1978, 1983). From the beginning, it was anticipated that REAP might be an appropriate formatting system, or disciplined semantic platform and backbone for the tsunami of words that would be channeled from one “computer terminal” to another, on the then-developing intranets that were being formed by colleges, and promising to provide new technological options for the K-12 education. As such, it appeared that REAP should be a part of an evolving grammar of, and school curricula for, the electronic age.
REAP primarily is a cognitive enrichment approach that teaches students to think more precisely and deeply about what they read, by following the four-step strategy symbolized by its title:
READ to get the writer's basic message;
ENCODE the message into your own words while reading;
ANNOTATE your analysis of the message by writing responses from several perspectives, and;
PONDER what you have read and written – first by reviewing it yourself, then by sharing and discussing it with others, and finally by reading the responses of others.
At the heart of the approach is a set of annotation types that range roughly in hierarchical order from a simple summary of the author’s basic message to various perspectives for higher-order critical and creative analysis. The first few REAP annotation types require “reconstructive” thinking – understanding and perceiving the essence of the author’s meaning. The remaining ones require “constructive” thinking – going beyond the author’s intended meaning to form the personal schema connections, applications, and variations that permit the learner to transfer information and ideas from one context to another. This hierarchy aids assessment and gives guidance to students in reaching “up” to higher levels or “down” to more basic ones that may not yet have been mastered. Descriptions and examples of some of the basic annotation types are provided in Figure 1. Other types can be customized and created. For example, several teachers have had rewarding results using a “Humorous” annotation (also in Figure 1).
Guided Reading, Writing and Thinking
For classroom use, the annotation types are introduced either singly or a few at a time, with the nature and pace of instruction geared to the grade level, but without aiming at “mastery” before moving to another annotation type. Children tend to learn to write best by struggling to express their own thoughts about rich literature selections, guided by mindfully written models that scaffold reading and entice emulation. As soon as the class has the basic idea of a few annotation types, they begin to write annotations of things they have read, and to read annotations – perspectives - that others bring to response writing. They are reminded to write several annotations on a reading selection, as a means to crosscheck their initial understandings and reach for higher-order insights and questions. Exemplary annotations are stored for other individuals and classes to read before reading (i.e., frontloading), during reading (as discussion points), or after reading (as a review) and also serve as models of well composed written responses.
Sample Reading Selection with Examples of REAP Annotation Types
“Travelers and the Plane-Tree”
Two Travelers were walking along a bare and dusty road in the heat of a mid-summer’s day. Coming upon a large shade tree, they happily stopped to shelter themselves from the burning sun in the shade of its spreading branches. While they rested, looking up into the tree, one of them said to his companion, “What a useless tree this is! It makes no flowers and bears no fruit. Of what use is it to anyone?” The tree itself replied indignantly, “You ungrateful people! You take shelter under me from the scorching sun, and then, in the very act of enjoying the cool shade of my leaves, you abuse me and call me good for nothing!”
Summary: states the basic message in brief form
Travelers take shelter from the sun under a large tree. They criticize the tree for not making flowers or fruit. The tree speaks, and tells them that they are ungrateful people for taking shelter under her leaves and then criticizing her.
Telegram: briefly states the author's basic theme with all unnecessary words removed -- a crisp, telegram-like message
Travelers stop for rest and shade under big tree. Travelers say tree is useless. Tree tells them off.
Heuristic: restates an attention-getting portion of the selection that makes the reader want to respond
In this story, a tree (remove “that”) talks back to people. The tree says, "You ungrateful people! You come and take shelter under me...and then ...abuse me and call me good for nothing!”
Question: turns the main point into an organization question that the selection answers
What if the things we use could talk back?
Personal view: answers the question, "how do your views and feelings compare with what the author says?"
We use resources like coal without thinking. Then we criticize it for damaging our lungs and dirtying our air.
I guess kids sometimes use their parents the way the travelers used the tree, and then criticize them without thinking about their feelings.
Humorous: can vary from bringing a slight smile, usually by flirting with a naughty suggestion, to using jest to bring enlightenment.
I can just see that poor tree thinking “I hope they’re about to stop here to seek shelter and not relief.”
Critical: begins by stating the author's main point, then states whether the reader agrees, disagrees, or agrees in part with the author, and then briefly explains why
Not every word spoken in criticism is meant that way. The travelers were just grumpy from the trip. The tree is too sensitive.
Contrary: states a logical alternative position, even though it may not be the one the student supports
The travelers could be right, a better tree could produce something and also give shade.
