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L. Max Voelzke

B.S.Ed., Concordia Teachers College, 1973

Submitted to the Department of Curriculum and Instruction and

the Faculty of the Graduate School of the University of Kansas in

partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Masters of

Science in Education.

Dr. Arlene Barry

Professor in Charge

Dr. Paul Markham

Dr. Steve White

Committee Members

Date project accepted: October 8, 1997

This project was initiated to determine the effectiveness of an integrated reading,
writing, and discussion literature-based (IL-B) program approach that was developed
and used in an English speaking (L1) classroom in improving language skills for English
as a Second Language (ESL) students.

The review of literature attempts to show the benefits of using of a literature-based

approach in both the L1 and ESL classrooms and further, how it supports the need for
integration of the reading, writing, and speaking skills in developing language skills.

The project is a narrative of my experiences. The IL-B program is discussed from its
origins and practice in my L1 classroom to its continued practice and development in
the ESL classrooms in Kiribati.

The results of using a literature-based program show positive benefits in the day-to-day
motivation of students to participate in learning. Other benefits that may be discerned
from use of an IL-B program are the far reaching possibilities of continued learner
involvement in the reading, writing, and speaking of English.


Introduction to the Project

The purpose of this project is to show how an integrated reading, writing, and
discussion literature-based (IL-B) program as used in a classroom of native English
(L1) speakers can be applied to the English as a Second Language (ESL) classroom. It is
because of my experiences in using the IL-B program with 6th grade students and
witnessing the improvement of students' skills, motivation and involvement that I felt it
would be a program that would effectively apply to the teaching of English as a Second
Language (ESL). I will present research and first hand experiences in both English
speaking classrooms and ESL classrooms that will show the IL-B program to be an
effective, beneficial, and viable means of developing students' English language skills,
particularly their speaking or conversational skills.

The use of literature is the heart of an IL-B program. There are many reasons for using
literature in a language program, one of which is that children's literature can be one of
the most effective teaching materials available for students of all ages (Smallwood,
1991). Through the use of literature, students not only are able to practice their reading,
writing, listening, speaking, vocabulary, and grammar skills and general language
skills, but they can explore and reflect on the experiences of others, i.e., the characters
in the book, their peers, and themselves. They can share their thoughts and beliefs and
relate their own experiences and opinions to the story. In using children’s literature in
the classroom, children, as Huck (1977) points out, take ownership of an experience
they relate to on a personal level, much as they draw away from being manipulated for
pedagogical purposes.
If students have a focus, e.g., interesting literature, they naturally become involved with
it. They form opinions regarding the characters and the characters' actions and
behavior. In their writings and discussions they are able to relate their own lives and
experience to the story, and they find that others are interested in and can benefit from
their thoughts and experiences. This then motivates them to express themselves in more
interesting, worthwhile ways in both writings and in their discussions. It is also a way in
which they, in effect, monitor their comprehension through seeing their own ideas in
writing, through expressing themselves, and in hearing the perspectives and
understandings of their peers. This is especially significant for the ESL students who for
the most part rely on activities within the classroom to provide them with needed
English language practice.

In their reading, writing, and discussion activities, students are practicing the rhythm of
the story, of the language of the dialogues, and are continually enhancing their
vocabulary. This is important for the ESL students whose native language structure is
often very different from English. Literature provides a natural focus for developing
reading, writing, and speaking skills and as they read, write, and discuss, they have an
authentic purpose - an important element in learning. By integrating the teaching of
these traditionally separately taught skills with a focus on literature, these skills can
develop together with much greater benefit for the students in both the L1 and the ESL
classrooms addressing both their similar and distinctive needs.

Background Information

In the past three years, since November of 1993, I have been involved in ESL programs
in two foreign countries: The Republic of Kiribati (pronounced Kir i bus) and the
Republic of Korea. In Kiribati I was a Peace Corps volunteer TESL/Teacher Trainer
teaching students, working with local teachers, and presenting in-services on effective
ESL teaching methods. In Korea I worked as an ESL teacher teaching students from
primary grades through adult.

These countries today are endeavoring to develop more effective ESL programs. In
Kiribati the U.S. Peace Corps, in conjunction with the Ministry of Education, was
developing and implementing a TESL/Teacher Training program in the primary
schools, grades 1-9. The goal of this program was to further develop teachers' skills in
teaching English as well as students' English reading, writing, listening, and speaking
skills. Grammar books were being replaced by Ready to Read, a program attempting to
bring literature to the classroom. The TESL/TT program involved approximately 20+
Peace Corps volunteers (PCVs), each with an education degree, teaching and
conducting in-services each at their assigned schools on various atolls. Twenty-four in-
services on ESL methods were conducted in a 2-year period, and PCVs co-taught with
each of the school's staff and modeled the methods in the classroom.

In Korea, native English speakers, mostly from the US and Canada and not necessarily
with education degrees or teaching experience, are being employed, en masse, primarily
by private "institutes" to teach English conversation either at the institutes' own
classrooms or at various elementary, middle, high schools, businesses, etc. The
government also began a program in 1996, now called EPIK (English Program in
Korea), which will hopefully bring more direction and continuity to the goal of
improving students' and teachers' English skills.
Reading discussions of best methods for teaching leads one to realize that "best" can be,
if anything, complex if not ambiguous. It is important, too, to keep in mind that a
program can be a success for one and a failure for another; i.e. what the teacher brings
or neglects to bring to the program can be a determining factor as to its success or
failure. As stated by Eskey (1982), good teachers make good programs. The challenge,
of course, is to find effective methods that will fit with the teacher’s philosophy, style,
and strengths, and will meet the students' needs.

Origin of the Study

Prior to teaching overseas I taught sixth grade for many years. This project first began
in my 6th grade "English speaking" classroom and was originally initiated to study the
effect of an integrated reading, writing, speaking, literature-based program on students'
reading motivation and development. Later, when beginning my work in Kiribati,
whose English as a Second Language (ESL) programs were not providing students with
practical conversation skills, I saw a need for a more effective approach to ESL
education. Speaking is not just basic communication; it involves thinking, knowledge,
and skills as well as practice and training (Hong & Aiex, 1996). From my experiences in
an English speaking Kansas classroom, I believed that using a literature-based
integrated approach was a way that could help improve ESL students' reading, writing,
listening skills, and particularly students?oral language skills.

Although I applied all aspects of the integrated literature-based program in my work,

this project’s focus is on the effectiveness of the reading and discussion of literature in
the classroom to improve students?oral English skills. My investigation considers the
literature-based program as a whole, from child to adult, but the scope here is also
narrowed to focus on its use in the first years of a student’s school career. This project
explores the benefits of using an integrated reading, writing, speaking, literature-based
program in the ESL classroom which accentuate those elements and will develop ESL
students who, after years of study, can communicate effectively in English.

