comprehension · RESEARCH · writing · writing about reading

The Importance of Writing About Reading

A friend of mine just sent me a link to the abstract for “Writing to Read: A Meta-Analysis of the Impact of Writing and Writing Instruction on Reading” from the Winter 2011 Harvard Education Review.  I want to share five salient points that authors remind their readers of early on in their meta-analysis:

Reading-writing connections should help to facilitate comprehension in five ways:

  1. It fosters explicitness, as the writer must select which format in the text is most important.
  2. It is integrative, as it encourages the writer to organize ideas from text into a coherent whole, establishing explicit relationships among the ideas.
  3. It facilitates reflection, as the permanence of writing makes it easier to review, reexamine, connect, critique, and construct new understandings of text ideas.
  4. It can foster personal involvement with text, as it requires active decision making about what will be written and how it will be treated.
  5. It involves transforming or manipulating the language of the text so that writers put ideas into their own words, making them think about what the ideas mean.

(Graham and Herbert, 2011, 711-712)

Graham and Herbert found that increasing the volume of writing improved reading comprehension.  They stated:

While the control conditions involved either reading or reading instruction, the treatment varied as students wrote about self-selected topics or topics chosen in collaboration with peers, set aside fifteen extra minutes each day for sustained writing, used the Internet to write to pen pals, wrote journal entries about daily experiences, interacted with others using a dialogue journal, and wrote short passages using inference words (Ibid., 731).

While increased time spent writing (about reading) helped students reading skills, the authors cautioned against falling back on writing as the cure-all to improving students’ reading.  They stated:

While writing and writing instruction should not replace reading instruction, the writing treatments we assess here provide teachers with additional proven tools for strengthening students’ reading (Ibid., 736).

In this age of skill and drill and packaged programs, it’s important to remember that reading and writing go hand-in-hand.  If we provide quality instruction in reading and writing using the workshop model, then we can expect that children will become better readers and writers.

To read more about what I’ve written about writing about reading, click here to visit Two Writing Teachers.

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