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Writing to Read: Evidence for How Writing Can Improve Reading
Graham, S., and Hebert, M. A. (2010). Writing to read: Evidence for how writing can improve reading. A Carnegie Corporation Time to Act Report. Washington, DC: Alliance for Excellent Education.
“The evidence is clear: writing can be a vehicle for improving reading” (p. 6).
Ten years ago The National Commission on Writing in America’s Schools and Colleges deemed writing the “neglected ‘R’” and called for a “writing revolution” that included doubling the amount of time students spend writing. In the years following, extensive reports such as Reading Next (Biancarosa & Snow, 2006) and Writing Next (Graham & Perin, 2007) supported the idea that writing is a powerful tool for improving reading, thinking, and learning. Now as much of the country implements the Common Core State Standards, there is a renewed push for more and better writing. As educators try to determine how to improve student learning and include more writing within the same time limits, it is important to revisit Steve Graham and Michael Hebert’s (2010) Writing to Read , which gives strong evidence that writing, an essential skill itself, also improves reading comprehension.
For decades researchers have emphasized the strong connection between reading and writing, both in theory and in practice. Multiple studies have demonstrated that writing can improve comprehension. What has been less clear is what particular writing practices research supports as being effective at improving students’ reading. To determine those practices, Graham and Hebert (2010) undertook an in-depth meta-analysis of experimental and quasi-experimental studies that examined the effectiveness of writing practices on improving students’ reading in grades 1 -12. They acknowledge the limitations of excluding other forms of research and recognize the significant contributions of that research; at the same time, they share that completing this sort of meta-analysis allowed them to focus on studies where cause-and-effect could be inferred and effect sizes calculated. Their meta-analysis generated three recommendations:
- Have students write about the texts they read. “Writing about a text proved to be better than just reading it, reading and rereading it, reading and studying it, reading and discussing it, and receiving reading instruction” (p. 14). Specific types of writing about reading that had statistically significant effect sizes included responding to a text through writing personal reactions or analyses/interpretations of the text, writing summaries of a text, taking notes on a text, and creating and/or answering questions about a text in writing. The benefits of these types of writing were stronger, particularly for lower-achieving students, when they were tied with explicit instruction on how to write.
- Teach students the writing skills and processes that go into creating texts. Teaching students about writing process, text structures, paragraph or sentence construction, and other writing skills improves reading comprehension; teaching spelling and sentence construction skills improve fluency; and teaching spelling skills improves word reading skills.
- Increase how much students write. An increase in how often students write improves students’ reading comprehension. Graham and Hebert recommend more writing across the curriculum, as well as at home to achieve more time spent writing.
What may be most important in all of Graham and Hebert’s findings is that infrequent writing and lack of explicit writing instruction minimize any sort of effect on reading from the writing practices they recommend. Their report also supports earlier calls for emphasizing writing in the classroom and across content areas. Writing is a critical skill, important in its own right; given the evidence that consistent writing time and instruction not only improves writing but also reading, gives us an even more compelling case for finding time in our school day for more writing.
Biancarosa, G., & Snow, C. E. (2006). Reading next: A vision for action and research in middle and high school literacy -- A report to Carnegie Corporation of New York (2nd ed.). Washington, DC: Alliance for Excellent Education.
Graham, S., & Perin, D. (2007). Writing next: Effective strategies to improve writing of adolescents in middle and high schools -- A report to Carnegie Corporation of New York . Washington, DC: Alliance for Excellent Education.
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With larry ferlazzo.
In this EdWeek blog, an experiment in knowledge-gathering, Ferlazzo will address readers’ questions on classroom management, ELL instruction, lesson planning, and other issues facing teachers. Send your questions to [email protected] Read more from this blog.
‘Writing Helps Grow Readers’
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(This is the last post in a two-part series. You can see Part One here .)
The new question-of-the-week is:
In what ways can writing support reading instruction?
In Part One , Tony Zani, Mary Tedrow, Mary Beth Nicklaus, Colleen Cruz, and Pam Allyn shared their responses. You can listen to a 10-minute conversation I had with Tony, Mary, and Mary Beth on my BAM! Radio Show . You can also find a list of, and links to, previous shows here.
