Monday, April 30, 2012

Professional Writing 3

Chapter 14 of Teaching English, How To…. By Raymond Stopper (Xlibris, 2004).

Question: How did publishing my first article help me learn to write?

 Answer: One particular experience in publishing professionally helped me to formulate a method for revising that I recommend to my students. This particular experience was also quite funny, or at least it seems so now. It didn’t then.

 The Topic of My First Article: How to Read Professional Journals Quickly and Efficiently
The topic of my first published article was how to find time in a busy schedule to read professional journals. Professional journals are a most valuable source of useful ideas and teaching techniques. They shed light on important issues in teaching. However, as a teacher, I had little time for such reading, so I experimented and found a method that helped me gain the most from the limited time I could allow for reading professional materials. I learned early that much of the information in many professional articles was not worth my time, so I developed a method that helped me find quickly the main points of each article and just enough of the supporting details to answer my questions.

The Method I
First, I read the title, sub-title, the first paragraph and the last paragraph of the article. Usually, this brief minute or two of reading was enough to tell me whether the article was worth reading in more detail. If this brief exposure was enough information, I jotted a brief summary at the beginning of the article to help me remember its essential ideas and moved on to the next article.

The Method II
However, if I wanted to know more, or if I had questions to which I wanted answers, then I would read the first sentence of each intermediate paragraph between the first and last paragraphs. Reading the first sentence of each paragraph did not take long. It often gave me the details that I needed to answer my questions. If that information was enough, I summarized the article and moved on to the next article. Rarely did I read the entire article.

Summary of My Method
This technique helped me to sift through and identify the interesting ideas in lengthy articles quickly and efficiently. It enabled me to skim over lengthy explanations for which I had no time. In a short period of time, I found the main ideas and answered my questions about the details. This method worked for me. I was able to read through journals while waiting in doctors’ offices, during free periods, and for 15 minutes each night before going to bed, gathering valuable ideas about teaching.

My Method Applied in Workshops
I shared this technique with my teachers at the beginning of workshops. To gather background information on the topic of the workshop, they would read articles in professional journals dealing with that topic. They liked the technique. They almost always found articles they wanted to share and even articles that they asked to have copied so they could take them home. As a result, I decided to write an article on the technique and to submit to The Reading Teacher, a journal for reading specialists and elementary teachers.

Next Blog: What not to do when asking others what they think about your writing.

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