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Teaching and Learning

Home  >  Teaching and Learning  >  Reading Workbooks  >  Multiple Skill Levels
Teaching Reading Through Use of Students' Writings
By Patricia R. Grega, University of Alaska Anchorage,

Several challenges accompany the teaching of reading with methods that promote the reading/writing connection. First, students may not always see the association between reading and writing even though they are closely related processes that require active participation. Because writing about reading encourages critical thinking and deeper comprehension, it is important that learning activities reinforce the connection between reading and writing. It is also essential that students begin to see themselves as both readers and writers. Second, even though teachers often connect reading and writing for instructional purposes, students complain that reading selections are not meaningful to them. Using student writings as an anchor for instruction is a way to emphasize that the two activities are interrelated. Further, grounding instruction in student writings provides more meaningful material in which to establish the concept of student as reader and writer.

Writing is a powerful tool that enables students to learn, reflect, and respond to concepts introduced in their reading. It provides opportunities for the reader to interact with the text. Utilizing relevant and meaningful material allows students to relate their own experiences to what they are reading. The suggested activities that follow are intended to offer ideas for linking reading and writing experiences based on student writings. These ideas are adapted from practices used nationwide and are designed to increase vocabulary, comprehension, and critical reading.

The activities below are ideas that integrate reading and writing and can be applied to any reading selection. The activities that follow are developed with the student writings available at this website.

Generic Activities

There are numerous textbooks with ideas and activities that teachers can use to teach reading and writing skills. The following suggestions are a few generic ideas that can be used to integrate reading skills into student writings. The activities that follow utilize students' writings available at this site.

  1. Generate questions or ideas about the reading based on the title of the selection. This activity is designed to engage the reader.
  2. Use double-entry journals to provide a purpose for reading and encourage critical thinking. The student interrogates the text by generating questions and looking for answers to their questions as they read the selection.
  3. Stop periodically while reading and write predictions about what will happen next.
  4. Write a summary of the reading selection.
  5. Journal/ Reading Log: Students respond to the reading selections by recording observations, reactions, and responses to the selections.
  6. Keep a word chart for listing unfamiliar vocabulary words. Write the word and guess the meaning. After completing the reading, look up the word in the dictionary to check the accuracy of the guess.

Activities Utilizing Student Writing Available at This Website

Exercise 1

Subject: "Park Music," by Kristen Seine

• Pre-reading

  • Based on the title "Park Music," what do you think this narrative is about?
  • As you read this story, think about family memories you have from your childhood. Do you connect certain songs or music with a memory or incident from your childhood?

• Reading

Double-entry journal. As you read, generate questions that you would like to ask the narrator. For example, you might ask if she had a happy childhood? Write the questions in the left column.

Stop reading at the point of the story where Steve says:

    "I got some nice fillets from Farmer's Market. I mean, they're beautiful. It's amazing what you can find that's beautiful, he said, and he looked at my mom."

    She shrugged.

Now write in your journal. Imagine you are the mom. From her perspective, what do you think she is feeling and thinking? Now imagine you are Steve. From his perspective what do think he is feeling and thinking?

After writing about these two different perspectives, continue reading the story.

• After Reading

Go back and answer the questions you wrote in your double-entry journal. Were all of your questions answered? Note the answers to the questions in the right column of your journal.

Write a short essay about a memory you have that is in some way connected to music.

Return to your two perspective entries that you wrote in the middle of the story. What do you think the mom is feeling and thinking as her daughter drops her off at her condo at the end of the story? What do you think Steve is feeling as his wife and daughter leave that night?

Exercise 2

Kudzu (An excerpt) by Graham Dunstan

• Pre-reading

Write in your journal about something you were afraid of in your childhood.

Communal Writing Activity

Teacher should identify vocabulary that students might not know. Provide a list and brief definition of each word. Have students work with a partner or group to create their own story using the words. Share the stories with the whole group.

Sample vocabulary

Kudzu Lull Whippoorwills
Heartier Carcass Muscadines
Ruffians Hooligans Mayhem

• Reading

As you read, look for metaphors, where the narrator draws a comparison for the reader. For example, the narrator compares the tree limbs covered in kudzu to a canopy bed. Are there other examples of figurative language in the selection? (Assumption is made that concept has been taught.)

• After Reading

Look back at your journal entry about something you feared as a child. Now write about how you handled that fear as you grew up. Did you overcome your feelings or do you continue to struggle with the same sense of fear?

Draw a timeline illustrating the events in the story that occurred as the narrator got older.

Related Articles
Kudzu (an excerpt)
Park Music

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