Today, Rita Platt, Laverne Bowers, Rhonda Precourt, Gen Arcovio, Alycia Owen, Kathy Glass, and Keisha Rembert contribute their thoughts.
You’ll also see the next question-of-the-week at the bottom of this column.
Three Real-Life Examples of How Writing Supports Reading
Rita Platt (@ritaplatt) is a national-board-certified teacher and a proud #EduDork! Her experience includes teaching learners of all levels from kindergartner to graduate student. She is currently the principal of St. Croix Falls and Dresser Elementary Schools in Wisconsin, teaches graduate courses for the Professional Development Institute, and writes for MiddleWeb:
Writing and reading are reciprocal processes. Reading helps grow writers, and writing helps grow readers; whether or not we plan it that way, it happens. That said, teachers can and should be intentional about using reading to support writing and visa versa.
One great way to do that with emergent readers and English-language learners who are beginning to learn to read in English is through the Language Experience Approach (LEA). I first used the strategy as a beginning teacher working with 1st and 2nd grade Yupik students in small schools on the Bering Sea coast of Alaska and found it to be as fun as it was effective. Since that time, I’ve used it over the last 20 or so years with students of all ages in communities all over the nation but have rarely seen it used by others. I hope that you will try using LEA with your learners because it is fun, it builds class culture, strengthens student ownership and investment in reading and writing, and it can help combine content, literacy, and English-language development and learning.
In a nutshell, the strategy starts with a shared experience, leads to a writing session that calls on students to write about (or talk about as the teacher models writing) it, and ends with students reading and rereading the text they helped to create. Read the examples below to get a sense of LEA in action.
Kindergarten students visited a local state park where where they learned to snowshoe on a cold but lovely wintry day. Their teacher took many pictures of the kids as they tramped across snowy fields and wove their way among the snow-covered trees. When the students returned to school, the teacher showed the pictures on the interactive white board and asked students to think about their favorite part of the experience. She then used chart paper to scribe their favorite moments. Martin said, “I liked how quiet it was in the woods,” and the teacher wrote it down. Annalisa said, “I liked that I got warm as I walked,” and the teacher wrote that, too. When all students had a chance to share, the teacher typed up the responses and added the pictures to the document. She printed copies for each child, and they used the homegrown text as reading practice for the week.
Jorge is a 3rd grader in a response to intervention reading group. He is new to not only the school but also to the U.S.A. and is an emergent English-language speaker. His teacher works with him to learn the names of commonly used “school tools.” She and Jorge go through his desk and organize his pencils, erasers, highlighters, reading books, textbooks, notebooks, scissors, glue, etc. As Jorge touches each tool, his teacher prompts him to use the following sentence frame: This is a _________________. I use it to ___________________. Jorge writes each sentence and creates a School Tools book. He reads the book with his teacher and takes it home for further practice.
A teacher in a 2nd grade class is beginning an integrated science and literacy unit on magnets. She wants to get students excited and to help them build the vocabulary they will need to have academic conversations. She begins by allowing the students 20 minutes of free exploration with magnets in four learning centers. Small groups of students rotate through the stations every five minutes. She then shares the following vocabulary words and definitions with her class: magnet, magnetism, force, attract, repel, pole. The words are added to a word wall, and students are asked to work in their small groups to write a sentence about their experiences in the centers using each of the new words. The students read their sentences to other groups, bring them home to read to their caregivers, and return them to school to be read as morning work.
Writing About Reading
Laverne Bowers is a 4th grade teacher at Gadsden Elementary School in Georgia’s Savannah Chatham County school district, where she was 2018-19 Teacher of the Year. Bowers has created a cooperative, caring community of learners in the classroom and models the importance of mutual respect and cooperation among all community members. Her educational philosophy is that each child can learn with sufficient support, interest, and path of opportunity:
Writing supports reading instruction by allowing the reader to share his or her thoughts about what he or she has read. Writing requires the reader to think critically about the text and utilize the text to draw conclusions, make inferences, or make predictions. Writing is where reading strategies and skills acquired in class are applied. It also provides the reader with an opportunity to utilize newly learned vocabulary in an authentic manner.