Development of the Project

While teaching in an English speaking 6th grade classroom in the U.S., I fell under
mandatory basal curriculum use. Students had little time in which they could read
because they were too busy working on "reading skills", i.e. filling in workbooks and
worksheets. While this method may not be ineffective, it wasn’t developing readers. My
students and I found it to be boring and non-motivating. According to Wood and
O’Donnell (1990), research does not support any particular scope and sequence of sub-
skills which, if practiced in isolation, will result in competent reading. Improvement in
reading occurs only when children read real texts.

Writing also was usually separate, not connected to the students' reading, and I was
constantly looking for "interesting and motivating" writing ideas. Reading and writing
are developed by using both of them, and as Goodman (1986) says, they are learned
most easily when instruction is whole, functional, and meaningful.

Finally, after many years, I was able to develop and direct my own reading program
based at first on my own beliefs concerning reading and later on the research I began
conducting for this project. In 1987 when Christa McAuliffe Elementary School first
opened, another 6th grade teacher and myself initiated a literature-based program.
Multiple copies of trade books were ordered and significantly NO workbooks or ditto
masters for worksheets. For about six years my developing literature-based
reading/writing program's focus was primarily on Read, Think and Write or RTW,
initially inspired by Youngblood’s (1985) idea. It was really RTWD, however -- D for
discussing. Literature was the focus, and in simple terms my students read books.

When I speak of reading, it almost always involved writing and discussion in some form
because students were constantly involved in talking about their readings and writings
with me, with partners, or in small groups. They read books of choice selected from
library, home, and classroom. The classroom library was filled with quality literature.
There were multiple copies of many of these books, some of which were assigned,
usually 2 per quarter, and most of which became students?personal choices.

So students read, wrote, and discussed. They thought about parts they didn't
understand; they interacted with the characters and events in the stories, analyzing,
synthesizing, and evaluating them, and relating them to their own life experiences; they
inferred, predicted, drew conclusions, expanded their vocabulary, and they read with
enthusiasm. Through this they became a community, a society of readers. I found my
classroom practice to be in sync with the research of Fisher & Hiebert, (1990) who
believe that the acquisition of literacy occurs in the context of purposeful
communication where meaning is socially constructed.

I viewed reading, writing and speaking as inseparable, not to be accomplished in

isolation. For writing to help reading, strategies that link the two are crucial said Noyce
& Christie (1989). One enhances the other; one provides continual opportunities for
another. It is more than just beneficial to integrate them; it is necessary to integrate
literature with writing and discussion on a daily, ongoing basis if students are going to
be able to fully develop those skills.

One might say that the purpose of reading is to understand what the author has to say.
But what I think the author says and what another thinks the author says do not and
need not always agree. Literature holds a unique and personal meaning for each
individual in his/her life experience, and in order to access that meaning, responding
through writing and discussion is necessary. Reading is obviously a communication of
the author to the reader, but some see the central purpose of reading as internal to and
generated by the reader (Bogdan & Straw, 1990). This moves away from testually
determined interpretations because it insists on recognition of the reader's contribution
to the meaning derived during a reading event. It is this perspective toward reading
which characterizes what is often called reader-response theory and which underlies
response-based approaches to literature (Many & Wiseman, 1992).

Reading, writing, and speaking should be thought of as a partnership, each benefiting

the other. They mutually reinforce each other (Teale and Martinez, 1989). All readers
bring prior knowledge with them to their reading. Using literature is a way of tapping
in to that source. The text is a stimulus activating elements of the reader's past
experience--his experience both with literature and with life. If children know and
understand good literature there's opportunity to transfer something of what they know
into what they write. If they (students) are immersed in literature and encouraged to
talk about it, reflect upon it, raise questions about it, they may become better writers
(Stewig, 1980). Sometimes the first step towards immersion is understanding students?
preconceived ideas about reading.

Students often began their 6th grade school year with an "attitude" about reading and
unfortunately that attitude was all too often negative. For many this was due to their
self-perceptions of being poor readers, and they were typically found in the "low"
reading group in the past. Some considered reading something to be endured. Others
simply viewed reading as boring work, i.e., answering questions, filling in workbooks
and worksheets, etc. with some unknown purpose. An overabundance of skills oriented
instruction causes students to feel no control of their reading comprehension -- a
learned helplessness. They expect assigned reading to be boring. Interestingly they often
view "reading a good story" as something done at home, separate from what they think
of as reading class.

As the school year began, I tried to dispel some of these beliefs. They were somewhat
wary as I explained to them they would have no workbooks or worksheets, would not be
answering questions at the end of a story, and could read any book they wanted. They
were further dumbfounded as we selected books from the Easy/Picture books in the
library and just read them. They were not looking at what the author said so much as
participating in the fun of the stories, the feelings and the ideas that they evoked. These
stories, many of which they had probably read years before, were still fun for them, and
they grew enthusiastic as they became more assured the "bubble" would not pop.

In the same manner, the same sense of enjoyment and motivation can be and needs to
be a part of the ESL classroom. In the past, English grammar has usually been the main
focus of students' ESL education. The English conversation instruction students
typically received, if any, and then usually taught by native English speakers, was in
isolation from most reading and/or writing involvement. Schools and classrooms were
often devoid of any storybooks in English. English was a "subject" -- knowledge to be
learned, stored, and tested, not a language that should be learned, enjoyed, utilized and
manipulated. The learning environment was sometimes rigid with high demands for
"knowledge" or with few demands and little perceived need for learning.

Though many of these past practices are still true today, some programs are moving
away from this approach. Educators are seeking new and effective methods of
instruction with more thought being given to the "whole" learner and more emphasis to
conversation/speaking skills and the use of literature in the ESL classroom. When using
literature as the focus as in the IL-B program, the teacher guides the students at a level
that presents a reasonable amount of information. The students are not dropped in the
middle of expectations that outreach their abilities, but are guided to participate in
building an active base of language through their reading, writing, and discussing.

There are definite advantages to an IL-B program in both the L1 and ESL classroom
and the research literature is encouraging. It depicts an effective approach that
develops students?thinking abilities, one that’s motivating for both the student and the
teacher, and one that interrelates the reading, writing, and speaking aspect of language

Review of Related Literature

As previously noted, I began the project during the time I was developing my integrated
reading, writing, and speaking literature-based (IL-B) program in my "English
speaking" (L1) classroom. The more literature I reviewed, the more resolved I became
to pursue a literature based reading program. When I began teaching English as a
Second Language (ESL), it added a new dimension to the project. I saw a new
application for my IL-B program and another avenue to pursue in reviewing literature.

