Monday, 17 July 2017

My inquiry: integrated reading and writing instruction

Does integrated reading and writing instruction affect year 6 and 7 Maori and Pasifika students understanding of author's purpose in writing?

This year I have merged my teacher inquiry with my dissertation. I have chosen to investigate the effectiveness of integrated reading and writing instruction, with a focus on understanding the author's 'purpose' of writing. 

Why have I chosen this?

I have chosen this topic for the a number of reasons. Current data from my school suggests there is a need for some kind of change in the way we deliver reading and writing lessons. Also, many theoretical frameworks support the use of integrated reading and writing instruction. The theoretical framework has also led to numerous studies that have found that integrated reading and writing instruction can lead to improved outcomes for some learners (Aminzadeh & Sadat Booyeh, 2015; Cho & Brutt-Griffler, 2015; Corden, 2007; Fitzgerald & Shanahan, 2000;  Griffith, 2010; Jesson, McNaughton & Parr, 2011). As the integrated reading and writing instruction is a broad topic, I chose to narrow my research and focus on author's purpose.

Underachievement in writing

In Aotearoa, Maori and Pasifika students are underperforming in writing (Amituanai-Toloa, McNaughton, Lai & Airini, 2009).  The data for students achievement in writing in my classroom  mirrors the trend in New Zealand of Maori and Pasifika learners underachievement. Therefore, a change in the way writing is taught is necessary.

What the literature says 

Integrated reading and writing instruction is supported by the theoretical conceptualisations about the similarities in knowledge and processes involved in reading and writing. Prior to the 1980s, reading and writing were taught independently of each other.  At that time, reading was believed to be a receptive skill, and writing a productive skill (Tierney & Shanahan, 1991).   In addition, developmental ‘readiness’ theories also played a role in justifying the separation of reading and writing. Educators had believed that writing was dependent on the previous attainment of reading skills (Fitzgerald & Shanahan, 2000). The receptive skill of reading was posited as being the basic, foundational skill which had to be mastered before acquiring writing skills (Shanahan, MacArthur, Graham & Fitzgerald, 2006). Educators were fearful of teaching writing prematurely, as it was thought to be was ineffective, perhaps even harmful (Fitzgerald & Shanahan, 2000). Therefore, educators would not teach writing skills until students had mastered reading skills. 

During the 1980s, the traditional theory of reading and writing as separate domains was challenged. Tierney and Pearson (1983) presented the argument that both reading and writing involves the processes creating meaning and composing texts, thus questioning the notion of reading as a passive skill.  Readers create meaning through considering the author’s purpose, information in the text and their own knowledge and experiences (Lee & Schallert, 2015; Tienery & Pearson, 1983; Wittrock, 1983). Essentially, readers are composing a text in their minds in an effort to create meaning from these cues (Lee & Schallert, 2015). Writers also create meaning through using their experiences, considering their audience’s prior knowledge and experiences and what they want their readers to think or do (Tierney & Pearson, 1983; Wittrock, 1983). Therefore, readers and writers use the same cues to construct meaning and compose texts.

The 1980s also marked the new understanding of shared cognitive processes involved in both discourses. There are four fundamental types of knowledge that readers and writers must use; metaknowledge, domain knowledge, knowledge about universal text formats, and procedural knowledge (Lee & Schallert, 2015). Understanding the shared knowledge between reading and writing allowed educators to better understand how an integrated reading and writing approach would strengthen students understandings in both domains.

What previous studies have shown 

Many studies have concluded that integrating reading and writing can lead to improved outcomes for learners (Aminzadeh & Sadat Booyeh, 2015; Cho & Brutt-Griffler, 2015; Corden, 2007; Fitzgerald & Shanahan, 2000;  Griffith, 2010; Jesson, McNaughton & Parr, 2011).  An integrated reading and writing approach allows learners to transfer their knowledge of reading strategies to enhance their writing skills.  

Many studies have found integrated instruction leads to improved outcomes for ELL and tertiary students (Cho & Brutt-Griffler, 2015; Plakans, 2008; Sadat Booyeh, 2015). However, there is little action research or experimental studies that inquire into the effect the approach has on English speaking learners in primary school.  Therefore, more research is needed in order to discover the impact on English speaking learners in primary school contexts.

Additionally, there has been little inquiry into reading and writing integration for a low decile learners in New Zealand.  In saying this, Jesson, McNaughton and Parr’s (2011) case study uncovered the elements of effective teaching of integrated reading and writing programmes. Their case study involved an in-depth, descriptive look into four teachers who had been recognised as ‘effective teachers of writing’ (Jesson et al., 2011). While the study was insightful, I believe it would be useful to have a study of an action research design, to further discover the effect of integrated reading and writing instruction. The 'intervention' period of the action research will allow me to discover whether integrated reading and writing will have an effect on my students achievement in writing.

Author's Purpose

Upon examining students writing samples, I noticed that there is no evidence of deliberate use of structures and features when writing texts for a purpose. I hypothesize that strengthening students understanding of 'author's purpose', in both reading and writing, will improve their writing.  It is my thinking that if a student is able to identify the structures and features authors use to communicate their purpose, then they will be able to transfer this knowledge when they are writing their own texts.

Summing it up

Given the current data on underachievement in writing, it seems a change the way that writing is taught in my classroom is necessary.  Literature and current research into the effect of integrated reading and writing instruction suggest it can improve students achievement in writing. I endeavour to discover whether it will have an impact on year 6 and 7 Maori and Pasifika learners, as previous research has not been aimed at this particular demographic.


Aminzadeh, R., & Booyeh, Z. S. The Comparative Effect of Reading-to-Write and Writing-Only Tasks on the Improvement of EFL Learners’ Writing Ability.

Amituanai-Toloa, M., McNaughton, S., Lai, M. K., & Airini (2009). Ua aoina le manogi o le lolo: Pasifika schooling improvement –  final report. Auckland, New Zealand: Auckland UniServices Limited.

Cho, H., & Brutt-Griffler, J. (2015). Integrated reading and writing: A case of Korean English language learners. Reading in a Foreign Language, 27(2), 242.

Fitzgerald, J., & Shanahan, T. (2000). Reading and writing relations and their development. Educational Psychologist, 35(1), 39-50. 

Griffith, R. R., PhD. (2010). Students learn to read like writers: A framework for teachers of writing. Reading Horizons, 50(1), 49-66. Retrieved from

Jesson, R., McNaughton, S., & Parr, J. M. (2011). Drawing on intertextuality in culturally diverse classrooms: Implications for transfer of literacy knowledge. English Teaching, 10(2), 65.

Lee, J. , & Schallert, D. L. (2015). Exploring the Reading–Writing Connection: A Yearlong Classroom‐Based Experimental Study of Middle School Students Developing Literacy in a New Language.  Reading Research Quarterly, 51(2), 143–164.doi:10.1002/rrq.132

Plakans, L. (2008). Comparing composing processes in writing-only and reading-to-write test tasks. Assessing Writing, 13(2), 111-129. Retrieved from

Tierney, R.J., & Shanahan, T. (1991). Research on the reading–writing relationship: Interactions, transactions, and outcomes. In R.Barr, M.L.Kamil, P.Mosenthal, & P.D.Pearson (Eds.), Handbook of reading research (Vol. 2, pp. 246–280). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum

Tierney, R. J., & Pearson, P. D. (1983). Toward a composing model of reading. Language arts, 60(5), 568-580.

Wittrock, M. C. (1983). Writing and the teaching of reading. Language Arts, 60(5), 600-606.

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