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On April 14, the Carnegie Corporation of New York released a press release announcing their study “Writing to Read: Evidence for How Writing Can Improve Reading.”
Although reading and writing are essential skills for nearly every job, the majority of students don’t read or write well enough to meet grade-level demands.
This study finds that while the two skills are closely connected, writing is an often overlooked tool for improving reading skills and content learning.
Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education which published the report, says
As the recent findings from the Nation’s Report Card in Reading demonstrate, nearly 70 percent of the nation’s eighth graders fail to read at a proficient level.
Poor reading and writing skills not only threaten the well-being of individual Americans, but the country as a whole. Ensuring that adolescents become skilled readers and writiers is not merely an option for America; it is an absolute necessity.
As Writing to Read demonstrates, instruction in writing not only improves how well students write, but also enhances students’ ability to read a text accurately, fluently, and comprehensively
Three Effective Instructional Practices
The study finds three core instructional practices that have been shown to be effective in improving student reading.
1. Have students write about the texts they read.
Writing about a text enhances comprehension: it offers students a tool for visibly and permanently recording, connecting, analyzing, personalizing and manipulating key ideas in text.
Students’ comprehension of science, social studies, and language arts are improved specifically when they a) respond to a text in writing; b) write summaries of a text; c) write notes about a text; and d) answer questions about a text in writing or create and answer written questions about a text.
2. Teach students the writing skills and processes that go into creating text.
Students’ reading skills and comprehension are improved by learning the skills and processes that go into creating text specifically when teachers a) teach the process of writing, text structures for writing, paragraph or sentence construction skills; b) teach spelling and sentence construction skills; and c) teach spelling skills.
3. Increase how much students write.
Students’ reading comprehension is improved by having them increase how often they produce their own text. The process of creating a text prompts students to be more thoughtful and engaged when reading text produced by others.
The act of writing also teaches students about the importance of stating assumptions and premises clearly, as well as observing the rules of logic.
Students also benefit from using their experience and knowledge to create a text, and building relationships among words, sentences, and paragraphs.
Note: the report carefully notes that writing practices cannot take the place of effective reading practices. It calls for writing to complement reading instruction, and states that each type of practice supports and strengthens the other.
Lower achieveing students will succeed only when they receive ongoing practice and explicit instruction.
Part of a series of Carnegie reports
This study is part of a series of Carnegie Corporation of New York-funded reports, all intended to re-engineer literacy intruction 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. It provides practitioners with research-supported information about how writing improves reading. At the same time, it makes the case for researchers and policy-makers to place greater emphasis on writing instruction as an integral part of school curriculum.
Accoring to Vartan Gregorian, president of Carnegie Corporation of New York,
In an age overwhelmed by information, the ability to read, comprehend, and write — in other words, to organize information into knowledge — must be viewed as tantamount to a survival skill.
As Americans, we must keep our democracy and our society from being divided not only between rich and poor, but also between those who have access to information and knowledge, and thus to power — the power of enlightenment, the power of self-improvement and self-assertion, the power to achieve upward mobility, and the power over their own lives and their families’ ability to thrive and succeed — and those who do not.
Bob Wise feels that Writing to Read explains how building and strengthening writing skills can form a pathway to successful reading practices.
When students are required to write about what they learn, they’re challenged to digest and organize information in “meaningful ways that enable them to successfully communicate the information to a second party.”
Students who form such connections are better equipped to comprehend material, as well as to read with a higher level of understanding and appreciation.
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