The basic premise of this project is that each of the language components -- reading,
writing, and speaking ?are related and interdependent, supporting each other’s
development and a literature-based program provides an effective focus for their
development in both the L1 classroom and the ESL classroom. If the aim is to help
students acquire a second language, then teaching only reading or only writing, for
example, is ultimately useless states Perrotta (1994). When a program is integrated, i.e.,
the processes of reading, writing, and speaking in an ESL classroom are taught
together, it better develops students?learning than when they are taught as separate
units. They function together in a child’s natural environment so they should not be
separated in the classroom teaching. ESL students make sense of language as a totality
as well as any monolingual students.

This review of literature attempts to provide an impetus for the use of an IL-B
program. It is not, however, meant to be presented as a method for all situations or for
all teachers. Though research support is mixed regarding a literature-based reading
program, it positively stands out from others for what it can bring to and develop in
learners. The array of descriptive works, the number and type of studies with their
monumental number of variables, plus the added aspect that methods are never applied
in exactly the same way by different teachers, at different times, can be mind boggling.
Lemlech (1984) says research on reading programs has failed to demonstrate which
approach to the teaching of reading is superior or more efficient than the others for
rarely does a teacher use a "pure" form but a combination.

Second language research shows some of the strengths and weaknesses of a particular
teaching method or technique, and it provides information that can influence and guide
teaching, but it doesn’t provide any patented methods (Cook, 1991). Patented methods
are not what is being sought; there are no patented teachers. What is being sought is
effectiveness, which is found in the use of literature in language programs.

IL-B Program

The use of children’s literature is foremost in an integrated reading, writing, and

discussion literature-based program (IL-B) classroom. As previously stated, children's
literature can be one of the most effective teaching materials available for students of all
ages says Smallwood, (1991). Using it to develop literacy is a well-documented approach
for elementary students, both native and nonnative speakers. It is newer but
increasingly popular, also, with adult ESL learners, especially in ESL family literacy

After spending a school year observing Andre’s first grade literature-based program in
action, Knipping & Andre (1988) say, "The children’s responses to the strategy
delighted us. We have learned that, when young children read and share valued pieces
of literature with their teacher and a small group of peers, their responses reveal careful
thought, spontaneous emotion and surprising depth." (p. 70) A curriculum of literature
would recognize that literary transactions yield knowledge about one’s self and other, as
well as about the texts and authors. It would accept a much wider range of modes of
discourse about literature, and it would encourage the exploratory and expressive as
well as the analytical and rational (Probst, 1988).

In an IL-B classroom, students read and learn to read selections which expand their
worlds by acknowledging and building upon their present understandings and attitudes.
Working with peers and teachers they discover elements in the texts that extend beyond
the particular book to larger contexts and issues of significance (DeLawter, 1992) .

In a study done by Many & Wiseman (1992) to study the effects of teaching approaches
on students responses to literature, one hundred and twenty 3rd grade students were
randomly assigned to 3 groups. The first, using literary analysis approach, centered on
identifying and critiquing literary elements. The second group used literary experience
having students react to the storyline. The third group was only read to and had no
discussion. In free written responses, the literary analysis group focused more on
specifics related to character development or how they would act in an event, and the
literary experience group tended to become more involved in the story and were able to
see similarities between characters and real people. The no-discussion group generally
focused on retelling and more simple description. These researchers feel that through
involvement in literature students may see a limitless supply of experiences and will
bring with them knowledge and skills which will enlighten their aesthetic literary

Through the process of interacting socially and linguistically, not merely through being
exposed to language, learners develop functional expertise says Long (1983). Sharing
literature creates a powerful bond between people and opens opportunities for learning
and expression that with other methods remained closed to the students. Dolly (1990)
notes that many students never imagine that they can question, challenge, and respond
to a text or writer, perhaps because they, like some of the children Heath (1983) studied,
have rarely seen reading and writing used for genuine communicative purposes.

An IL-B classroom has a propensity for eliciting student output, both written and
spoken. Too often in the L1 classroom there is an abundance of teacher talking
(Chaudron, 1988). In the ESL classroom, also, student participation is often limited,
students usually responding rather than initiating any discussion. Chaudron cites
figures from various sources about teacher talk where teacher talk took up an average
of 77% of the time in bilingual kindergarten classrooms in Canada, 69% in a 6th grade
immersion class, and 61% in 6th grade foreign language classes.

In an IL-B classroom, when the students in an ESL classroom have the opportunity to
participate in discussion, they benefit from the practice and others, too, are listening,
processing, and learning. Participation can consist of activities such as listening,
thinking about what is going on, and internal repetition, or it can consist of more active
participation involving peer or small group interaction and communication. There is
also the possibility of using other skills often practiced only by the teacher such as topic-
nomination, turn-allocation, focusing, summarizing, and clarifying (Llewelyn, 1990).
Participation is an integral part of the IL-B program, i.e. involvement in the story, in
the writing and in the oral interaction. Student participation creates "ownership" of the
activities and of the learning process.

Ernst & Richard (1994) completed a yearlong ethnographic study of an ESL classroom
that illustrated students?"ownership", growth, and enjoyment in relation to their oral
and written language development resulting from their participation in an integrated
ESL program. Ebele, a second grade ESL student, is quoted saying, ".... in my English
as a second language classroom, writing is cool. We can write what we want to write.
And we talk and read. I wish I could be in ESL all day." In her classroom, Ebele uses
reading and writing to explore, share enjoy, and think about topics that are of interest
to her says Ernst & Richard. In their physical setting students were surrounded by a
wide array of interesting ‘words and print?and other students in the classroom were
also actively involved with the environment. This program was more than just
integrated, it was interactional.

Ernst (1994) studied the use of the Talking Circle. The Talking Circle is a group activity
used by the teacher to encourage discussion and interaction among the students. The
implications drawn from this study were that ESL students need abundant practice to
hear and use the new language, and when topics of interest to the students are
discussed, the students will be motivated to use the language.

Goldenberg (1994) uses the term instructional conversations, or ICs, which are
discussion-based lessons geared toward creating richly textured opportunities for
students?conceptual and linguistic development. They are basically conversations the
students engage in with the teacher and among themselves. They are instructional in
their intent -- promoting learning, and conversational in their quality -- natural and
spontaneous. Simple though it may seem, as one might think of the Talking Circle, the
experience of Goldenberg & Gallimore (1991) suggests otherwise ?that instructional ICs
are professionally and intellectually demanding teaching/learning events that come
neither easily nor naturally. The message applies to the IL-B classroom as well. While
teaching ESL students, Andre, in Knipping & Andre (1988), realized her role in helping
children communicate their responses was to be a catalyst but found herself at times
taking a directive approach. It takes sensitivity and constant self-evaluation to stay truly
aware of the direction being taken while teaching.

