How To Make Kids Into Excellent Readers And Writers
What kind of writing instruction makes kids into better readers and writers? Cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham takes up this question on TheAtlantic.com:
“In general, there is good evidence that explicit teaching of writing makes kids better writers. I emphasize explicit because [effective instruction is concerned] with the nuts and bolts of writing: instruction in text structure, how to use specific strategies for planning, revising, or editing text, and so on . . . if a teacher does not show students how to construct a paragraph or a well-written argument, some will figure out it anyway, but many will not.”
Willinham goes on to describe a recent meta-analysis that “summarized dozens of studies examining the impact of writing instruction on reading comprehension. The authors concluded that there is a consistent, positive effect, and argued for three classroom practices.”
“First, more writing. (No surprise there.) Second, having students write about the texts that they read: for example, close analysis and interpretation, summaries, or the answering of questions, all of which demand understanding. Third, explicit teaching of the skills and processes that go into creating text. If students understand the conventions of writing an effective sentence, an effective paragraph, and an effective essay, then they will better understand how authors use those conventions. For example, they will understand that the start of a new paragraph likely signals the start of a new idea.”
Willingham continues, “It’s worth noting that these two advantages—better writing and better reading—will probably not accrue if most writing assignments consist of answering short questions, writing in journals, and completing worksheets—exactly the writing tasks on which elementary school kids spend most of their time. Students need assignments that include writing in longer formats with some formal structural requirements.” Read more here.
We know what kinds of teaching and what kinds of assignments help kids become excellent readers and writers. But how many students are getting them?