Did you know that one of the best ways to improve your students’ reading skills is through writing? That’s right—even though there’s often a separation between reading and writing instruction in the classroom, the two skills are more closely related than you may think. Just as reading can make you a better writer, writing can make you a better reader. Let’s take a closer look at how the two are related, and how you can use this information to better support your students.
Reading and writing draw upon many of the same skills and knowledge. One example of this connection is that in reading we have to decode words, and in writing we have to spell words. These are distinct but related skills. When reading words, we have to identify each letter, retrieve the correct sound, and blend these sounds to form a word. In writing words, it’s the opposite — students segment a word into sounds and retrieve the corresponding letter for each. Teaching spelling improves word reading. Timothy Shanahan writes that “learning to both pronounce and spell words simultaneously helps to increase decoding fluency.” Another example of this connection is with sentence construction. As students learn to combine clauses and develop an understanding of syntax and word choice in their writing, they also become more adept at reading complex sentences.
And it’s not just decoding and reading fluency that is improved through writing. When students write and produce text for others to read, they become more engaged with texts that they are reading themselves. They begin to read through the eyes of a writer communicating ideas. In addition, when kids are asked to write about what they have read, studies show an increase in reading comprehension and retention. This is because the process of writing about a text involves making a personal connection, integrating ideas and information, and using logic to make predictions and draw conclusions—all skills that are beneficial for reading comprehension as well.
Classroom Connection: Integrating Reading and Writing
Think about how you organize reading and writing instruction in your classroom. If you treat them as separate blocks, consider ways that you could integrate them. Have students write about texts that they have read, and be sure to incorporate different types of writing, like reactions to texts, summaries, and persuasive writing. You also want to make sure that students are flexing their creative muscles, so think outside the box and have fun with it! For example, you can have students write an imagined sequel to a story in the style of a favorite author.
Devote time to the explicit teaching of writing. This includes instruction in spelling and sentence construction (The Writing Revolution is an excellent resource for this), as well as the writing process itself: planning, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing. Exercises can take the form of personal narratives, story writing, and subject-area writing (which is also a great way to bring more writing into the curriculum if you are limited by time constraints). For even more tips on how to integrate the teaching of reading and writing, check out this 2020 report from the International Literacy Association.