As teachers develop their own skills and styles, one aspect of reading seems to remain
constant. Reading aloud to students daily, whatever the age, is a means by which
students can begin to develop their language. It begins in early childhood. In just the
same way that the child is conditioned by a soothing tone of voice to expect calmness
and security, so, too, can the child be conditioned to the sound of the reading voice
(Trelease, 1987). In studies over two decades on "early readers" indicate four factors
present in the home environment: The child is read to regularly, books are available in
the home, paper and pencil are available for the child, and the child’s interests in
reading and writing are stimulated by praising the child’s efforts at reading and
writing, taking the child to the library, buying books, etc. In becoming a fluent reader, a
person goes through many stages that are similar to a child who is learning a spoken
language. In the early years of instruction, children are usually allowed to go through a
"silent period" during which they build up acquired competence through active
listening. Some suggest that providing a silent period for all second language learners
would be beneficial (Krashen, 1981).

Reading aloud to learners is effective during the silent period of second language (L2)
acquisition according to Dulay, Burt, & Krashen (1982), because they can just listen
and focus on understanding, without needing to produce language. After a book has
been enjoyed and understood, numerous speaking, reading, and writing opportunities
can emerge. The teacher can adjust reading materials to learners' interests, needs, and
levels of L2 proficiency by carefully selecting appropriate books.

Pedagogically, children's literature functions as a path by which children move from

oral language to written language. It focuses on the meaning being communicated. In
other words, children's literature is decidedly meaning-centered (Newman & Pujol,
1996). A child on the road to literacy has special needs which writers of children’s
literature accommodate, and children’s literature has certain characteristics that
separate it from stories for older students. It must convey meaning to an audience that
has a limited vocabulary as well as incomplete control over written language. Children's
authors, say Newman & Pujol, use three methods to help overcome this problem: (a)
familiar linguistic forms, syntax and vocabulary used in children's books tend to be
common , (b) predictable rhetorical structures, that readers can anticipate in upcoming
portions of the narrative, and (c) rich visual imagery, use of pictures supporting the
informational content of the narrative. Children's literature uses the inherent interest in
the reading experience, particularly story telling, to motivate the child to keep searching
for meaning in spite of the difficulties.

Thogmartin (1996) says the key to using real literature at the beginning of formal
reading instruction is in using books that are predictable. Rhodes (1981) discusses the
characteristics of predictable books of which the following also have relevance to the
ESL learner: They have a repetitive pattern (an additional aid for language learning,
but it's not a boring, repetitive drill), and there is a good match between the text and its
illustrations (picture books offer the advantage of illustrations to explain much of the
vocabulary). Instead of ethereal words with no substance or even disconnected words
with pictures, there is a context, a wholeness, and children can identify with the story
line and the characters. Many use elements of rhyme and rhythm which increases
overall predictability (something young students especially enjoy and which provides
practice even with pronunciation, again, in an interesting context). Many also use a
cumulative pattern as the story progresses as in The Gingerbread Man. It doesn’t take
students long to be chanting along with the storyteller or acting out the story
themselves. So many activities can be done with stories like this that are fun and non-
threatening for the young student to participate in, giving a variety of opportunities for
using and developing his/her English speaking skills while growing in confidence.

Familiar sequences also are often characteristic of predictable books. Eric Carle (1979),
in his book The Very Hungry Caterpillar, uses two sequences that are familiar to most
young children: numbers and the days of the week. These are words an ESL student
begins learning early on. Rather than memorization disconnected from a context, the
story provides an enjoyable context and adds words to the learning that will enable the
student to form complete and understandable sentences. Using predictable books in the
initial stages of a formal reading program allows the emergent reader to utilize
everything he has learned about reading up to that point (Thogmartin, 1996).
In Britton's (1982) view, as cited by Nathenson-Mejia (1989), learning language is much
more than learning grammar rules, spelling, and other surface features of the language.
There is a deeper sense of organization, a way to understand and represent the world,
which is learned through language. Britton feels that achievement through language is
primary--learning how to organize and interpret personal experiences through the use
of language. In order to accomplish this, children must be actively involved in creating
language and looking at what has been created, both by themselves and others. The
writing and reading of literary works, both professional and student-created, allow the
students to learn through language instead of merely memorizing rules through drill
practice. The creation of and personal interaction with literature by children allows for
a negotiation of meaning not possible through skill and drill activities.

Chaudron (1988) states that perhaps the most well-known position concerning the
influence of instruction on L2 development is that of Krashen (1982). According to
Chaudron, Krashen views the effects of instruction as limited; however, he says the
classroom should function to provide the learner with comprehensible target language
(TL) input in an affectively supportive climate. Long (1983) argues, according to
Chaudron, that the advantage instruction has over naturalistic acquisition context must
lie in part in the experience of "treating language as object" and "learning" to control
performance on a variety of L2 tasks. Involvement in a literature-based program
accomplishes both a comprehensible TL input and instruction. As students and teacher
are involved in a story, i.e., reading, discussing, or acting it out, that’s instruction in a
supportive environment. During discussions, the teacher or the students may look more
closely at any number of things such as vocabulary, rhyme, or grammatical
considerations. So at times it’s a little of "input in a supportive environment" and
"treating language as an object" at others. A child in the early years of learning his/her
native language is not left to just "acquire" that language completely, but is often
actively taught through repetition, practice, participation, and encouragement.

Fisher and Hiebert (1990) examined the efficacy of literature-based (LB) and skills-
oriented (SO) approaches in two 2nd and two 6th grade classrooms in establishing
classroom learning tasks that foster higher-order thinking in reading and writing, or,
they say, what some call the higher literacies. The total time in reading activities,
averaging 94 minutes, was approximately the same for both groups except one SO 6th
grade group which was about 10 percent less. The total time on writing tasks was 600
minutes for the LB 2nd grade and 6th grade groups, 185 minutes for the SO 2nd grade
group, and near zero for the SO 6th grade group. Language arts tasks (per se) appeared
in only the SO 6th grade group. Students in the LB group spent more time in tasks with
relatively higher cognitive complexity compared to the SO group. With an exception of
one case in spelling, the average student product specification was higher for literacy
activities in the LB groups compared to the SO groups. For reading activities with
individual student products, product specification by students was higher in the LB
groups than in the SO groups. Fisher and Hiebert feel that the greater variety and the
higher average task size in the LB groups may mean less differences between the
learning tasks students encounter inside and outside the classroom.

Somewhat larger tasks were implemented in the LB classes compared to SO classes

without any apparent increase in management problems. In fact, what they found was
less time and effort being devoted to classroom management. Many concerns in
education were addressed in this study that causes one to take a closer look at the LB
approach versus other more skills-oriented approaches.

There are other aspects of using literature to consider for older students. Brown &
Nation (1997) say the idea that learners can develop their language knowledge through
extensive reading is attractive for several reasons. Readers can learn at their own level
without being locked into an inflexible class program, learners can follow their interests
in choosing what to read and thus increase their motivation for learning, and students
have the opportunity for learning to occur outside the classroom.