Intention: states and briefly explains what the reader thinks was the author's intention, plan, and purpose for writing the selection
The author wants us to be more sensitive to the people and things we depend on -- especially those we see and use often.
Motivation: states what may have caused the author to have written the selection -- the author's personal agenda
It sounds like the author may have felt used, after having a bad experience with friends or family.
Discovery: states one or more practical questions that need to be answered before the selection can be judged for accuracy or worth
I wonder how many of us know when we are being "users." We could take an anonymous poll to see how many class members secretly feel that they have been used and how many see themselves as users.
Creative: suggests different and perhaps better solutions or views and/or connections and applications to prior learning and experiences
_ This fable made me think that teachers are sometimes used unfairly. They give us so much, and then we put them down if they make a little mistakes. They’re only human.
_ We should put this fable on the bulletin board where it will remind us not to be ungrateful “users.”
_ [How would you re-title this fable if you were writing it?] I’d call it “Travelers in the Dark,” to show that we go through life without knowing how many small “gifts” come to us along our way .
Aesthetic Annotation: This, the highest & riskiest level of writing, is the writer’s attempt to rouse hearts as well as minds to life; it can be by saying something that has not been said before, or by saying something hackneyed in some fresh and poignant way. It almost always will require a unique perspective, a bit of artistry, often some word craft, and some emotion; our ostensibly highly cerebral brain functions are always coupled to some feelings that sometimes begin deep in the primitive brain., but almost always become part of the conscious brain.
[Of course trees do not feel. Nonetheless, the expression "tree huggers" - that often is meant as a put-down of people who care too much about every living thing - speaks loudly to the likelihood that there may, in fact, be greater unity and community in all living things than our habits of mind routinely overlook; from a purely atomistic point of view we still don't know why and how all things physical remain separate from one another.]
After students have had some practice writing various types of annotations, these can be used and reinforced in a variety of ways; a few are listed below:
1. When giving a reading assignment, specify three annotation types for students to write and turn in.
2. As students become more skilled at annotation writing, they can be given the option of selecting from three annotation types the one that they would like to write in response to a reading assignment.
3. Assign each cooperative group member to write a different annotation type in response to a reading assignment. When students have finished reading and writing, they move to their assigned groups to share the annotations they have written and to offer constructive suggestions to one another on ways to clarify the response. Extra credit points can be offered to the group with the best annotation of each type as judged by the teacher or the class as a whole.
4. Introduce a new reading assignment by having students read annotations written by students in previous years’ classes or from a different section at the same grade level.
5. Provide incentive to read and write reflectively by posting exemplary annotations, signed by the author, on a bulletin board or a webpage, including some from different (remove “a”) age-grade levels; in other words, raise some higher targets.
6. Use REAP annotation types as a guide for phrasing post-reading discussion questions, and encourage students to do the same.
7. From time to time, use the REAP annotations to guide students’ responses to non-text learning experiences: a video, a laboratory procedure, a piece of music or art, etc.
REAP Spectrum Thinking
The goal of all these applications is to help students internalize REAP “spectrum-thinking,” or thinking from different perspectives, to the extent where it becomes a habit of mind: a familiar comfortable, almost automatic, mental strategy. Like other thinking strategies, REAP Spectrum-Thinking is helpful in negotiating everyday life, but it is particularly useful for independent, but no longer isolated study. One strength of this strategy results from hearing the thinking of others who are reacting to the same content or stimulus.
REAP Spectrum-Thinking is a flexible strategy, but it has two essential elements. First, it may begin with any of the response types, but at least one, if not several others always follow initial responses. It is through this habit of multiple-stance responding that the learner is reminded to reflect at a higher level of social-emotional maturity, one beyond his or her initial – often egocentric- response and to possibly perceive further meaning and connections. Some learners are naturally inclined to respond to reading from a critical stance. REAP Spectrum-Thinking reminds them to re-visit the information to check the basic facts before going too far down a path that may be based on misunderstandings. Other learners tend to respond from a basic reconstructive stance, but are disinclined to move to any of the constructive levels: REAP- Spectrum thinking reminds them to do so. Most students (and adults) have fairly strong preferences as to types of reading and responding that they like, feel ambivalent toward, and dislike. These preferences both reflect and influence the nature and degree of response to reading, viewing and listening. The second essential element, or value, of REAP-Spectrum-Thinking is parsimonious- or “fewer words” writing and responding. By definition, annotations are brief requiring much more thinking than writing. Gifted children are as inclined as others to read and gather-in, but not to think, or be potentially transformed as well informed, by what they read and learn. Since their gift of “learning easily” tends to slate them for more influential positions, it is in their interests and ours that they be reflective and multi-perspective thinkers. The requirement to write in response to reading, along with exposure to the responses of many others, instills greater sensitivity in them, even while they help others to think more effectively by learning to do so themselves. In a small way, the world is a better place as we all learn to share and think more clearly. Importantly, too, many things that are not otherwise spoken, may then be, inviting possible growth beyond generalities and negativism. At a very basic level, such response-to-text reading-writing is conducive to more active learning, and a foundational means of schema building (Rosenblatt, 1978; Cooper, 1985; Rosenblatt, 1985; Purves, 1993; Shelton, 1994; Blake, 1995; Kasonovich, 1996).
