Thinking Critically

Thinking Critically

As we said at the beginning, reflecting on your literacy experiences helps you become a better, more versatile writer. Reflecting makes you aware of what you already know and what you still need to learn. Reflecting enhances metacognition, which is a scholarly word for awareness of your own thinking processes.

As young children, we learn to use language primarily from hearing others talk and from being talked to. Learning language seems magical because we are not con- scious of being taught. But we learn because others are modeling language use for us all the time, and sometimes they even correct our pronunciation, word choice, and grammar.

We learn the most common types of communicating such as storytelling in the same way. We listen to others tell stories and read to us; we watch stories por- trayed on television, in film, and in video games; and eventually we read stories for ourselves. Being immersed in storytelling, we learn conventional ways of beginning


and ending, strategies for building suspense, techniques for making time sequences clear, methods for using dialogue to develop character, and so on. As we get older, we can reinforce and increase our repertoire of storytelling strategies by analyzing stories and by consciously trying the strategies in our own oral and written stories. This is true of all literacy learning. We learn from a combination of modeling, im- mersion, and thinking critically about what we are learning.

In addition to modeling good writing and guiding you in writing on your own, The St. Martin’s Guide to Writing helps you think critically about your writing. Each writing assignment chapter in Part One of the Guide includes many opportunities for you to think critically and reflect on your understanding of the rhetorical situation — the context, composed of genre, purpose, and audience — in which you are writing. In addition, a section titled Thinking Critically about What You Have Learned concludes each chapter, giving you an opportunity to look back and reflect on how you used your writing process creatively and how you expanded your understanding of the genre.
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