As someone who has been writing for a long time, I’m well aware how hard it is to write about something you only partially understand. Now, Education Week reports, there’s an increased focus on teaching writing as a way to improve students’ reading skills. The trend also responds to concerns among employers and college professors about young people’s writing and analytical skills. The article is part of Ed Week’s Rethinking Literacy series. (See “Writing Undergoes Renaissance in Curricula.”)
“The shift is still nascent, but people in the field are taking notice. It marks a departure from recent practice, which often includes little or no explicit writing instruction and only a modest amount of writing, typically in the form of stories, short summaries, or personal reflections, rather than essays or research projects on topics being studied,” Ed Week reports.
“On a literacy landscape that rarely features explicit writing instruction, and where the writing that does take place is often unconnected to reading, experts say, these kinds of projects are unusual for the way they connect writing and reading. Attention to reading has persistently been high, they say, but a focus on writing has waxed and waned in the past few decades. ‘Now we’re seeing a lot more attention to the idea that writing about a text can improve reading about that text,’ said literacy expert Timothy Shanahan, the chairman of the department of curriculum and instruction at the University of Illinois at Chicago.”
In one first grade class in Vermont, for instance, children read “The Lorax” by Dr. Seuss, first for fun and finally to hunt for ways the protagonist protects the earth. They write a paragraph about the story’s theme supported by these examples.
Research supports the emphasis on writing. “’Writing to Read,’ a 2010 meta-analysis of 93 studies of writing interventions, found that writing had consistently positive effects on students’ reading skills and comprehension,” Ed Week reports. “Writing about what they read was particularly helpful to students’ comprehension, but so were taking notes on what they read, answering questions about it, and simply writing more.”