Writing is an excellent time for students to be reflective about their learning and demonstrate understanding of what they’ve read. It is not until reading comprehension exists that good writing can take place.
Successful writers are equipped with a talent for word usage, spelling, syntax, conventions, and expressive writing of ideas. There are five components of reading instruction, each of which is reinforced in an authentic way through writing:
- Phonics (written letters and spoken sound)
- Phonemic awareness (understanding that sounds of a spoken language are put together to make words.)
- Vocabulary development
- Reading fluency
- Reading comprehension
To make writing practice successful, students deserve the respect of knowing that they are writing in a “risk-free” environment. After reading the text, some students may still feel intimidated by what they are expected to write. “Writer’s block” is real. Teachers must take the time, patience, and thought to build trust and respect for the written ideas of others.
Some of the resources we use at Gadsden Elementary School are the Ready Reading and Ready Writing textbooks. In the textbooks, there are both reading and writing activities that support the reading passages, including close-reading strategies, quick write, extended response, and more.
As an educator, I enjoy using resources that help to differentiate my writing instruction. For example, in small groups, I use graphic organizers, anchor charts, word banks, and sentence starters to assist students at all learning levels along the path of success. As the students execute the writing assignments, I am able to formally and informally assess, diagnose, and determine their deficit, interest, and mastery of learning each standard.
For teachers looking to enhance the way they use writing to support reading instruction, I encourage you to think outside of the box! Create a visible writing center that supports both reading and writing as an essential part of the classroom environment. Use “Writing Lures” in the writing center to attract the reluctant reader and/or writer. Writing lures may include gel pens, sheet protectors, highlighters, fragrant pens, colored pencils, colored paper, sticky notes, music, and art. Create an interactive bulletin board to showcase updated student work, include a student’s thought for the week in parent newsletters, post student commentary about current events, or try an editorial cartoon as a writing assignment. Incorporate oratorical presentations as an additional way for students to practice oral reading fluency. Set the expectation that “when we read, we write.”
The Power of Using Writing to Enhance Reading
Rhonda Precourt and Gen Arcovio are literacy specialists in western New York. They are co-owners of the Literacy Pages blog :
Throughout the years, educators have wondered whether students should be taught to read first or to write first. In the past, some educators have viewed writing as something that is taught to students after they learn letter sounds and after they learn words. Currently, many educators take the stance that the biggest impact on literacy can be made by teaching reading and writing simultaneously.
Literacy researcher Marie Clay defines reading as a “message-getting, problem-solving activity,” and writing as a “message-sending, problem-solving activity (p. 5).” Essentially, reading and writing are two different avenues to help students learn the same items and processes. When working with struggling readers, taking advantage of the reciprocity of reading and writing can drastically speed up their progress (Clay, p. 23). Teachers can use the strength in one of these areas to help build up the other.
Since reading and writing share much of the same “mental processes” and “cognitive knowledge,” students who partake in copious amounts of reading experiences have shown increased gains in writing achievement and students who write extensively demonstrate improved reading comprehension (Lee & Schallert, p. 145). When researching the impact of reading on writing achievement and writing on reading achievement, Graham and Herbert found that, “the evidence is clear: Writing can be a vehicle for improving reading. In particular, having students write about a text they are reading enhances how well they comprehend it. The same result occurs when students write about a text from different content areas, such as science and social studies (p. 6).”
There is a strong connection between early-reading and -writing behaviors. Writing requires students to slow down and attend to items in detail, such as attending to particular letters and sounds and the sequence of phonemes, and it provides a link to what the child is saying orally to the written message. Knowing an item in detail when writing is a step closer to knowing an item with automaticity in reading. Writing can help students to become more flexible and automatic with what they know. Students learn that they can recognize in text words what they have learned in writing.
Not all students make connections between writing and reading automatically. Teachers need to intentionally demonstrate and bring to the students’ attention the reciprocal nature of reading and writing. It is not always clear to students that what they are able to do effectively in one area can help them with the other area.
The following are some examples of how to use explicit language to help students bridge their knowledge of reading and writing.
During a shared reading activity, a teacher can say, “We start reading our words here (point to the top left) just like when we write (point to the starting place in a familiar shared writing piece)” to strengthen students’ understanding of how print works.
