As I noted in my speech at the Leadership Certification events, the i3 study showed that classes often have trouble completing an ERWC module. They tend to do a lot of the activities at the beginning, mostly in the Prereading and Reading sections, and start skipping activities in the latter part of the module, sometimes not getting to the writing assignment at all. We do not blame teachers for this pattern. It is part of the existential reality of teaching high school that there is never world enough or time. However, this led us to start talking about how we can help teachers complete the “arc” of a module. We came up with the slogan “Text to Text” to remind us that a module begins with published texts and ends with a student text in response. But what exactly do we mean by an “arc”?
In general, a module moves through the following pattern:
- Reading for Comprehension (Playing the Believing Game)
- Reading to Question (Playing the Disbelieving Game)
- Reading for Use (Finding Material to Support a Stance)
- Writing in Response (Moving from the Audience Position to Being an Author)
As the student moves through the arc, his or her relationship with the texts under study becomes more and more complex. However, when the student begins to take a stance toward the issues and select words and concepts to analyze, endorse, or refute, his or her relationship with the texts begins to stabilize and solidify. This is why the “Connecting Reading to Writing” and “Entering the Conversation” sections of the Assignment Template are so important. Reading for comprehension is only an early stage of the process of coming to terms with the ideas of a text, not the end goal, which is to turn readers into writers who can contribute to the conversation.
Let’s imagine that an ERWC module is a NASA mission to launch a space probe. “Prereading” is the pre-flight check to make sure everything is ready and A-OK. “Reading for Comprehension” is the first stage booster that lifts the probe to the upper atmosphere. “Postreading” or “Reading to Question” is the second stage that boosts the probe into orbit. “Connecting Reading to Writing” or “Reading for Use” is the gathering of data by the probe to support the scientific mission. “Entering the Conversation” or “Writing in Response” is the interpretation and publishing of that data for the scientific community. A failure at any stage of this process leads to a failure of the mission.
ERWC modules contain many activities at each stage of the mission. In most situations, there is too little time to complete them all. Teachers have to make choices. What we recommend is that teachers make selections from each part of the template, so that the arc of the module is completed. In future modules and future editions of existing modules, we plan to give more guidance on how to select the most essential activities, but for now, we ask that teachers keep in mind that ERWC modules are designed to move from “Text to Text.”