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Difficulty Paper: Salvatori's Basic Assignment

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As faculty blogger Michael Arnzen describes it, The Difficulty Paper

comes out of the idea that by grappling with intimidating readings, students can master their anxieties about (and become more confident reading) academic texts, and that – through writing out their thoughts (e.g., taking a metacognitive approach) – they can identify what they already know and what they still need to find out.

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Difficulty Paper: Salvatori's Basic Assignment

  1. 1. The “Difficulty Paper” Mariolina Rizzi Salvatori, The “Difficulty Paper” is an assignment that students must complete and hand in before we as a class begin discussing a new text. This is how it reads: You can expect to write regularly in this course. In preparation for class discussions and writing assignments, you will write short (1/2/ to 1 page) “difficulty papers”: These are paper in which you identify and begin to hypothesize the reasons for any possible difficulty you might be experiencing as you read a ____ (poem, play, essay, research article). Each week, you will write a difficulty paper on one of the assigned texts. Each week, I will select one or two of these “difficulty papers” as unusual or representative examples of the readings you produce. I will distribute copies and use them to ground our discussions. My goal, in doing so, is to move all of use from judging a difficulty as a reader’s inability to understand a text to discerning in that difficulty a reader’s incipient awareness of the particular “demands” imposed by the language, structure, style, context of a text. A handout distributed as part of conference presentation further notes of the assignment:  The function of this assignment is to help students begin to reflect on how they read, and why, and on the kind of understanding their ways of reading can produce.  It can help students shape a position form which to speak in class, and to engage in the thoughts of others.  It can help students to foreground, to begin to analyze, and to assess the intricate moves they must make as readers who transact and negotiate with a text.

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