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The bandage was wound around the wound. The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert. The farm was used to produce produce. I’m sure you can imagine one who is learning English as a foreign language might experience severe confusion as they attempt to make sense of those tricky sentences. Even to a native English speaker those sentences would be mind-boggling at first, but to someone who is not as fluent in the language, associating the correct meaning with the correct form of the word would be particularly difficult. The English language contains well over 200,000 words. It is not easy to say the exact number of terms and absolutely impossible to find a dictionary containing every single word, as new words are endlessly added and old words flushed out of use. English is a very complex language; it is actually considered one the most challenging languages to learn because of the heavy use of slang words and the considerable amount of words with multiple, often polar opposite meanings. Depending on the context, a word could possibly function as multiple grammatical parts of speech. These few cases do not even begin to justify the complexity of the English language. How does one even begin to learn this perplexing language? Is there a connection between the skills of reading and writing? If so, how does this connection affect the teaching of English? My curiosity of a possible reading-writing connection and whether it
Buchanan 2 aids in the process of learning English as a foreign language influenced me to conduct further research in hopes to find answers. English as a Foreign Language (EFL) course instructors use a variety of strategies to introduce the language to their students. Observing the teaching and development of reading and writing in an EFL course is often times done by studying the two subjects separately. What most people fail to notice is the strong correlation between the processes. Giovanni Parodi, head of the Postgraduate School of Linguistics at the Pontificial Catholic University of Valparaíso, Chile states that, “no attempt at linking comprehension and written production was made before the 90s. Reading was essentially conceived as a receptive skill, while writing was a productive one, so they were taught independently” (227). I disagree with the identification of reading as a receptive skill. Does the reader of a text absorb the meaning directly, or do they produce their own meaning of the text through a process of combining what they know with what is in the text? Researchers, Robert J. Tierney and P. David Pearson studied the similarities of both reading and writing practices to verify that both are productive skills. They began by breaking each process down into what they call “the essential characteristics of effective composing: planning, drafting, aligning, revising and monitoring” to demonstrate their point that “readers also compose meaning (that there is no meaning on the page until a reader decides there is)” (217). Though these steps are typically done subconsciously by a reader/writer and are often combined or out of sequence, they are incorporated in both composing processes. Throughout the article, detailed explanations and examples of each step for both processes are present and clearly parallel, therefore concluding that reading
Buchanan 3 and writing are similar methods of meaning construction (214-217). To restate, reading and writing are in fact both similar skills and go hand in hand like milk and cookies; hence the teaching of the two subjects should go hand in hand as well. Since the idea of investigating the relationship of the processes is rather new, there have been a limited number of studies. One of which was observed by Seiw-Rong Wu, an EFL instructor at Taiwan’s National Yang-Ming University. Over the course of four months, Wu’s freshman EFL students were included in a short-story project. This project was created to observe the effect of journal writing on students’ cognitive skills through reading activities. Students were assigned to choose a mystery or detective novel of their interest and reflect upon what they read through writing in their new language, English. They kept English journals to practice summarizing, inferring and predicting. They also kept image notebooks where they practiced descriptive skills by recording colors connotations and how the author uses them to describe objects and people in the stories. By letting the students read their book of choice, Wu initiated intrinsic motivation in hopes that students will be more engaged in their reading and in result have a higher level of understanding. Goodman refers to reading as “a ‘psycholinguistic guessing game,’ in which readers actively construct the meaning of the text based on minimum textual information and the activation of his or her prior knowledge” (3). Again, we revisit the notion that reading is a process of meaning construction. The students display this concept through their journal entries where they reflect and make predictions on what they have read in their novels so far. The journal entries successfully demonstrated the interrelation of reading and writing, and how the students used the knowledge they gained from reading to reflect that
Buchanan 4 through their writing. This experiment resulted in noticeable improvements in not only the students’ writing, but also their ability to comprehend, make predictions, and become aware of their audience when writing their own stories (13). Wu’s study successfully supports the idea that reading and writing are related and this strategy of teaching EFL students is significantly effective. In a similar study, thirty-four engineering students taking EFL courses at two universities in southern Ontario were observed through a simulated test. In this experiment, students were given two tasks in two conditions. The first task was one where the reading passage and writing prompt had a related theme, while in the other task they were not related. Students were to use the reading passage, along with their own knowledge to compose written works in English (Esmaeili 604-605). Results showed that students did significantly better on the task where reading and writing were related. Esmaeili concluded that, “clearly, participants in this study benefited from a thematic link between reading and writing tasks in an English language test,” and goes on to say, “examining participants’ writing strategies, overall, reveals how writing involves reading. In fact one can hardly view reading and writing as stand-alone skills” (614-615). The relationship between both skills is apparent, but what exactly is the nature of this correlation? Esmaeili introduces Jodi Eisterhold’s, a language professor at Georgia State University, hypothesis of three possible perspectives: directional, nondirectional, and bidirectional. However, these are merely theories and are not 100% proven, but one can create their own opinion from recent studies. I happen to agree with Eisterhold’s theory of a bidirectional perspective in which reading and writing both function
Buchanan 5 interdependently and interactively. The test resulted in favor of this theory in which, “using reading resources in this context was not a ‘linear act.’ Rather, reading and writing influenced each other in the condition when they were related thematically and juxtaposed with each other as tasks on a test” (615). The uses of reading and writing work together simultaneously and therefore have a bidirectional perspective. Learning English as a foreign language is not a simple task, but can be tackled if taught through use of effective strategies. Research has shown that there is in fact an apparent relation between reading and writing. Reading and writing should not be seen independently, but as a pair because one cannot exist without the other. Both are productive skills and depend on one another to construct meaning. Evidently, the strategy of connecting reading and writing instruction results in great progress among students’ performance in learning English and should be highly encouraged in EFL classrooms.
Buchanan 6 Works Cited Esmaeili, Hameed. "Integrated Reading and Writing Tasks and ESL Students' Reading and Writing Performance." Canadian Modern Language Review 58.4 (2002): 599-622. ERIC. Web. 2 Nov. 2010. Parodi, Giovanni. "Reading-Writing Connections: Discourse-Oriented Research." Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal 20.3 (2007): 225-250. ERIC. Web. 6 Oct. 2010. Pearson, P. David and Robert J. Tierney. “Toward a Composing Model of Reading” Writing about Writing: A College Reader. Eds. Elizabeth Wardle and Doug Downs. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s P, 2011. 216-228. Print. Wu, Siew-Rong. "Journal-Writing in University Pleasure-Reading Activities." (2000): ERIC. Web. 5 Oct. 2010.
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