The "book flood" studies reviewed by Elley (1991) show striking increases made on
measures of language use, language knowledge, and academic performance. The studies
that Elley was involved in are substantial in terms of length (12-36 months) and number
of students (from over a hundred to several thousand). The book flood studies involved
learners spending the greater part of their class time reading books that interested
them. An interesting finding in some of the studies was the improvement made in
writing, which appeared most dramatically in the tests given two years after the
beginning of the book flood.

The measures of academic success involved the examinations used across the school
system, and learners in the "book flood" groups had a greater than normal success rate
in these examinations. These studies present compelling evidence of the improvements
in second language acquisition that can be brought about by such programs. Elley
(1991, pp. 378-379) attributes the success to five factors: Extensive input of meaningful
print, incidental learning, the integration of oral and written activity, focus on meaning
rather than form, and high intrinsic motivation.

Reading & Writing Connection

Student writing takes many forms in the classroom, but as noted earlier, for writing to
help reading and reading to help writing, strategies that link the two are crucial.
Research suggests that isolated writing practice not connected to reading has little effect
on students' reading skills (Noyce & Christie, 1989). Researchers look at these
connections from a variety of perspectives, i.e., reading helps writing, writing helps
reading, etc. with emphasis being placed on the integration and interaction of the
components being studied. If one part is limited, it can retard not only the development
of that part but possibly the development of the others.

Hudelson (1984) notes that ESL teaching often concentrates on developing mastery of
basic English skills before providing opportunities to read or to write. As exists
presently in Korea, ESL classes using a social-communicative style to develop
conversation skills have become an emphasis with no connection to reading or writing
in the program.

In L2 classes limitations have often been put on students writing, saying in effect,
"Don’t do it unless you can do it right." Perrotta (1994) says it is important to be aware
of research results demonstrating that children begin writing for meaning and
communication long before they have mastered real language or are capable of reading.
Writing, then, is obviously an important part of students?language development. Urzua
(1987), as cited by Perrotta, (1994), concludes that the writing process helps children
develop a surprising amount of cognitive, social and linguistic skills. From first
language (L1) research there are strong correlations between reading and writing
abilities (Stotsky, 1983), and Teale and Sulzby (1986) state simply that producing a
written message brings together reading and writing processes.

Peyton (1990) notes one context that promotes writing development is one where
children receive extensive language input through reading and being read to, as well as
through oral and written interactions with the teacher or their peers. An integrated
literature-based program emphasizes and builds on these correlations to more fully
develop students?skills. Carson, J. E., Carrell, P. L., Silberstein, S., Kroll, B., & Kuehn,
P. A. (1990) say that the second language learner doesn't improve reading skills only
from reading, and the same is true for writing. Instruction and improvement in one can
enhance the other.

If a student's discussion or writing is directed in the appropriate way, it can cause a

student to think about his/her reading using higher level thinking skills, i.e., to analyze,
synthesize, or evaluate. According to Van Dijk's theory of discourse processing (1977),
any activity that induces greater engagement with the discourse will produce more
inferential information in recalling that discourse. Thus, those types of responses that
require students to reflect and to use their own words are more likely to develop
inferential thinking.

Smith (1988) cites Hayes (1985) who says many theorists believe that written responses
positively influence the quality of the inferences students make about the texts they
read. If that is accurate, says Smith, teachers could influence comprehension by
combining writing with reading. Writing is a way of promoting engagement with a text
which leads to better comprehension. Marino, J. L., Gould, S. M., & Haas, L. W. (1985)
said researchers speculated that text related writing assignments may have contributed
to improving students' reading comprehension by activating prior knowledge and
arousing personal interests. Smith (1988) cites Beach & Bridwell (1984) and Flower
(1979) who indicated that various researchers reasoned that writing fosters the
identification of significant information in a text and encourages reflection as the reader
organizes the information into a coherent response. This is applicable to the ESL
students?needs as they learn to organize language information into written and also
oral responses. The key is that the student "organizes" the information into a coherent
response. The student is able to produce and synthesize, not just mimic phrases that are

Retention is an important aspect of effective reading in which writing continues to play

a part and which directly relate to ESL students as they develop the skills necessary to
become fluent in the reading, writing, and speaking of English. Bretzing and Kulhavy
(1979) reported that students who took notes in paraphrase form were better able to
recall information than those who took verbatim notes or none at all. Results from
several of their studies seem to favor those written responses that require a greater
depth of processing which dictation doesn’t involve.

Noyce & Christie (1989) say that integrating the writing of questions with reading
promotes retention of ideas by affording students the opportunity to reread; they (the
written questions) help focus the students' attention and keeps them on task. The
questions also facilitate communication between students by providing a visual base
from which to operate. According to Singer & Donlon (1982) and Balajthy (1983) in
Noyce & Christie (1989), research shows that teaching students to construct their own
questions can improve retention of both narrative and expository material.

Even simple retelling has merit. Smith (1988) cites Dansereau (1974) who found that
college students who paraphrased in writing or described orally a prose passage they
had read, performed better on a delayed recall test than students who merely read the
passage, and those who generated questions about it did as well.

According to studies cited by Stotsky (1983), in a study of 700 seventh graders that good
writers engaged in more leisure-time reading than poor writers. In a study of 10th
grade students, he found that the effective writer was also apt to be a reader. As
discussed by Noyce & Christie (1989), Krashen (1984) cites six correlational studies
which found that good writers tend to do more reading outside of class than poor
writers and notes that a number of experimental studies have reported that increased
reading was more effective in promoting writing skills than additional grammar study
or writing practice.

Just as writing influences a student's ability to read, so does reading have an impact on
the student's writing. Frank Smith (1983) says learners need to find and assimilate a
multitude of facts and examples ranging from individual spellings to the appropriate
organization on complex texts. Where can all these facts and examples be found when
they are not available in the lectures, textbooks, and exercises to which children are
exposed in classrooms? They must be found in what other people have written. He says
that to learn how to write for newspapers, you must read newspapers, etc. They must
read like a writer in order to learn how to write like a writer.

Smith (1984) contends that only from reading can we learn the multitude of rules and
conventions connected with different types of writing. Krashen (1984), as cited by Noyce
and Christie (1989), extends Smith's theory by adding a distinction between writing
competence (knowledge of writing) and writing performance (use of knowledge in
actual writing). Reading is necessary for writing competence, but repeated practice and
instruction on certain aspects of writing are also necessary for improved performance.

Jaggar, Carrara, & Weiss (1986) studied how the reading of literature influences 4th
grade students' narrative writing and vice versa in classrooms where a strong
literature-based reading program is integrated with a process approach to writing. The
classroom was loaded with books, and the surroundings were rich with bulletin boards
centered on reading, story elements, etc. Students participated daily in sustained silent
reading (SSR) and daily talked about and wrote about their reading. From the
researchers?observations and looking at students' writings, they say there is evidence
that in writing children borrow ideas from their reading, incorporating these into their
own personal experiences to form the content of their stories. They will begin to
experiment with various conventions of narrative writing. They feel their observations
confirm Graves's (1983) and Calkins's (1983) findings which show that in classrooms
with a process approach to writing, the conditions are more similar to those in which
real writers write, i.e., students' work has genuine purpose and real audiences.

