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Teachers Network Leadership Institute:
Wyoming Teacher Policy Institute
Susan Pannell, Hot Springs High School, Thermopolis, WY

READING AND WRITING CONNECTION

Problem  As a secondary English/Language Arts instructor, very early in my teaching I saw a pattern immerge among my students. Students who wrote well tended to be good readers. As a secondary teacher, I didn’t know what to do to help students coming into my classroom who struggled with reading. Thus began my research project. My objective was to examine a link between students who enjoyed reading, and read independently, and the writing skills of those same students.
Research Questions  Is there a strong relationship between “good” readers and “good” writers? If so, how could I draw upon it to improve teaching and learning?
Methods  Of the 41 11th grade English students I taught during 2001-2002, I collected data on 22. Based on my knowledge of the students and my observations, the students who participated were a representative cross-section in regard to ability and interest. Data sources for this study consisted of:
  • Two student surveys covering reading interest and reading techniques. Key Survey Questions Checked:
    • Determining purpose.
    • Making connections with information.
    • Reviewing and analyzing information.
    • Time spent reading.
    • Personal interest and value in reading at school/home.
  • A broad sample of writing from each student. This included:·
    • A reading journal, which was a less formal writing style and which also provided insight into the students’ response to reading the selected novel. 
    • A response paper that served as an example of writing skills along with reading comprehension. 
    • A final research paper each student was required to complete at the end of the semester. This was a more complicated and formal style of writing that exhibited the students’ abilities in writing and analysis.
Findings  Sample Sentences:
A student who reported a high interest in reading.

“As Huck and Jim raft down the river together, they encounter many problems and blocks. If Jim and Huck were to make the wrong choice their true identities might be revealed and they would be punished."

A student who reported a low interest in reading.

“As Huck and Jim traveled down the river to the free states, they were fine while being on the river. They could just float right on down it."

  • Students who enjoy reading and read independently are better able to analyze reading. 
  • They use reading strategies to increase their own interest in the material. 
  • They also show an increase in writing skills beyond those seen in their fellow students who admittedly only read when it is required of them. 
  • The connection between reading and writing is revealed by an increased aptitude for technical aspects of writing such as stronger transitioning in sentences, longer sentences, and broader vocabulary. 
  • It also reveals stronger voice for students who spend more time reading other materials.
  • More so than before I recognize that those students who struggle in one area may be likely to struggle with the other. 
Policy
Recommendations
  1. Involve more guided reading in my curriculum. 
  2. Instruct and assess the use of reading strategies with secondary students. 
  3. Develop and strengthen a cohesive and comprehensive approach to student reading, K-12, in our district. 
  4. Provide time for all language arts teachers to meet and discuss reading instruction k-12.5. Set district goals for improved reading skills of students.

 

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