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.

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