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How does writing improve reading?

Fun facts: Only between one quarter and one third of Americans are able to read and write at an acceptable level:

In terms of reading skills in the United States, “only 33 percent of fourth-grade students and 31 percent of eighth-grade students perform at or above the “proficient” level (defined as solid academic performance) in reading.”

In terms of writing skills in the United States, “thirty-three percent of eighth-grade students and 24 percent of twelfth-grade students performed at or above the “proficient” level. This means that two thirds of eighth grade students and three quarters of twelfth-grade students score at either the basic level or below in writing.”

Source: Writing to Read – Evidence for How Writing Can Improve Reading. A Report from Carnegie Corporation of New York.

 

If you are unhappy with your reading and writing skills, then this course is for you. It’s the only course that will give you enough feedback to make a HUGE difference in your writing abilities, even if your writing is TERRIBLE.

 

Writing is the ability “to organize information into knowledge.” Writing involves making choices about what to include and what to exclude, logically organizing that content, and then re-arranging and revising it to make it clearer or more persuasive. Learning how to write helps you understand how writing should be structured, which helps you better understand anything that you read because you know where to expect different kinds of information, and you understand why that information is there.

  • You are able to better understand what you are reading when you write about it. Writing forces you to review information, make connections, and organize it.
  • Writing and reading share common cognitive processes. As your writing improves, your reading also improves.
  • You learn about the structure of texts by writing your own texts. This makes it easier to understand how other writers have structured their texts – it makes all texts more predictable.

Writing forces you to slow down and think. We tend to skim texts, which is great for getting the main idea but doesn’t lead to deep comprehension. Writing a point form or margin note summary forces you to make sure you really understand the key ideas. On IELTS reading comprehension tasks, a good practice is to summarize the key idea of a paragraph or section in the margin: you’ll find that your summary closely matches one of the suggested headers for the “what’s the best header?” question type. If it doesn’t, that shows you that you haven’t really understood that section of text.

According to research, “Transforming a mental summary of text into writing requires additional thought about the essence of the material, and the permanence of writing creates an external record of this synopsis that can be readily critiqued and reworked. As a result, summary writing seems likely to improve comprehension of the material being summarized” (“Writing to Read”). Just writing a point-form margin note to summarize a section of text will improve your comprehension of that text.

 

In terms of how the writing process helps you become a better reader, the writing process always proceeds through these three stages:

  1. Choosing content
  2. Arranging content
  3. Revising for word choice and grammar

Our first step is choosing appropriate content based on writing task requirements. Our second step is choosing the best overall structure to answer the question. Finally, when we write, we have to make sure that connections between ideas are clear (we use transitions for this), and we revise to make sure we have expressed our ideas in the clearest possible way.

When we teach students to write, we provide templates for the overall structure of a text as well as templates for paragraph structures. These structures are not weird structures that are only useful for IELTS – they are based on the structures that professional writers use. Students’ writing improves dramatically and almost instantly as soon as they understand why these structures work: they are based on human psychology, on the best way to communicate our ideas to others. When writing is well organized, it’s easy to understand. When we understand the best way to organize our own writing, we see that every professional writer does the same thing in almost exactly the same way.

In this IELTS course, we spend a lot of time on complex sentences. The reason is twofold:

  1. Good writing uses a wide variety of sentence structures. To get a high score on IELTS writing/speaking, you only need to know a few of the most common complex structures.
  2. To increase reading comprehension, you need to be familiar with a much wider range of complex sentence structures. If you’re not, it won’t be clear to you how ideas within long sentences are grouped and connected. You’ll be confused about which parts of the sentence go together with which other parts, and you’ll need to reread the same thing repeatedly before it makes sense. Complex sentence training gets you accustomed to these patterns (language is about pattern recognition). When you learn to write complex sentences, you learn to recognize those structures in others’ writing.

This is supported by research: learning how to create your own complex sentence structures out of simpler ones gives you a better understanding of long, complex sentence structures when you encounter them in texts (“Writing to Read”).

 

Works Cited

Graham, Steve and Michael Hebert. “Writing to Read – Evidence for How Writing Can Improve Reading. A Report from Carnegie Corporation of New York.”

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