Other Factors
There are many other factors that have an influence on students?learning, and a
literature-based program supports many of these. Every time a student reads, he/she is
exposed to either new vocabulary or to practicing in context previously learned
vocabulary. Learning vocabulary is integral to learning a new language and the
learning is enhanced through the use of literature in an IL-B approach. In his study of
"explaining vocabulary to students", Baker (1990) quoted a teacher who said, "An
explanation can’t just be one word. You need a context." Many teachers, Baker further
notes, see transferring explanation away from the teacher to the learner as a
worthwhile, salient strategy (easily accomplished in literature discussion groups), while
teacher explanation, checking understanding, and repetition are also important.

In many non-IL-B classrooms, answering questions regarding vocabulary sometimes

may not be a part of a particular lesson form and thus may not be addressed when the
questions occur since it would interrupt the focus of the lesson. With a literature-based
approach, the focus is on the student involvement with the story and with the
vocabulary. Students would have a variety of ways for assuring word comprehension --
from the context (words and often pictures), from peers, and from the teacher. Students
are more prone to gain understanding as they go, not later at some so called
"opportune" time.

One suggestion that has been made is to postpone reading until students have at least an
intermediate-level grasp of the foreign language. Such a policy ignores the role that
reading can play in foreign language acquisition, particularly in the all-important
learning of new words. Students can benefit by making reading a part of their foreign
language study from the beginning (Bramford & Day, 1997).

Although all language learners need opportunities to use language in situations they
find meaningful, L2 learners vary widely in their inclinations and abilities to take
advantage of those opportunities (Genishi, 1989). Reading activities focusing upon
students?interests and needs can engender the needed personal involvement (Wollan-
Bonilla, 1989).

The attitude of students towards learning is certainly a factor in a student’s

achievement and the positive reactions of students towards literature is a factor to be
considered. Attitudes of students and even others, e.g. parents and teachers,
significantly affect their orientation toward the target language. Extensive research on
teaching French in Britain found a close relationship between students?achievement
and the attitudes toward learning French held by their teachers and the principal of the
school; the more positive the attitudes, the greater the achievement (Barstall, 1975).

Accompanying the importance of attitude and the possible outcome of positive attitudes
is the amount of time a class or individual student spends involved in language study.
Halpern, (1976) studied the importance of time spent in a language class as a factor in
language learning. He looked at two groups of 2nd grade students learning French. The
first group had class for 15 minutes per day in kindergarten and 20 minutes per day in
the 1st and 2nd grade. The second group had class for 30 minutes per day in
Kindergarten and 40 minutes per day in 1st and 2nd grade. The second group with
double the time spent was, not surprisingly, found to have learned significantly more of
the language. Time spent within the classroom in this study was dictated by the school
program, but the effort students expend in learning in the classroom, and the time spent
involved outside the classroom would depend more upon the students?personal attitude,
motivation and interest.

The motivation for learning to read comes from the desire to read "real books" and
that imaginative literature must be the content of the reading program (Newman &
Pujol, 1996). Even very young children know the difference between those books which
sustain and excite their imaginations by telling real stories and those basic texts which
are primarily designed for instruction in reading (Newman & Pujol, 1996). What is
there to prevent a child from learning to read from a real story, or a teacher from using
that story to teach reading?

The use of children's literature is of pedagogical value in language learning: improving

comprehension, increasing vocabulary development, and serving as a model for writing.
Young readers' experiences with children's literature can encourage the development of
a broader vision of themselves and society (Langer, 1990 and Harris 1994) according to
Newman & Pujol (1996). Through books, children can reflect on their own experiences
and explore those of others who have different ways of life and of knowing the world.


The Narrative Process

What follows is a narrative reflection of my first ESL endeavor ?in a new land, in a new
culture, with new challenges. It is not a project of test groups and control groups, of
data and percentages. It is a project sharing the experiences of bringing together my
'personal practical knowledge', beliefs, and experiences as a teacher; the new knowledge
I gained, the new teaching opportunities I had, and life challenges I encountered; and
the needs of the students and teachers I served as a Peace Corps volunteer.

Images are a component of ‘personal practical knowledge?and are defined by Clandinin

(1986: 166) in the following way: Image is a personal, meta-level, organizing concept in
personal practical knowledge in that it embodies a person's experience; finds expression
in practice, and is the perspective from which new experience is taken. It is this
experiential knowledge that is embodied in us as persons and is enacted in our
classroom practices and in our lives (Clandinin,1993).

The notion that we make many stops along the way as our thinking develops seems
particularly apt when we consider teaching as a reflective practice; reflecting on our
practice allows us to search for relationships (for meaning) about teaching and learning
(Muscella & Paget, 1994). John Dewey's (1933) notions of reflective thinking, were seen
as an iterative process from which "partial conclusions emerge during the course of
reflection. These are temporary stopping places, landings of past thought that are also
stations of departure for subsequent thought. We do not reach 'the' conclusion at a
single jump" (p. 75).

The Beginning

I arrived on the main island of Tarawa in the Republic of Kiribati where I would
complete 3 months of pre-service Peace Corps training on a variety of topics ranging
from personal health, to cultural awareness and sensitivity, to ESL teaching methods.
My job title was TESL/Teacher Trainer, and I would eventually be living and working
at a school on one of the outer islands.

Throughout the training program it was encouraging to find that many of the ideas
discussed during the ESL training closely coincided with my own precepts and that few
of the approaches covered were any different than those I had employed in my English
speaking classroom. Also, the direction the Peace Corps sponsored program in Kiribati
was taking was one that involved the use of literature. The drawback, however, was that
the program was new, and many of the outer island schools at that time had varying
amounts of books ?from few to nearly none. So, it was going to be a little tougher than I
thought. Nevertheless, I would have the opportunity to put into practice an integration
of my beliefs regarding reading with ESL applications as they related to the needs of the
teachers and the students I would be assisting and teaching.

Once the training was completed and all my living supplies were purchased and packed,
I flew to the atoll of Abemama where I would spend the next two years. I would work at
Barebutanna School the first year and eventually move to Tekatia School to work the
second year.

