July 21, 2010

Receptive vs Expressive

Have been trying to post this but the html went all haywire whenever I clicked "publish post."/

A whirlwind trip to a Reading Institute, put on by the U.S. Department of Education, in Anaheim, CA. While it is tempting to write about what I am rediscovering about reading and school reforms, I steer myself toward writing about writing, and “stay on topic” like I tell my students to do! On the contrary, Is it really possible to discuss one without the other?

I always tell teachers and parents that there are plenty of good readers who are not writing-proficient, but there are no good writers who are not proficient readers.

What I took on the plane to read, along with the scandalous US magazine article about Bristol Palin and her bipolar-behaving boyfriend was:

Writing To Read: Evidence for How Writing Can Improve Reading


This study shows that students’ reading abilities improve by writing about texts they have read.

It also describes the value of (duh) explicit instruction in:

  • spelling
  • text structure
  • writing sentences
  • writing paragraphs
  • the basic processes of composition

The creative writers, bloggers, journalists, and researchers I know, or read regularly, frequently write in response to what they have just read – it is often a ‘thinking aloud’ process that provides a synthesis of the topic, thus entertaining or educating us, the readers.

Kids are more comfortable taking in words, or information, from the page, than putting it down on paper. In fact, most of us are!. The academic terms for these processes are Receptive and Expressive Language Skills. The gap between them is generally wider in kids with learning disabilities. They finally grasp reading, and the transfer to writing takes more time. Many students I work with in reading come back a few years later to work on writing.

Schools have limited time to teach writing in the way that the research says to teach it. The one-on-one time required; the time to read aloud what you have written, then revise, revise, revise, and read aloud again, is very time-intensive.

I believe we were more balanced in teaching the integration of reading and writing in the days of the Little Red Schoolhouse. How do I know this? From my own reading of what education was in the early 20th Century, and my grandmother who taught then. There was a lot of presenting out loud, and speaking clearly, and little wiggle room for unclear writing, since much of it was going to be spoken aloud. Now we have Power Point with fragments embedded in bullet points, and kids do not learn sentence-construction deeply.

July 6, 2010



This is a writer's tool for:
~ brainstorming words to include in a piece
~ searching word lists to find synonyms for "tired" words
~ a reality check for those of us who get repetitive

The visual "cloud" presented is ideal for my visual learners, who see charts, graphs, outlines, and organizers as making a lot more sense than multiple paragraphs. I think of these kinds of minds as defaulting to an architectural world-view. A 5-paragraph essay outline written in pictures, with sentence fragments masquerading as captions, and some boxes with main points inside them is accessible and comfortable. And, I might add, prevents shut-down.




The fireball 15-year old "spectrum" student I worked with today illuminated why writing is so difficult for kids like her. She gets caught up in one or two single sentences in laborious detail, while forgetting about holding the big picture in mind. This is a classic roadblock of certain kinds of brains and I have seen it over and over - the struggle of a mind on the ADHD or Autistic spectrum trying to tell you the essence of a movie they just saw, summarize their trip to the waterpark, or write the theme of a book they just read.

So again, graphic organizers can be the magic ticket. I use many versions of organizers for summarizing with students, and yet it is still necessary to provide "mini lessons" on:

Interesting versus Important

Know what I mean?