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Nonfiction writing and reading

Updated: Mar 30, 2022

Each of my tutees encourages me to dive into a different aspect of Reading and Writing and Time Management. Last fall I was diving into Orton-Gillingham, phonemic awareness and the intricate spelling rules that govern this complex language we speak. I'm still trying to internalize "Uncovering the Logic of English" a brilliant book by Denis Eide, but this spring I've been shifting my focus back to nonfiction writing instruction. Which, not surprisingly, is bringing me back to nonfiction reading instruction.

I came across some recommendations for "Self Regulated Strategy Development" by following some science of reading websites. Basically the "science of reading" is clear about the foundational skills for learning to read. Explicit, structured phonics (preferably multi-sensory) and phonemic awareness is the way to get kids started. There also seems to be some consensus in the research that reading instruction beyond the "learning to read" (or beyond 3rd grade) stage has some impactful techniques as well.

Boy lying on his back reading a book with a map.

Just like a small fraction of kids will learn to read almost despite any instruction, some small fraction of kids will become effective readers for knowledge without too much help. But for many of us, if we aren't intrinsically interested in what we are reading, we need techniques to get our brain engaged. Self Regulated Strategies include routines like RAP: Read, Ask, Paraphrase to encourage kids to process and engage with the material that they are being expected to read and retain. Years ago, based on other similar studies I was finding, I developed an ARC (or ARR, because I like pirates) worksheet that had students practice Asking Questions before reading, Reading the text while taking notes, and Concluding or Reflecting on what they had read.

When kids use intentional routines to extract meaning from the nonfiction reading they are doing, they build their knowledge of nonfiction structures. And when they notice and actively identify nonfiction structures in their reading, they more easily replicate those structures in their writing. These two processes are so interrelated.

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