Today I gave my students an in-class writing assignment. They handled it well, at their small desks and tables. I watched them managing their textbooks and their notebooks at the same time, reading a little and writing a little, switching back and forth between one task and the other.
Then it struck me. They all read and write at the same time.
By which I mean, all of my students don’t read a writing assignment first, and then write about it. They do both tasks simultaneously. I’ve been teaching for fifteen years, since 1996, and I don’t think I’d ever seen more than a few kids doing this simultaneously before. I’d always seen kids reading, and then writing, never trying to do both at the same time.
I think at some point, I shifted away from this as my homework strategy. I did the reading first, and then I did the writing. I never did both at the same time. Reading was one activity, and writing another. I don’t recall — admittedly now 28 or 29 years later — how I learned to separate the two activities for maximum effectiveness.
I declare myself absolutely gobsmacked. Why hadn’t I ever noticed this before? And what effect does it have on learning? How does one separate the tasks of reading and writing, and is it beneficial to do so? Is it beneficial for the development of their minds to do this? Or is it an obstacle to be overcome?
I confess I don’t know the answer. At all.