Full Spectrum-Thinking for Full Spectrum-Inclusion
As a teaching approach, REAP is an ideal way to provide for students in inclusion classrooms, across a broad spectrum of student abilities, needs and cognitive styles. It also permits divergent-creative-thinkers who otherwise may be academic underachievers to demonstrate their abilities while reminding them that communication requires them to be more attentive to form, sequence and details. It urges concrete thinkers to think further and make more personal connections with the facts that they so easily seem to acquire. It deals directly with the core language/thinking systems that are the target in many IEP’s for LD youngsters, and the “mediation” process essential to most human learning. It lends itself well to cooperative group work that is essential in aiding social and emotional development (see #3 above for one example). It evokes the type of pointed “instructional conversation” that “rouses minds to life” (Tharp & Gallimore, 1992).
The term iREAP represents endless possibilities for teaching and practicing REAP Spectrum-Thinking that, with Internet access, can now be translated into reality. Here are just a few examples of how iREAP might unfold as we continue to pilot develop it.
• A teacher can easily store, access, & print student responses to a given reading selection, thereby building a library of student annotations for future students’ use as pre-reading schema activation, post-reading responding, and as models of poignant writing and thinking.
• The best student annotations can be posted on a classroom or school webpage, where they can be made accessible to and from students from diverse cultural perspectives even while we have not yet figured out how to bring about full integration of the schools.
• Parents, school administrators, community members (and on outward to include anyone in the world speaking English) can be invited to submit annotations and responses to annotations for inclusion on the classroom or school webpage.
• Webpages of several schools can be linked (our current technical and logistical task).
• Volunteer, paid, peer, and/or cross-grade tutors can be trained to use REAP as the structural vehicle for conducting online instructional interactions. Tutors can prompt tutees to revise, edit, and re-submit their annotations of classroom assignments or supplementary materials. Hence, the creation of a cadre of Volunteers for Higher-Order Literacy able to assist teachers in reading and responding to the pupils’ early drafts, and therefore, increasing the likelihood that teachers would more confidently give additional reading-writing assignments. [Wrtg now is a requirement on all standardized tests, nonetheless there still is no help for middle/high school teachers who have an average of 120 students in reading and guiding wrtg.]
• A classroom (or school) could partner with a local bookstore to create an iREAP Book Club, where a “book of the month” is listed for annotation contributions. Students & community members (local and online) whose annotations are selected for online publication would receive credits toward purchases in the bookstore. Community members could contribute books purchased with credits to the classroom or school library. The bookstore could set up a couple of computer carrels where an iREAP activity could be viewed.
• The increased sale of books that seems to follow from their discussion could become a valuable source of supplementary income for schools from commercial book vendors.
• And, when educators fully grasp the value to education of on-line ads and marketing that our kids see within moments of going on-line anyway, it might even become acceptable to have this iREAP system situated so that schools received some of the revenue now flowing like a protected river through their campuses. There is a name other than “commercialism” for this option, it is called “Social Entrepreneurism” and it could become the means to end the financial drought that has plagued education throughout the prior century. (See: Manzo, 2001 for further details)
Clinical and Empirical Evidence for REAP
REAP-related research has shown quite clearly that this proposed grammar, or architecture for electronic interaction, improves basic and higher-order literacy objectives, especially complexity of thinking, as well as major components of cognitive skill and social-emotional maturity, or non-egocentric thinking and reflecting. For example, Garber (1995) found that when middle school students participated in what she called transformational reader-response strategies to narrative text, essentially REAP, both cognitive complexity and social development were increased significantly when compared with students who used transactional and transmissional reader-response strategies. Standardized measures were used to evaluate complex thinking in this study. Results of a research study conducted by Albee (2000) indicated that when university students in children's literature courses experienced REAP Annotation Exchange Writing they showed a significant increase in cognitive complexity as measured by three different instruments, as compared with students who did not experience REAP Annotation Exchange.