It is difficult if not impossible to fully understand the reality of a situation that one is
not involved in, and the circumstances there were, to say the least, different from my
suburban life and school classroom. The best way to overcome that, and especially true
here, was to just observe. Through observation we learn about things we might teach,
about ourselves as learners, and most importantly about the children we teach (Genishi,

In my stateside classroom I had always spent 4-6 weeks proactively preparing students
and myself for the school year, i.e. getting acquainted, learning students?interests,
talents, and attitudes about school and learning, matching my teaching to their needs,
establishing expectations, and classroom programs and routines. I spent time teaching
students how to be independent learners and how to enjoy the learning before I began
the content. This ultimately set the tone as the school year began and saved me and my
students countless hours of repetitious instruction throughout the year allowing more
class time to be more efficiently used for learning. So, too, on Abemama, I initially spent
time in and out of the classroom getting acquainted with the reality of my new
environment, i.e., getting acquainted with students?and teachers? with their attitudes
towards education, towards learning/teaching English, and its value to them. I had to
consider whether my ideas of using literature to develop English skills would fit. I
needed to understand the current education process as it was practiced on that atoll.

Picture first the physical setting of the school. Sitting right next to the beach of the
lagoon, each class had its own separate classroom. Two were newer buildings built of
concrete block with a cement floor, large window openings, and a metal roof. The rest
were built of local materials, i.e., ‘stick?walls, coral-sand floors, and coconut palm
thatch roofs. None of the classrooms had lights; there was no electricity. Inside each was
a chalk board, and classes five through nine had desks for two made of metal and
plywood; the other classes sat on coconut palm mats on the ground. That was all unless
a teacher constructed a shelf or two.

Students on Abemama had never lived anywhere but on an atoll in the middle of the
Pacific, and few, if any, had ever been in another country. Their whole experience base,
or in reading terminology, their prior knowledge, was limited to the confines of the
islands and the sea. The only animals they had first hand knowledge of were dogs, cats,
pigs, chickens, frogs, lizards, rats, 3 or 4 kinds of birds, and, of course, a variety of sea
life. The rest were only pictures in a book. Their ‘view of the outside world?was gained
primarily from what they learned in school and from what they saw in American
movies. (About once a week, a man with a projector and a generator came to a nearby
village to show a movie.)

In school, students had little contact with books as a learning tool, and they had even
less on a personal level. Most of the books the school did have were old and seldom used
by anyone. The school had obtained some text books, a few basal readers that a
previous PCV had acquired, and there were also books from the Ready to Read series
that the Kiribati Ministry of Education was promoting. These Ready to Read books were
some excellent books; however, the books were seldom used in the classroom with the
exception of the 3 or 4 "Big Books" being used in two of the lower grades. Most of the
reading done during English instruction was in the form of written material on the
chalkboard which students copied, and for the upper classes, it was taken from an old
grammar book. Students never composed stories. Their writing was in the form of
copying and answering questions written on the chalkboard. There was no interaction
among students, no discussion while searching for answers to story questions. For
many, their only accomplishment was to have copied all the questions. If stories and
books didn’t spark the interests of these students, then using literature just wasn’t all
that I thought it could be.

My goal for the students, then, was to first get them involved with books by using the
ones the school did have available. My goal for the school was to assist in obtaining
more books for our library. During my first few months at the school, with some
volunteer help, I organized the books that were presently available. I was fortunate to
have any to organize as some other PCVs on other islands found their schools were
almost completely lacking in any children’s books. I sent off letters to book donor
organizations asking for all types of books, but primarily children’s literature and
magazines such as National Geographic World. Nothing happened quickly on this
remote atoll in the Pacific, and it took many months, but books did finally start

Meanwhile, I used the books we had. Students needed to have the opportunity to make
full use of the books outside of school as well as at school. I wanted to get the students
involved in some "hands on" experiences with books so I started sessions in our
"library" for every class, discussing book care and procedures that were seemingly
simple such as turning pages. The use of the library, browsing, and check out and
return procedures were discussed. As follow-up, special library sessions were held with
each class. The previous lessons were reviewed, students selected a book to check out,
and then I would read one or two stories to them. I believed that reading aloud to
students could have a significant effect on their language and literacy acquisition
(Cochran-Smith, 1984). This strategy has proven to be an effective means of developing
speaking, reading, and writing skills in second language learners says Miles (1997). It
was necessary to have teachers begin getting in the habit of reading daily to their
students and involving them in the stories.

My immediate goals were to engage students in reading and experiencing the stories
and to model for the teachers the use of books as the focal point for their English
program. I began taking a few of the children’s books and magazines with me to all
classes I was teaching. I took National Geographic, National Geographic World
magazines (mainly for the pictures), and story books from about a primer level to a
grade 2 or 3 reading level depending on the class.

Initially, in the younger classes, 1-6, I would just share the books or magazines by
showing the pictures, using words or phrases repetitiously like, "What’s this picture?",
"It’s a?.", and doing all in an animated manner. Most of the students were attentive
and also very inquisitive. They soon were asking, "What’s this picture?" Next, I would
give them control of the books and magazines, having them form small groups, and
letting them set their own agenda. They shared with me and each other interesting
pictures and words they could read. It sparked quite a lot of speaking both in their
native language and in using what they knew in English. I would then read a story or
two to them, having them just listen without reading along.

It wasn’t long before students began "reading" along with me during these daily stories.
In fact, I could hardly keep them from it. At first they were memorizing the story just as
an L1 student will do with his/her first reading books, but soon the words were being
read and most could identify any of the words in isolation. I would monitor students?
real recognition of the words by simply pointing to a word out of sequence and asking a
student to read it. Sometimes I would even ask them to translate to I-Kiribati (as much
for my personal benefit as theirs). Of course, many times I didn’t really know if they
were correct or not so I just went by the confidence they showed in answering or by the
consensus of the group. The younger students especially liked reading along as a group,
and later, as they grew more confident, individually.

Some characteristics of children’s literature make it one of the most effective teaching
materials available for beginning ESL readers?reading along and learning (Smallwood,
1991). The syntax and the vocabulary was often repeated allowing for repeated
exposure and practice throughout a story which quickly began developing the students?
sight vocabulary. The story structures were predictable. Students could often correctly
predict what would happen next. Pictures supported the stories?content so the student
could rely on them as they tried to make sense of new words. They also made the story
visually interesting. These students loved stories, but they also loved the pictures that
went with them.

The youngest group of students, class 1, especially loved the predictable "big book" I’m
the King of the Mountain. They never seemed to tire of the story. They could sit and
listen, read along, or when it came to acting it out, every child in the class was always
ready to participate. These students quickly learned this story and other stories I
brought to class. Their vocabulary grew as we talked about the characters and their
actions and words like next, after, and before. They soon began to make the connection
between the words in print and the words they learned as we read.

The stories were "authentic", meaning simply that they met students?needs and
interests. Students were learning English from these stories and at the same time were
meeting their needs for being active and having fun. Through the process of these
stories being read, being listened to, and talked about, students became actively
involved in their own learning of English.