When reading, if a student stops at a word they have previously written easily with independence, the teacher can prompt the student with, “You know how to write that word. Write it with your finger on the table. Now read it.”
If the teacher wants to encourage the student to use letter-sound correspondence to problem-solve an unknown word, the teacher can tell the student, “Say the word slowly like when you are writing.”
Reading comprehension can be strengthened through writing by having students write about what they are reading, teaching students the writing process, and by increasing the amount of time students write (Graham and Herbert, p.5).
There is strong evidence to suggest that writing can boost students’ growth in reading. The reciprocity between reading and writing, however, needs to be explicitly taught to students. When teachers capitalize on the power of writing to increase reading achievement, the benefit to students is immense.
Briggs, C., & Anderson, N. “Reciprocity Between Reading and Writing: Strategic Processing as Common Ground.” The Reading Teacher Volume 64, No. 7, April ( 2011): 546-549. Print
Clay, M. Literacy Lessons Designed for Individuals (2nd edition). Portsmouth: Heinemann, 2016. Print.
Graham, S., & Hebert, M. Writing to read: Evidence of how writing can improve reading. Washington, DC: Alliance for Excellent Education. 2010. Print.
Lee, J., & Schallert, D. “Exploring the Reading-Writing Connection: A Year-Long Classroom-Based Experimental Study of Middle School Students Developing Literacy in a New Language.” Reading Research Quarterly 51(2) , (2016): 143-164. Print.
“Teach Reading by Teaching Writing”
Alycia Owen is an international educator, instructional coach, and EAL specialist who has implemented the co-teaching model in math, science, and language arts. She has provided professional development for schools in the U.S. and abroad and has been a workshop presenter at NESA, AASSA, and EARCOS international teachers’ conferences, as well as the SIOP National Conference. She currently lives in China where she serves as EAL Department chair for American International School of Guangzhou:
True or False?
- The four main language domains are reading, writing, listening, and speaking.
- To develop language, it’s important to address all four domains, regardless of what subject is taught.
- Reading and writing have a reciprocal relationship with each other, as do listening and speaking.
- All teachers are teachers of language.
True. True. True. True.
It’s not at all uncommon to walk into a classroom and find students participating in a ‘speaking and listening activity.’ These two language domains are so inextricably linked that we rarely see them separated or taught in isolation in the classroom. In fact, they even appear as one set of English/language arts (ELA) standards in the Common Core, labeled directly as ‘Speaking and Listening.’ However, reading and writing are each listed in their own subcategories under language arts and are identified as separate domains. This false division is likely done for what educators may consider pragmatic reasons, such as improving clarity. However, this may also imply that it’s acceptable to teach these domains in isolation from each other. This is a mistake, due to the similarly reciprocal relationship that exists between reading and writing. Reading and writing should be so firmly attached to one another, regardless of the students’ ages, that they are routinely paired during classroom activities.
Using reading as a springboard to writing is fairly common, but writing to improve reading is less evident in the classes I visit. This is surprising, given findings such as those outlined by Graham and Hebert (2010). In their meta-analysis of experimental and quasi-experimental studies, the effectiveness of writing lessons in promoting growth in reading were examined. While the researchers recognize some limitations in their meta-analysis, their findings reinforce the basic understanding of the positive impact of writing practice on reading comprehension. Graham and Hebert identify three specific recommendations for teachers:
Write About Text
“Writing about a text proved to be better than just reading it, reading and rereading it, reading and studying it, reading and discussing it, and receiving reading instruction” (p. 14). Further, the researchers highlight specific practices, including:
- taking text notes
- responding to text by making personal connections to it
- writing text summaries
- analyzing and interpreting text
- creating and/or answering questions about the text
Teach Writing Skills and Process
Graham and Hebert’s results showed that writing about text had the most powerful impact on reading comprehension, particularly among low-income students, when it included explicit instruction on how to write. For particular reading skills, teachers can support instruction with these targeted writing lessons:
The call for students to write more often may raise concerns of putting undue pressure on our ELA teachers, but this won’t happen if we share the load. It’s easy to increase the amount of time students spend writing by including it as an integral part of every subject area’s lessons. This can even include subjects in which writing is not commonly used, such as P.E. art, or math. When students write often and across disciplines, their reading comprehension improves.
