Writing to Improve Reading

Many students are still leaving high school with poor literacy skills. These students are subsequently at a disadvantage in successfully pursuing higher education, securing reasonable employment and participating fully in all aspects of society.  Although the following are USA statistics, the situation is very similar in Australia.

Graham and Herbert (2010) argued that writing is an effective tool for enhancing reading as they are both functional activities (e.g., they can be combined to accomplish specific goals such as learning new ideas presented in texts), they both draw upon common knowledge and cognitive processes (so improvement in writing should lead to improvement in reading) and they are both communication activities (if you understand how to create your own text, it will improve your understanding of other authors).

Through reviewing the research, Graham and Herbert identified three key writing practices that are effective in enhancing students’ reading.

  1. Students write about texts they have read in all subject areas. After reading students could:

  • Write personal reactions, analyses and/or interpretations
  • Write summaries
  • Write notes
  • Answer questions in writing
  • Create questions.

Writing about texts you have read requires you to identify and think about the ideas in the text, connect these ideas to your own knowledge, beliefs and experiences, organise the ideas and then integrate the disparate ideas into a coherent whole. The analysis needed to do this and the manipulation of the ideas to personalise the recording of the ideas leads to enhanced comprehension.

  1. Teach students the writing skills and processes required to create text, including:

  • Paragraph and sentence construction
  • Spelling
  • Techniques associated with each genre
  • Writing processes.

Understanding how writing is constructed allows you to better read and understand text written by other people. If you can effective use techniques to persuade the reader to agree with your argument, then you are more likely to recognise when other authors have used similar techniques. Similarly, student who can correctly structure sentences and paragraphs (especially more sophisticated sentences and paragraphs), read and therefore understand these structures more readily.

  1. Increase the quantity of writing in terms of frequency and length.

The strategies for increasing writing included writing for 15 minutes each day on either a self-selected or pre-set topic, writing journal entries, writing to pen pals and writing short passages using inference words. For ideas on daily writing activities which not only increase stamina but also different writing techniques check out the Cracking the ABC Code Writing Creatively book (Writing Creatively Photocopiable Version).

Reference

Graham, S., & Hebert, M. (2010). The Writing to Read: Evidence for How Writing Can Improve Reading Report. Carnegie Corporation: New York. https://www.carnegie.org/media/filer_public/9d/e2/9de20604-a055-42da-bc00-77da949b29d7/ccny_report_2010_writing.pdf

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