Showing posts with label Writing. Reading-Writing relationships. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Writing. Reading-Writing relationships. Show all posts

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Why We Need to Teach Reading AND Writing

            Many educators trumpet the idea of reading-writing relationships, emphasizing how close reading and writing are. As a teacher I was a big believer in this—my kids wrote every day, despite the lack of a report card space for writing, a writing curriculum, writing standards, or even any professional development on the topic. I strongly believed that when you taught writing, you were teaching reading.

            Then I went to graduate school. My dissertation focused on the relationships between reading and writing. Boy was I surprised. Yes, indeed, reading and writing were related, but not to the degree I had assumed. The idea that teaching reading can have an impact on learning to write is correct; and so is the opposite.

            But the part that I hadn’t recognized was that reading and writing are really pretty different, too. There have been lots more studies of this since then—by researchers like Ginger Berninger, Steven Graham, Rob Tierney, Judy Langer, and so on—and with the same result. Reading and writing are related and they impact each other; and, yet, they are quite separate and different, too.

            In fact, that is why they can be such beneficial supports for each other. If writing was just another form of reading, it wouldn’t give readers any special insights that they wouldn’t develop some other way.

            When I first started publishing research articles on this topic, I received a lot of criticism. The critics were upset that I was finding reading and writing to have unique properties, not just overlapping ones. That upset them because they felt it would discourage teachers from incorporating writing into their reading curricula (and school writing was pretty non-existent at the time).

            However, as I worked with the problem more it became evident that the critics had it backwards. If reading and writing were so much the same, there was no real reason to teach them both if you could learn everything that you needed just from one or the other. In fact, that might be why so many schools taught reading and not writing; if you made students into competent readers, then they would be able to write, too. (Its sort of like ordering two desserts instead of a main course and a dessert; if the point is to satisfy all of your nutritional needs, then you need to eat different types of foods--and no, a slice of chocolate cake and a strawberry shortcake are not two different types of foods).

            The correlations among various reading and writing measures are high, but they are not a unity. The correlated and uncorrelated parts both matter. We need to teach both reading and writing because of the distances between them.

            In my classroom framework, I always encouraged substantial amounts of time for both reading and writing activity and instruction, and still do. Students need and benefit from explicit instruction in both, and they benefit from being taught how to integrate reading and writing; including how to read one’s writing with sufficient distance for revision, how to summarize the ideas from a text in your writing (or how to synthesize the ideas from multiple texts), and how to use texts as a model and source for one’s writing.

            When you are teaching reading, you definitely may be having an impact on student writing ability. But there is much to be learned about writing that can only come from writing instruction and writing practice. And the same can be said for writing’s impact on reading. 

            Make sure there is room on your daily table for all the necessary ingredients for a nutritional literacy diet, including writing. 

            Please pass the sticky toffee pudding.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Thank Goodness the Writing Scores are Going to Drop

Okay, so you’re thinking: “This guy is even more nuts than I thought. How can he root for kids to write poorly?"

I hope I’m not nuts, but one of the major new tests to be used to monitor student performance against the common core state standards is well designed (truth in advertising: I serve on the English Language Arts Technical Work Groups for that test). However, those new designs are almost certain to lower student writing scores, which I hope will be good for kids—at least in the long run.

PARCC is a 23 state consortium that is designing new English language arts assessments (mostly for states east of the Mississippi River). Earlier this week, PARCC released item and task prototypes and I hope that you’ll take a careful look at them—even if you are not in a PARCC state:

How can I be so sure writing scores are going to drop with PARCC? I’ve been studying this topic for more than three decades and one thing that I’ve learned is that reading and writing are not perfectly related or aligned. The correlations of reading and writing are lower than one would expect—which angered many people when I first started reporting that in the early 1980s.

That means that while there are a lot of students who read and write poorly or who read and write well, there are also surprising numbers who read well and write poorly and vice versa.

Traditional state writing assessments were designed so that students did not have to read to do the writing. Students who wrote well, but read poorly, did well on past tests.

PARCC is going to have students read texts, answer reading comprehension questions, and then write about those texts (summarizing or synthesizing, according to the prototypes). Students who manage to express themselves well, but who struggle with reading, will be at a marked disadvantage on the writing assessment. Such students will fail to write well not because of weaknesses in composition, but in comprehension.

That’s why the scores are going to drop. But why would I cheer for this?

Two reasons really. Research shows that literacy is improved when students write about what they read. Recently, there has been little emphasis on correlating reading and writing instruction and PARCC’s test design will push many teachers to combine reading and writing. That’s a real plus for kids.

Also, past measures provided a purer assessment of “writing,” but it wasn’t the writing that allows individuals to succeed academically and economically. Writing about reading is not as pure a measure of writing, but it is a much better measure of writing about reading, which has greater value to our children.

So, the writing scores are going to drop, but that means students are more likely to end up with higher real proficiency, especially with the skills that we most want them to have. That is going to look bad, but it is a real benefit for the kids. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Recent Presentations

Recently, I spoke to reading coaches and school administrators in Overland Park, KS about the common core. I also gave a speech at the local IRA affiliate conference in Toronto about using writing instruction to improve reading achievement in grades 4-6.

The common core talk is a compendium of various versions of what I have had to say about the common core during the past year, and I think this version is particularly rich and useful (these get better with use).

The writing talk is new one and is based heavily on the recent work of Steve Graham and his colleagues (he has been doing such valuable work these past several years). Some of my own past work is here, too, though not as much as should be. I think it is a useful talk, as far as it goes, but it needs more practical examples--this one will get better over time, too.

Thanks to those who have written in about the past couple of entries I have included in the blog. I am often asked by publishers and other bloggers if they can post entries here and my answer is usually no. Nevertheless, occasionally I come across things that appear to be appropriate and that was certainly true of the recent phonics material that I posted. I'm glad so many of you liked that and have found it useful with your own children.

Here are the slides for the talks mentioned above:

Monday, April 27, 2009

Using Writing to Teach Reading

Recently, I did a workshop at SUNY-Cortland on how to combine reading and writing instruction. This is an idea that has been out of fashion because of Reading First. You might know that Reading First emphasized reading only, ignoring the benefits to be drawn from writing. Though I was, and continue to be, a big supporter of Reading First, this prohibition was not its finest hour. Writing and reading rely on a lot of overlapping knowledge (sound-spelling relationships, vocabulary/diction, syntactic knowledge, text organization knowledge), they depend on many of the same or similar mental processes, and writing, because it requires a deeper level of processing, can have a powerful impact on reading development. I have included the powerpoint from my presentation on this subject and if you want it, here it is.