On its own, writing is an essential skill, as is reading. However, the outcomes of Graham and Hebert’s study compel us to think about how we can teach reading by teaching writing and to more seamlessly integrate these language domains in all classes. So, sharpen your pencils, it’s time to read.
Graham, S., and Hebert, M. A. (2010). Writing to read: Evidence for how writing can improve reading. A Carnegie Corporation Time to Act Report. Washington, DC: Alliance for Excellent Education.
National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Council of Chief State School Officers (2010) Common Core State Standards . National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Council of Chief State School Officers, Washington D.C.
Writing Essays About Complex Text
Kathy T. Glass, a former teacher, is a national consultant for K-12 audiences and an author of several books related to curriculum and instruction. She is invested in increasing educators’ capacity to hone their craft so they translate what she teaches to effective classroom practice. Check out her website :
Research supports the claim that writing serves as an impactful tool to improve reading. Steve Graham and Michael Hebert assert in Writing to Read: ”...[H]aving students write about a text they are reading enhances how well they comprehend it. The same result occurs when students write about a text from different content areas, such as science and social studies. . . . Writing about a text should enhance comprehension because it provides students with a tool for visibly and permanently recording, connecting, analyzing, personalizing, and manipulating key ideas in text” (2010, pp. 6, 11). Based on their findings of the correlative influence of writing on reading, these authors present recommendations for using writing to bolster students’ reading skills and comprehension, as well as learning about subject-matter content.
One significant action involves students writing about what they read by responding to various tasks based on the complex text at the center of instruction and the learning targets. For example, they write longer essays that call on them to analyze, examine, and interpret the text. After reading books by the same author or a collection of short stories, students choose the narrative they feel is strongest and write an argumentation essay asserting their position. In doing so, they highlight which story element(s) or narrative technique(s) enhanced their reading experience and use textual evidence to support it. Or, after reading about a current or historical event, students write an informational essay comparing aspects of this event with another one and support their writing with concrete evidence. As well, students can produce shorter written responses, such as brief summaries, organized notes, and responses to text-dependent questions. When students are tasked with writing about a text, it deepens meaning.
Additionally, research reveals that an increase in students’ reading skills and comprehension result from acquiring writing skills and processes needed to create text. Specifically, by teaching the stages of the writing process, text structures, and the construction of a sentence and paragraph, students’ reading abilities improve. Therefore, teachers conduct lessons that ask students to plan, draft, edit, revise, and publish in an effort to produce well-developed pieces of writing. Learning about text structures also contributes to positive advances in reading. Students must learn to recognize the most common structures—compare-contrast, problem-solution, cause-effect, sequence, and description—and apply this knowledge to their own writing, as well. Additionally, teaching writing skills related to formulating a complete sentence, including the ability to identify and avoid fragments and run-on sentences, helps students improve reading fluency. Furthermore, teaching spelling skills and patterns in words correlates to an increase in word-reading skills.
Another evidence-based writing practice that contributes to improved reading comprehension centers on providing students opportunities to write more frequently. Therefore, teachers strive to carve out more time for students to write their own texts—such as self- or peer-selected topics, letters to online or print publications, journal entries, movie or song reviews, and so forth. Writing Assessments A to Z includes a host of other options.
Indeed, writing supports reading; therefore, teachers would be wise to use any of these suggestions—and certainly their own—to help produce more able writers and critical thinkers of complex text.
Writing Reflections On Reading
Keisha Rembert is an 8th grade English and U.S. history teacher at Clifford Crone Middle School in Naperville, Ill. Keisha feeds her love of learning by continually refining her craft and has been the recipient of several grants affording her the opportunity to take courses at some of the world’s most renowned universities. She was named Illinois’ History Teacher of the Year for 2019:
It is hard for me to separate the two types of instruction because for me they are synchronous. I often start reading instruction with writing. I want students to flush out their knowledge or activate engagement through writing, which gives them an opportunity to think about themselves in relationship to the text. Writing is more than access; it mirrors what happens in the thinking process. Therefore, all reading leads to writing as a mode of illustrating thinking. This writing looks like reflections. It can be a response journal. It could be a note to a peer. It could be an exit slip that identifies what the student learned that day.
