Supporting students to respond to text through speaking and writing has multiple benefits, including promoting deeper understanding of the text. In addition, students develop language when they have the opportunity to use language. All students need structured opportunities for expressive language use (speaking and writing) that is grounded in meaningful, authentic text every day. Talking about the text is an important avenue to developing comprehension and language.
After reading a text or set of related texts, students should engage in written response tasks that draw upon knowledge and language from the text(s). Writing in response to reading supports development of knowledge, academic language, comprehension, and writing. Students need explicit instruction and practice in writing in response to text in Grades preK–3.
Responding to text in writing has been shown to support comprehension, for both students in general and students who are weaker readers or writers in particular. This applies across expository and narrative texts as well as in content areas such as science and social studies (Graham & Hebert, 2011).
"With young children, scaffolding their ideas toward constructing meaning is important" (Beck & McKeown, 2001). Students' comprehension of texts is improved when they write about what they read, specifically when they write:
One element of culturally responsive practice is promoting critical consciousness (Ladson-Billings, 1995). Beyond simply "understanding" a text, critical reading involves noticing, discussing, and critiquing issues such as power and privilege as they are reflected in a text. Gholdy Muhammad discusses the concept of "the urgency of your pen" in response to such issues and to engage students in meaningful and informed writing (2020). Even young children can critically examine texts and topics through the lens of social justice. For instance, teachers can ask young children whether a shared story reflects their experience and what is the same or different. Children in grades 2 or 3 can begin to examine issues such as fairness and justice in texts and to make relevant connections to their own lives and experiences. The following resources provide examples and vignettes focused on developing critical literacy:
Writing standards 1, 2, 3, and 7 and Reading standard 1 from the 2017 Massachusetts Curriculum Framework for English Language Arts and Literacy connect reading and writing. To meet these standards, students write using evidence from what they have read in a variety of tasks, over short (single-session) and longer (multiple sessions and drafts) time periods. In the classroom, writing about complex text may be accomplished through tasks such as:
English learners must have equal opportunity to meaningfully participate in all literacy instruction. The WIDA Can Do Descriptors and 2020 ELD Standards Framework highlight what language learners can do at various stages of language development and help educators plan for instruction that fosters high expectations and equity of access for ELs. For additional information, see this set of Five Instructional Practices and Instructional Strategies for Centering MLLs in Early Literacy Instruction (Instruction Partners).
English learners benefit from opportunities to talk about the text in their home language before engaging in English-only activities related to text comprehension (Genesee & Lindholm-Leary, 2012; Goldenberg, 2008). This could be structured as a pair share or small group discussion.
Genesee, F., & Lindholm-Leary, K. (2012). The education of English language learners. In K. Harris, S. Graham, & T. Urdan (Eds), APA Handbook of Educational Psychology. Washington DC: APA Books.
Goldenberg, C. (2008). Teaching English language learners: What the research does — and does not — say. American Educator, 32, 8-23, 42-44.)
Kim, J., Olson, C. B., Scarcella, R., Kramer, J., Pearson, M., van Dyk, D., . . . Land, R. (2011). A randomized experiment of a cognitive strategies approach to text-based analytical writing for mainstreamed Latino English language learners in grades 6 to 12. Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, 4(3), 231–263. doi:10.1080/19345747.20 10.523513
Ladson-Billings, G. (1995). Toward a Theory of Culturally Relevant Pedagogy. American Educational Research Journal, 32(3), 465–491.
Lesaux, N., Galloway, E., & Marietta, S. (2016). Teaching advanced literacy skills: A guide for leaders in linguistically diverse schools. New York: Guilford Press.
Muhammad, G. (2020). Cultivating genius: An equity framework for culturally and historically responsive literacy. New York: Scholastic.
Disclosure Statement: Reference in this website to any specific commercial products, processes, or services, or the use of any trade, firm, or corporation name is for the information and convenience of the public, and does not constitute endorsement or recommendation by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). Our office is not responsible for and does not in any way guarantee the accuracy of information in other sites accessible through links herein. DESE may supplement this list with other services and products that meet the specified criteria. For more information contact: RMB252@mass.gov.
Last Updated: September 7, 2022
Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
75 Pleasant Street, Malden, MA 02148-4906
Voice: (781) 338-3000
TTY: (800) 439-2370
Disclaimer: A reference in this website to any specific commercial products, processes, or services, or the use of any trade, firm, or corporation name is for the information and convenience of the public and does not constitute endorsement or recommendation by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.