Importance of Writing
Why Should Emergent Readers Write Every Day?
Nancy Anderson describes teaching reading and writing together as a “two-for-one deal” (p. 546). In Reading Recovery, reading and writing are treated as equally important components of the lesson. I see teaching strategic processing and making the links between reading and writing as the key to accelerated learning.
Reading and writing begin with oral language. When we write, we communicate oral messages using symbols. In reading, we interpret the written symbols to understand the message the writer chose to communicate. Our brains try to make sense of these symbols as we read and write. “When we write, we read; when we read, we compose meaning” (Anderson, p. 546). We learn more when reading or writing meaningful texts. Children learn to write their own names, especially the first letter of their own name, because parents teach them that certain symbols communicate a meaningful message (Both-de Vries and Bus, 2008). Similarly, they can read their own name and use the letters from their name to begin understanding print.
Elaine Garan agrees that emergent readers learn about reading through writing. In Smart Answers to Tough Questions she writes, “At first students actually feel sounds in their mouths as they apply them. As they segment and blend these sounds, they are applying what’s known as phonemic awareness. As soon as they translate these sounds into letters on their papers, phonemic awareness becomes phonics – the relationship between sounds and letters. Those skills they are practicing through invented spelling – blending, segmenting, and applying sounds to letters – are all essential not just to writing, but to reading as well” (p. 112).
Marie Clay studied the relationship between reading and writing, and wrote, “Most literacy instruction theories pay little attention to the fact that the child is learning to write words, messages and stories at the same time he is learning to read. The reciprocity of early reading and early writing is grossly undervalued (p. 48).” When chldren write, they have to think very hard about sounds and letters. According to Clay, it also “fosters a slow anaylsis to print, left to right,” and “coaches the eyes to scan letters in a word from left to right” (p. 49). The ultimate goal is to get children composing their own stories, first verbally, and then in written form. In one part of a Reading Recovery lesson, the child composes a sentence and the teacher “scaffolds” the tricky parts of the message. The reading-writing link is complete when the child rereads what he has written and reconstructs a “cut-up sentence.”
The best readers use strategies such as rereading, searching, self-correcting, and monitoring, to integrate the cueing systems and make sense of what they are reading. According to Clay, children use these same processing systems when they write. Anderson builds on Clay’s theory, providing specific examples of how to teach for reciprocity in reading and writing. “Explicit teaching to help students understand the reciprocal nature of reading and writing is a powerful tool for accelerating learning” (p. 547). Both Clay and Anderson believe teachers create powerful learning opportunities for children when they scaffold strategic processing in emergent readers and writers, and make links to reading and writing. When a child is searching for visual information while reading a word, the teacher can prompt, “Think about writing. What do you know about that word? What would the letters say if you were writing?” In writing, the teacher gives a prompt that links to searching in reading. “Say the word slowly, and think about what would look right and sound right” (p. 548).
The reading-writing connection is not usually recognized in classrooms. Regie Routman concurs in her book Writing Essentials. She believes the reading-writing connection is critical at all grade levels, not just for emergent readers and writers. “Research has clearly shown that reading and writing are interactive, closely connected processes that support each other and that participation in strong writing programs clearly benefits both reading and writing development. In classrooms – including those in high-poverty schools – where student achievement is high, reading and writing are routinely linked, and students have a great many writing opportunities across the curriculum” (p. 119-120). Routman recommends that teachers use familiar texts such as poems and stories that the class has written together as reading material in shared, guided, and independent reading.
She also recommends that teachers frequently require students to write written responses to texts they have read. “What we are after is a written response that deepens comprehension, causes the writer to reflect on the content, and/or fosters appreciation for the text. When children have to think about their response, meaning is likely to be extended” (Routman, p. 125). I believe this is exactly why our professor has asked us to write a blog about what we are learning in LEE 213. Writing about what I have read in the different textbooks and journal articles deepens my understanding of how important the reading-writing connection is to all learning.
Anderson, N. & Briggs, C. (2011). Reciprocity Between Reading and Writing: Strategic Processing as Common Ground. The Reading Teacher, 64(7), 546-549.
Both-de Bries, A. & Bus, A. (2008). Name Writing: A First Step to Phonetic Writing? Literacy Teaching and Learning, 12(2)37-55.
Clay, Marie M. (2005). Literacy Lessons Designed for Individuals: Part Two, Teaching Procedures. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Garan, Elaine. (2007). Smart Answers to Tough Questions. New York, NY: Scholastic.
Routman, Regie. (2005). Writing Essentials. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.