The next question-of-the-week is:
What are practical ways to implement restorative practices?
Thanks to Rita, Laverne, Rhonda, Gen, Alycia, Kathy, and Keisha for their contributions.
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Writing to Read: Evidence for How Writing Can Improve Reading
Identifies writing practices found to be effective in helping students increase their reading skills and comprehension. Recommendations include the following:
- Respond to a text in writing (Writing Personal Reactions, Analyzing and Interpreting the Text)
- Write Summaries of a Text
- Write Notes about a Text
- Answer Questions about a Text in Writing
- Teach the Process of Writing, Text Structures for Writing, Paragraph or Sentence Construction Skills (Improves Reading Comprehension)
- Teach Spelling & Sentence Construction Skills (Improves Reading Fluency)
- Teach Spelling Skills (Improves Word Reading Skills)
- Increase How Much Students Write
Visit our About TEAL page to learn more about the project and our participants. Look for new materials under Project Resources and visit Links to learn more about specific topic areas that are part of this adult literacy professional development project to improve teacher quality.
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Writing to Read: Evidence for How Writing Can Improve Reading
Writing to Read is a new Carnegie Corporation report published by the Alliance for Excellent Education which finds that while reading and writing are closely connected, writing is an often-overlooked tool for improving reading skills and content learning. Writing to Read: Evidence for How Writing Can Improve Reading identifies three core instructional practices that have been shown to be effective in improving student reading. Writing to Read is a part of a series of Carnegie Corporation of New York-funded reports intended to re-engineer literacy instruction across the curriculum to drive student achievement. The initial report, Time to Act: An Agenda for Advancing Adolescent Literacy for College and Career Readiness and corresponding reports were published in September 2009. Writing to Read is an extension of this work and provides practitioners with research-supported information about how writing improves reading while making the case for researchers and policymakers to place greater emphasis on writing instruction as an integral part of school curriculum.
Citation: Graham, Steve, and Michael Hebert. Writing to Read: Evidence for How Writing Can Improve. Carnegie Corporation Time to Act Report . Washington, DC: Alliance for Excellent Education, 2010. Print.
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Writing’s Role in the Science of Reading
What is writing’s role in the science of reading.
The now famous Reading Rope illustrates the many strands that are woven into skilled reading, which can be broken into two areas of instruction, Language Comprehension and Word Recognition.
Writing plays a significant role in building strategic reading skills: literacy knowledge, vocabulary, and more, all of which can be taught through explicit, effective writing instruction.
Our team of educators has created Writing’s Role in the Science of Reading to dive deeper into these topics, providing a myriad of information to support your effective writing instruction!
Writing's Role in the Science of Reading
While the debate rages on regarding effective reading instruction, science is challenging many of the long held beliefs of best practices in the realm of reading. It is hard to ignore the latest results of the nation’s report card on reading in this country. Currently in the United States, only about one-third of our fourth graders are reading at grade level with accuracy, fluency, and understanding. (NAEP 2019) When looking at the performance of eighth and twelfth graders we see that number remains mostly unchanged.
Within the latest research and renewed discussions about the Science of Reading it is equally noteworthy to acknowledge the role of explicit writing instruction in the equation. Consider the now famous Reading Rope created by Hollis Scarborough, senior scientist at Haskins Laboratories, a leading researcher of early language development and its connection to later literacy. The Reading Rope illustrates the many strands that are woven into skilled reading. Those strands can be broken into two areas of instruction - Language Comprehension and Word Recognition. As Scarborough depicts, language comprehension leads to increasingly more strategic reading. Of those strategic reading skills, literacy knowledge, vocabulary, background knowledge of facts and concepts can be explicitly taught through writing instruction. Both language structure and verbal reasoning can be found in a solid grammar and mechanics approach.
