How to Foster a Reading Writing Connection

With all the focus on foundational reading skills instruction, there’s a huge missing piece:  writing.  Which is absolutely mind-boggling, since the reading-writing connection is so important.  

Why is writing missing from the discussion?

Well, a few reasons:

1) There were so few studies on writing instruction back when the National Reading Panel dug into the research in 2000 that they couldn’t even make any decisions. 

2) State testing largely focuses on reading.  

3) There have always been far more teaching resources for reading than writing.  

4) State laws around reading retention have put pressure on schools to prioritize reading.  

5) In the too-short teaching day, writing often gets brushed aside in order to focus on reading.  

But writing is critical. 

The connection between reading and writing cannot be overstated.  Tim Shanahan reminds us that “reading and writing depend upon many of the same skills, strategies, and knowledge.”  One supports the other.  

“If you want better reading scores, the science of reading says do not neglect writing, nor dispatch it to someplace else in the curriculum. When you feel especially pressured to improve reading achievement, that is the time to embrace more tightly the combination of reading and writing.” 

Tim Shanahan, February, 2017 blog post

Let’s think about it.  Writing involves a heavy dose of phonemic awareness and phonics application.  This is directly related to decoding.  And the application of punctuation directly reinforces reading fluency.  

But deeper than that, being a writer helps kids pay attention to tone, structure, and word choice, among many other aspects.  Things we want our readers to do, too, in order to gain more meaning from the texts they read.  

Writing is a way to help students process what they’ve read. It helps them summarize and synthesize and critique.  

It helps them think.

And even deeper than that, real writing for real purposes helps kids learn to plan, goal-set, persevere, and find satisfaction in their own hard work.  Writing researcher Dr. Karen Harris discusses these important aspects of writing in her interview with Jennifer Serravallo in episode 29 of the To the Classroom podcast.  

How do we foster a reading writing connection in our classrooms?

First, by protecting time for writing.  

It can and must be done.  (Want some done-for-you schedule options?  Check out my freebie where I show you  FIVE ways to work a 90 and a 120 minute schedule that truly fits it all in!)

Second, by truly connecting reading to writing.  Colby Sharp and Donalyn Miller, authors of the Commonsense Guide to Your Classroom Library, say that your classroom library is your best co-teacher. 

They couldn’t be more right. 

Leverage your read alouds, which you’re already using for high-impact comprehension and knowledge-building work, but also mine them for author’s craft moves.  Mine them for examples of grammatical structures and for examples of vivid imagery.  Use them for in-context uses of figurative language and to show how authors create a mood. 

And then turn right around and show kids how to do those very same things as writers.  Give them dedicated time to try it out.  Provide coaching through conferring and small group work.  Literally everything you want to teach your writers can be und in your read alouds.

You’ll see vast improvement in their writing, and you’ll see big increases in their reading comprehension, too.  

Could you use a thinking partner to help make that reading writing connection in your classroom?  Don’t hesitate to reach out!  I’m here for you because I want you to see the massive benefit to student learning that this approach to literacy instruction provides.  Send me a DM on Instagram or shoot me an email and we can hop on a call together!  

Looking for more ideas to maximize your instructional time?  Access my free guide, Hidden Time Sucks You Can Avoid.  In it, I share 12 very common time sucks that teachers often fall into but usually miss.  They’re all totally preventable but also happen without even realizing it.  Learn to avoid them and you’ll gain back a great deal of time in your day….so you can do more of what matters: teach!

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