To the Editor:
Kudos to Education Week for rolling out a collection of articles on elementary writing instruction, a vital area of literacy development that fails to get the attention it deserves. As EdWeek’s reporters noted in the Jan. 17 special report, “The Science of Reading … And Writing,” all students need high-quality classroom resources that integrate reading and writing, build content knowledge, and provide explicit writing instruction.
I taught for 27 years and I spent way too many of them asking kids to write about topics that were disconnected from what we were reading or learning about in school. A typical writing prompt I used back then might have been, “Write about a time you were surprised.” For some students, the prompt drew blank stares and even tears as they struggled to think of what to write. Later, I stepped away from personal-experience prompts and strategically integrated my reading and writing instruction. A more equitable and creative energy took over. When my 4th graders read knowledge-building books about the anatomical heart and Sharon Creech’s Love That Dog, I could ask them to write about the literal and figurative meaning of the term “great heart.” The work required deep reading comprehension and explicit writing instruction, but it also inspired ideas and upped the writing quality.
It was terrific to see Sumner County schools in Tennessee and Kegonsa Elementary School in Wisconsin spotlighted for their efforts to improve writing instruction using Wit & Wisdom, a literacy curriculum my colleagues and I developed to build student knowledge on important topics and develop strong reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills.
How to develop a nation of great writers is worthy of further discussion. I hope to see more such coverage from EdWeek and others going forward.
Chief Knowledge Officer, Humanities
A version of this article appeared in the March 08, 2023 edition of Education Week as We Must Integrate Reading and Writing