Additionally, as noted by Dr. Shanahan, Literacy Expert (Shanahan, Timothy “What is the Science of Reading” May 29, 2019 ) “Phonics is certainly an important part of the science of reading, but it’s not the whole thing. Any real “science of reading” would include all the methods or approaches that have been found, through research, to give kids a learning advantage in reading. That means oral reading fluency instruction should be part of the science of reading. And, vocabulary and morphology teaching, too. There are also a number of instructional approaches that have been found to boost reading comprehension by teaching thinking strategies or enhancing written language performance (e.g., cohesion, sentence combining/reducing). And, guiding kids to write about text is scientific, as well.”
This solid connection between reading and writing is one that helps to serve two purposes. While addressing the strands of language comprehension through writing you are clearly strengthening the rope that leads to the skilled reader. In fact, it creates a two for one lesson plan that capitalizes on precious instructional time while honing both reading and writing skills.
Writing like reading is not an innate skill we are born with, it needs to be explicitly taught in order for children to learn how to do it well. When teaching direct writing instruction the same model holds true – again reinforcing the reading/writing connection in creating strong readers. Dr. Jan Hasbrouck, a leading educational consultant, trainer, and researcher highlights this explicit, systematic approach in her presentation “The Science of Reading: An Overview.”
Explicit instruction includes:
- Demonstration - I Do
- Guided Practice - We Do
- Collaboration - Y’all [sic] Do
- Independent Practice - You Do
Let’s look at the strands of Scarborough’s Reading Rope that are interwoven in Empowering Writers instruction.
Writing Instruction -
Along these same lines we are reminded that powerful writing is informed by numerous discrete skills that, when practiced over time, will inform and empower the resulting writing. The idea of simply providing students with a set number of minutes a day for “free writing” can be a panacea for the teacher who is uncertain about how to help students improve. Just like the idea of sustained silent reading, “just reading” will never benefit a student who doesn’t know how to read. Those that read well might benefit from the vocabulary learned and the practice of reading, however this type of classroom time is ineffective in teaching students how to read . In reading, as in writing, you can not assume that improvement will evolve without specific skill instruction or informed teacher direction.
In reviewing writing’s role in the science of reading it’s evident that many of the necessary strands that comprise language comprehension are systematically embedded in the Empowering Writers approach to instruction. This scaffolded and vertically aligned curriculum begins in Kindergarten and progresses through the eight grade. Lessons are laid out on a continuum, designed to be taught in a particular sequence. Students are expected to master writing skills through planned opportunities to practice which grows increasingly difficult as students mature as readers and writers. Text is used to build background knowledge and expand vocabulary. Structured opportunities to practice composition includes building sentences, learning syntax and forming paragraphs. Understanding of genre and text structures through the annotation, analysis and application process builds greater literacy knowledge all while moving toward increasingly strategic skilled reading.
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Writing to Read: Evidence for How Writing Can Improve Reading
Graham, S., and Hebert, M.A. (2010). Writing to read: Evidence for how writing can improve reading. A Carnegie Corporation Time to Act Report. Washington, DC: Alliance for Excellent Education.
This report published by the Alliance for Excellent Education finds that while reading and writing are closely connected, writing is an often-overlooked tool for improving reading skills and content learning. Writing to Read identifies three core instructional practices that have been shown to be effective in improving student reading: having students write about the content-area texts they have read; teaching students the writing skills and processes that go into creating text; and increasing the amount of writing students do.
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To improve literacy, focus on writing
October 20, 2021
Bita Nazarian, Jaime Balboa and Laura Brief
We have all been reading the news about disappointing literacy rates in California, which have been exacerbated by the pandemic and online learning. Last month, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond announced a plan to improve literacy rates aimed at having all third graders in the state at reading level by 2026.
While this issue has made the news, it isn’t new. In fact, low literacy rates have been persistent and prevalent for decades, especially for students from low-income communities and students of color. Policymakers often exclusively focus on reading when addressing literacy gaps. However, research shows that writing skills help students become better readers and ultimately understand all subjects better.
On a national policy level, the critical importance of writing was underscored with the adoption of Common Core standards in 2010, which emphasize how writing must be taught and addressed across every subject area. Despite the focus on writing in the state standards, results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress ( NAEP ) in 2011 found that nationwide, only 27% of high school seniors and 10% of Black and Hispanic students are proficient in writing. In 2016, a national survey found that half of teachers felt that they did not have sufficient professional development to successfully implement the current writing standards. We know a focus on effective writing instruction is essential to any effort to improve literacy rates.
