This is a little controversial but my data collected for the last three years supports the following:
1. There is little correlation between reading and writing when young children are beginning learners. They can’t always read what they have written.
2. When children start to understand the purpose of writing and the purpose of reading, a correlation between reading and writing develops.
3. The correlation is not what I expected: The research is saying that better readers are better writers, however, my student data supports better writers become better readers!
12 responses to “Something controversial: Are great readers better writers OR is being a great writer making you a great reader?”
Hi Helen, Sent an email. Cheers Nina
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Points 1 and 2 don’t surprise me, but I’m fascinated to know what you found that leads you to point 3. Do these children who are better writers and readers also have more advanced oral language? I wouldn’t be surprised to think they are all strongly interconnected but I’m interested to hear what you have found that indicates a causal direction from writing to reading. Can you tell us more?
I’m looking at the data and thinking. I’ll get back to you with why I believe my data shows this.
You might be interested in this. https://medium.com/@stevepeha/the-reading-writing-connection-8e6e589a9dc2#.2aarwxx3l Excellent article.
http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/10/the-writing-revolution/309090/ Here’s another example which supports.
Thanks Nina! The first article makes a lot of sense to me, and certainly helps explain why good writers are also good readers, as writing well also gives more practice with reading whereas the reverse does not apply. It’s still a chicken and egg thing though, because do you need to have good reading skills in order to be able to write well? Do you ever have good writers who don’t read well? I thought that was what your original post was suggesting, but perhaps I misinterpreted what you were saying. A good argument for teaching both concurrently though I would suggest.
The second article was a bit more problematic for me. I agree entirely that working on high school students’ writing skills will improve their test results in all subject areas, because most tests rely on good writing to demonstrate a student’s understanding! My problem is with how we go about doing that writing instruction. (Well actually my real problem is with the nature of testing but that is another whole debate entirely!) So if we agree that writing well is important for more reasons than just being able to pass tests, we need to make sure that we teach students to write in ways that mean they WANT to write, and see a reason to write, and see a reason to improve their writing.
At high school level, wanting to improve your writing so that you can do better on tests makes sense for some students. But if they have lost their love for learning and have given up school as a lost cause, this might be a very hard sell. The approach in the article has probably worked to some extent because of the very narrow set of skills that are assessed in the Common Core in the US. So yes, it is not surprising that if you teach those skills the test results go up and students who value this will start to become more inspired to try harder and so on. Ultimately, some of these students will start to love writing and will be able to use their writing in ways beyond the test and that is no doubt a good result.
I think we have to be careful about how we extrapolate that approach down to beginning writers in primary school though. I 100% agree that writing skills are important, and that understanding how writing works and having the language to be able to consciously make decisions about how and when to use various skills and techniques helps enormously. What I’m not so sure about is the best way and time to teach those skills consciously without killing off students’ love for learning. My uni students’ writing shows me constantly that what we did back in the late 80s and early 90s when they were in primary school was not necessarily right, but my children’s experiences in the time since NAPLAN came in, and especially since persuasive writing became the tested genre, almost make me cry. Writing is such a chore for them, and is heavily associated with formulas and test taking rather than purposeful communication.
From my research in engaged learning, I think it is really important to get the balance between writing tasks that students are willing to have a go at, are of genuine interest to them, have an authentic purpose and audience AND provide opportunities to extend their skills and knowledge through explicit teaching at the right time and in an appropriate context. Unfortunately, now that I’m no longer in a classroom, this is where I get stuck – How do you actually do that? What works for which students and why? I suspect you have probably cracked onto some of that in your practice Nina and it would be really interesting to know how your former Prep students have turned out as writers further down the track. I just worry that the current focus on teaching skills often comes at the expense of joy and authenticity for many teachers. Not through any fault of their own, just through the pressure of current demands and a lack of understanding and time to experiment with different ways of doing things. That’s why blogs like yours are so important, to get teachers thinking and sharing ideas and questions about their own practice.
Sorry, didn’t mean to write an essay! Maybe I need some skills teaching in how to write a concise blog reply! It’s been interesting food for thought.
I absolutely agree with you. I’ll get back with a well thought out answer.
View at Medium.com
Firstly, I am no longer in a classroom, not retired and very much involved in education. I’ve taken my GAP’s year and I’ve been learning. What has surprised me is, that if I went back into a classroom, I’d have more to give and a greater self-belief in my practice. Why has it taken so many years?
I can’t say I’m academic researcher, it’s been more the Action Research Model for me. The students I have caught up with have retained their love of writing. Yes, many have topped the state in VCE, but that’s not been my driver, and they’ve had many teachers after me.
The notion of teaching writing from day one is powerful, and I can’t always give an answer that’s backed up by data. Maybe, the data is too obscure and the cohort too small. I can say that some students could write before they could read, but when it all came together, they read like a writer and wrote like a reader.
Engaged Learning: I call this Learner Agency and I’ve been writing about this for some time. Building Learner Agency starts day one with guidance from the teacher. What do I/we need to learn? How best will I learn?… How will I know I have learned? If a teacher can’t answer these questions, we have a problem!
I’ve been unpacking curriculum for a long time, however, this year I’ve been learning from Angela Stockman and have been doing this to unpack the Year 10 &Year 11 curriculum which is new to me. I’ve started as Angela says, with the standard, to outcomes- targets- to continuum – learning engagements. Someone has probably already done it, but doing this myself enables me to answer those three questions.
I’m working with a student and having a continuum, so I can answer each of the questions is where I have started, and now I’m unpacking these with the student, so he can answer those questions. It’s interesting because this student’s learning gains, documented through his writing, has been rapid.
You may have noticed I’ve been using Steve Peha’s book Be a Better Writer. I’ve used Steve’s research and material he has shared for years. I’ve waited for this book which can be used by any age, including uni students. It has engaged the student I’m working with, and one reason is this books ability to cross borders, meaning be in the hands of the teacher and student at the same time or separately. I’m giving back here, because Steve’s work has saved me on many occasions.
When a student has Learner Agency (engaged learning), they ‘write in ways that mean they WANT to write, and see a reason to write, and see a reason to improve their writing.’
If you would like me to share some Learner Agency material used in schools, let me know. I’ve got lots of material.
Thanks Nina, I’d love to see your Learner Agency stuff. Perhaps email me: firstname.lastname@example.org and we can catch up some time when the end of semester craziness dies down.
A big concept in my PhD research on teachers’ professional development was Teacher Agency and I think this is crucial for developing Learner Agency. There is no way a teacher who feels they have no control over what they do can effectively create a learning environment that allows children to have some control over what and how they learn.
This is where Action Research comes in – and in my mind it (or variations of it) is the only really worthwhile way to do educational research! There is plenty of academic Action Research. I’m with you all the way on that one!
I’ve been reading more about agency and there seems to be more to this. It’s leading me to conclude, that if we want real teacher agency and student agency, we actually have to have school agency. School agency is the umbrella and that’s huge. There does seem to be some key indicators around school agency.
Hi Helen, Sent an email. Cheers Nina