As iREAP develops, teachers and schools can expect several things to happen:
• significant increase and improvement in higher-order thinking
• significant increase and improvement in reading comprehension
• significant increase and improvement in writing ability
• significant increase and improvement in content knowledge, cumulative learning and standardized test scores, and
• significant increase and improvement in our ways of building toward those most cherished of human needs, a sense of shared experience and membership in a caring community focused to some higher purpose .
The iREAP system, should we be able to fully launch and support it, would permit any one to REAP the benefits of the reflections or thinking of the many on the ever bulging growth of information, knowledge, and school curricula.
There Also May Be A Considerable Peace Dividend
Cultural integration may sometimes raise tensions, but cultural isolation almost always escalates into hostilities. A global iREAP system reaching all students and teachers could create meaningful cross-cultural, cross-boundary dialogues on great books and great thoughts. iREAP would move beyond ritualized, self-interests, and the sometimes crippling “dialogues” of governments, corporations, and even dogmatic religions. It would happen on a person-to-person basis. It would be an on-going ecumenical council building empathy and a sense of common cause in the form of small patches of understanding, that like vegetation on a hillside, can not only prevent further erosion, but when its seeds of sense and sensibility are caught in the winds, their greening effects can be spread to the most remote of places. Importantly, such a system also could nearly compel those with irascible notions to express and reveal themselves, since the iREAP system would be an influential part of the new, web-based free markets in ideas. And, yes, there is danger in screening for terrorists and misfits, but this system also provides for empathy and teachable moment reminders from our most civilized and grounded citizens, to those who otherwise might be alone with their troubled, and ungrounded thoughts.
An action plan to build and implement iREAP is developing on LiteracyLeaders.com.(Other relevant cites are: http://cctr.umkc.edu/user/dmartin/hol.html and http://members.aol.com/ReadShop/REAP1.html.) Meantime, feel comfortable teaching the grammar of disciplined reading, writing and sharing at the classroom and school level. Brief writing following reading has been a fundamental and traditional part of education, especially in Europe, for hundreds of years. REAP simply is a more orderly way of teaching, scaffolding and monitoring progress in doing so.
Albee, J.A. (2000). The effect of Read-Encode-Annotate-Ponder annotation exchange (REAP AnX) on the complex thinking of undergraduate students in children’s literature courses. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Kansas City, MO: University of Missouri-Kansas City.)
Eanet, M. G. (1978). An investigation of the REAP reading/study procedure: Its rationale and efficacy. In P. D. Pearson, & J. Hansen (Eds.), Reading: Disciplined inquiry in process and practice. The 27th yearbook of the National Reading Conference (pp. 229-232). Clemson, SC: National Reading Conference.
Eanet, M. G. (1983). Reading/writing: Finding and using the connection. The Missouri Reader, 8, 8-9.
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Garber, K. S. (1995). The effects of transmissional, transactional, and transformational reader-response strategies on middle school students’ thinking complexity and social development. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation.) Kansas City, MO: University of Missouri-Kansas City.
Kasonovich, M.L. (1996). The study of first graders’ ability to respond to and analyze picture books. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 396249). Princeton, NJ: ERIC Clearinghouse on Assessment and Evaluation.
Manzo, A.V. (1973). CONPASS English: A demonstration project. Journal of Reading, 16, 539–545.
Manzo, A.V., & Manzo, U.C. (1995). Teaching children to be literate: A reflective approach. Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt Brace College Publishers.
Purves, A. (1993). Toward a re-evaluation of reader response and school literature. Language Arts, 70, 348-361.
Rosenblatt, L. (1978). The reader, the text, the poem: the transactional theory of the literary work. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press.
Rosenblatt, L. (1985). The transformational theory of the literary work: Implications for research. In Researching response to literature and the teaching of literature. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press.
Shelton, K.Y. (1994). Reader response theory in the high school English classroom. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the National Council of Teachers of English (Orlando, FL: November 16-21, 1994). (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. 379655). Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service.
Tharp, R.G., & Gallimore, R. (1990). Rousing minds to life: Teaching, learning, and schooling social context. New York: Cambridge University Press.