Whereas reading is knowledge, writing is agency, power and influence.
Writing not only helps students master new material, but it also serves as a tool for self-expression, reflection and community building. Writing can create new worlds and bring imagination to life. In a society that has historically devalued the voices of young people of color, writing empowers them to tell their own stories, succeed in school and career, engage in our national dialogue and become leaders in a global information economy. Writing skills are essential to building a just, equitable and democratic society where every voice matters.
In our research report, The Truth About Writing in America , we interviewed 19 experts in literacy education, including leading researchers, educators and writers, on the current state of writing education — its benefits as well as challenges. While the field has moved forward in some ways, many of the challenges remain. And while the data is daunting, we know that our students are capable of achieving so much more with the right support.
Let’s bring writing instruction front and center. From our conversations with the expert panel, we put forward four recommendations that policymakers and practitioners can follow to strengthen writing education:
- Redefine the classroom: Encourage and support students to continue writing anywhere, anytime, and on anything, and with any platform.
- Reunite reading and writing: Make the relationship between reading and writing explicit through discussion, examples and publishing student work. And start early.
- Identify teachers as writers: Establish communities of practice for teachers to learn, share and grow as writers.
- Level the playing field. Invest in responsive writing programming that meets the needs of students from low-income communities, students of color and English Learners.
As Hattie Bellino, a former 826 Valencia student, says, “My voice is important because my perspective and experiences have the power to shift my reality and my community’s reality towards equity.”
It is time to improve literacy WRITE NOW.
Bita Nazarian and Jaime Balboa are the executive directors of 826 Valencia and 826LA , nonprofit organizations dedicated to supporting under-resourced students ages 6 to 18 with their creative and expository writing skills and to helping teachers inspire their students to write. Laura Brief is the CEO of 826 National .
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Lori Gregg-Hammer 1 year ago 1 year ago
As a 20-year veteran teacher now doing a year of service with 826 Valencia through AmeriCorps, I cannot agree with this article more. I always struggled to teach writing to my students because I just didn't feel equipped to do the task. I love writing but I never really received strategic training on how to teach students how to write. "Identify teachers as writers: Establish communities of practice for teachers to learn, share and grow … Read More
As a 20-year veteran teacher now doing a year of service with 826 Valencia through AmeriCorps, I cannot agree with this article more. I always struggled to teach writing to my students because I just didn’t feel equipped to do the task. I love writing but I never really received strategic training on how to teach students how to write.
“Identify teachers as writers: Establish communities of practice for teachers to learn, share and grow as writers.”
This recommendation especially resonated with me as a writer, a teacher, a woman of color, and as one who hopes to help other people (young and old) own their identity as writers so they can amplify their own voices.
John Seethoff 1 year ago 1 year ago
Ralph mckay 1 year ago 1 year ago.
Congratulations on an excellent commentary. I loved this sentence: “Whereas reading is knowledge, writing is agency, power, and influence.”
Teaching students about writing process, text structures, paragraph or sentence construction, and other writing skills improves reading
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Since reading and writing share much of the same “mental processes” and “cognitive knowledge,” students who partake in copious amounts of
Teach the Process of Writing, Text Structures for Writing, Paragraph or Sentence Construction Skills (Improves Reading Comprehension) · Teach Spelling & Sentence
Writing to Read is a new Carnegie Corporation report published by the Alliance for Excellent Education which finds that while reading and writing are
359–365., https://doi.org/10.1002/trtr.1432. Graham, Steve, and Michael Hebert. “Writing to Read: Evidence for How Writing Can Improve Reading.” LINCS, U.S..
She knows that studies show children who write steadily are better readers, because they have a deeper understanding of the 'code' used to read and write. They
Writing plays a significant role in building strategic reading skills: literacy knowledge, vocabulary, and more, all of which can be taught
This report published by the Alliance for Excellent Education finds that while reading and writing are closely connected, writing is an often-overlooked
Policymakers often exclusively focus on reading when addressing literacy gaps. However, research shows that writing skills help students become