Rethink Reading

Reading/Writing Connection

Posted by Kerry Mescallado on Dec 8, 2016 10:00:00 AM

“Nobody but a reader ever became a writer.” ~ Richard Peck

 

When I was teaching writing at a local community college in New York, I would assign readings to my students. I made a conscious effort to use readings with general appeal, as the nature of community college lends itself to diversity. Each semester there was a wide range of both students and abilities in every class. There were students looking to complete core classes before transferring to a four-year university, ELL students navigating the intricacies of the English language, adult students returning to the classroom after twenty or so years, and many others. The one common factor: All the students needed to bolster their writing skills to be successful at the college level. The majority of writing was done as a brief response to assigned readings, with the idea that a short response could be more fully developed by the student to become an essay. It quickly became clear to me that the students needed support in reading and comprehension before they could do any kind of meaningful writing.

For example, one of the first readings I assigned was an essay about how photographs are used to depict identity. I gave it as homework, with instructions for students to write down their reactions and be prepared to discuss them next class. We’re bombarded by such images in our daily lives, from print and TV ads to social media posts to news reports. Images are used to suggest how people are supposed to look, feel, or act. How did my students interpret these images? Based on the number of students on campus engaged with their smartphones, it was evident that the majority were familiar with the widespread use of images, if not their messages --  surely they would have a lot to say. But in the next class, their responses were a tepid mix of “I liked it” or “I didn’t like it.” I asked about more specific things, such as inferred meanings or author’s purpose. Silence. Did they even read it? “Yeah, I read it,” said one student, “but what’s an ‘inferred meaning’?” Another asked me to explain author’s purpose. The students had read the essay. The problem was that they had no idea how to perform the tasks I was asking them to do.
 

So I changed my approach. Every time I assigned a writing task, I made sure to explain the task first and provide examples. If the task was to compare and contrast parts of texts, I explained it and modeled it. If the task was to find support for a claim, we did an example together. And something terrific happened: Students began to understand the connection between reading and writing. Writing made them stronger, more critical readers. Reading made them more thoughtful and analytical writers.

This is why I’m thrilled to be a senior editor for Reading Plus, where the reading/writing connection is an integral part of the program. The text-based comprehension questions that follow each SeeReader selection are crafted to help students gain a deeper understanding of what they read. The writing prompts encourage a close and critical reading of texts. They challenge students to investigate aspects of the selection, combine information from the text with background knowledge, and conduct additional research when appropriate. Students craft their responses in the Writing Portal, which allows one-on-one communication between teacher and student during the writing process.

Reading and writing are inextricably connected. The more students read, the more they internalize the structure of language. The more they write, the more they actively use that structure to voice an opinion, make an argument, or share knowledge. Words are powerful. We owe it to students to help them read and write in a meaningful way.

 

Making the reading / writing connection is just one of the great tips available in our new e-book, “Tips for Building Lifelong Readers: A Teacher’s Guide to Understanding and Integrating the 3 Domains of Reading."

The first two chapters, the Physical and Cognitive domains of reading, are available now to download. Look for the third chapter on the Emotional domain later this month.

 Download The Cognitive Domain Chapter Now

 

 

Topics: Research