I was using these stories to work with the youngest students who had in most cases no
English knowledge, and I also used them with students who had acquired some ESL
skills. First and foremost, the students were enjoying the books. They enjoyed just
looking at the pictures and talking among themselves. They liked to have the stories
read to them and to read along, and they soon came to form favorites they wanted to
have read. To see even a few students sitting around during break time with a book was
certainly an inspiring sight.

Since I was just learning their language, sentences from their stories were seldom
translated as a whole though I would translate a word or two at certain times. For
example: "What do you see?" might be explained with "what" and the I-Kiribati word
translation "tera" with a questioning expression, "you" = "ko" and point to the person
( they practiced personal pronouns a lot), and "see" - point to eyes and mime looking at
something. I would then repeat the question, "What do you see?" and focus their
attention on common things from the books which gave them models for future
reference, and on things around them, continuing to model and elicit with "I see a ....."
It didn’t take long until more and more students were fully understanding these
questions and statements.

The questions and statements I used were of a range that could be answered by students
with a range of skill levels. I wanted all students to be able to respond and to have the
opportunity to be successful. Students not only began learning what I was saying,
internalizing it without translation, but they became more aware of what to consider as
we read the variety of stories. Some groups of older students after a few months were
able to talk about the story independent of my leadership and initiated their own
questions and statements.

I also used a retelling procedure which also helped the Kiribati teacher and me to
periodically assess a student’s progress. (Generally, the only assessment in any class was
done by testing at the end of a term.) Retelling allows students to structure their
responses according to their own interpretation/reconstruction of the text and to use the
language to the extent of their individual competence. (Some writers suggest cueing
during retellings or using probing questions if the retelling is incomplete.) The quality
of their retelling was judged simply as adequate or inadequate, and as skills progressed,
according to the richness of the retelling (Harris and Sipay, 1990).

I continued to read to the students daily, and involved them in some type of dialog from
asking what letter they saw to asking open ended and repetitious questions, or using
eliciting statements about the pictures and the stories we were reading. I might ask,
"What do you see?" and at first model a response, " I see a .....," and they in round
robin fashion would then ask and get answers from classmates. A picture might show a
character running, and I would say, "He’s running," and with emphasized gestures, "I
can run. Can you run?", then prompting the group with "Yes, I can. I can run."

The stories they enjoyed and were involved in gave us a focus, and this easily led to
other "action verbs" that they liked to participate in acting out and even substituting
within the stories. I could then expand on questions like "What can you do?" with other
examples of what the students could do, and with answers, "I can....." Also, changing to
the "present continuous", "What are you doing? with the answer, "I’m.....-ing." From
these simple lesson grew more involved interactions without the structure models and
included more descriptive words (adjectives and adverbs) learned from the stories.

These are brief and simple examples of involving students in learning. The sentence
structures, coupled with the support of the books being read, gave students a model
they could use for their own communication. When I saw students outside of school, I
was still "teaching" and tried to reinforce the idea that the English they learned at
school could be used everywhere. When possible I involved students in writing, from the
forming of individual letters using the books as the source, to drawing pictures with
captions. The latter was sometimes done after discussions to recall or react to events of
a story. After we had talked and acted out words or events of the story, they would
write their own sentences. I helped them only to the point of guiding them to answers
but not to giving the answers.

Students also drew pictures and wrote about real life events of their own. This seemed
to more easily add the dimension of building their vocabulary of English words for
common things and activities around them. Rather than just listing items for
memorizing, they were used out of need to communicate through something the
students created. Instead of words out of context, e.g., ‘te ni? = the coconut tree or ‘te
tari?= the sea, they were used in context with what they experienced daily, i.e. climbing
and swimming.

An often asked question was, "How do you spell ______?" I wanted to encourage their
independence so at first I told them to think of the sounds they heard and the letters
that might make those sounds, to talk it over with a friend, and to think where the word
might be found. Sometimes, once they came up with their answer, I would verify its
correctness, and I would write it on the chalkboard. There was no absolute approach,
but soon students were choosing to do it more independently and were coming to me for
the answer only to verify what they’d found. They would write words of their choosing,
and sometimes illustrations, on pieces of paper, and we would post them in the room.
These served as vocabulary reminders and personal reviews each day.

There comes, it is hoped, the transference from the classroom to actual usage outside
the classroom. I recall a class 1 child calling to me, "Maketi (sounds like Ma`-kis), we're
climbing the tree." We had been reading a story in which children were playing and
climbing trees. The student was able to model his own communication from that
learning. This relating of one's own actions to those of characters in a story is not
accomplished through isolated vocabulary and sentence structure study, nor effectively
through conversation memorization. It comes through students?involvement in the
events and characters of the stories and the confidence gained through reading, writing,
and discussing the stories.
Students related what they could do or would like to do with what characters did in the
stories. Their vocabulary grew, they could retell the stories, they could act them out.
They were communicating through their actions, through writing, and through
speaking.. They were actively learning new words, they were gaining more competency
in the language. Most of the students continued to be engaged in the literature, however,
due to our shortage of books and limitations of variety, the easier books became too
easy and sometimes boring to the older students, and the jump up to the "chapter"
books was just too big of a jump and we had nothing in between. To keep many of the
older students involved with reading, I began having them read to the younger students.
How much more students could be involved and learn if we had had a full range and
variety of books and books that even more directly related to them. As the months
passed, the students in grades 5-9 were needing more stimulating stories. This seemed to
me to be similar to students in L1 classrooms whose skills hadn’t kept up with their
progression in grades. They needed books they could read, and at the same time, books
that were of interest to them, books with stories that were more challenging, involving
them intellectually, and emotionally.

Most often, as soon as these ESL students left the classroom with their peers, they began
speaking in their native tongue, not English. So, in their real life activities, where L2
practice might have done a lot of good, the students reverted back to their own
language. What was needed was a ‘reality?students could become involved with having
English as the language of use. As people read literature, they become involved in its
‘reality? They cry, get angry, become frightened, they laugh, they feel good; they
respond as if it were happening. Outside the classroom, students determined the
language they used based on many factors, cultural to immediate need. At least for the
time the students are in the classroom they are in a real environment that uses English
for what might be called authentic purposes.

The Reading Group

To evaluate and verify students?English skills improvement through the use of

literature other than by subjective evaluations (which I personally think are often the
best evaluations), I started a simple literature-based reading, writing, discussion
intervention group. I began meeting with five 5th grade students each day after school
for 30 minutes. Each student was supplied with a lesson notebook and a pencil for daily
writing. I selected books that were substantial enough for them to learn from, that were
interesting, and simple enough as not to be beyond their understanding. I initially
taught them through modeling and ‘think alouds?that I wanted them to ask any
questions they had about the story, word meanings, etc., and that their writing was to be
anything they wanted to write in relation to the story ?words, sentences, phrases, even
pictures -- anything.

Each day we met, I would first read a story to the 5 students, and they would only listen.
Next, I would either read it again myself, have them read along with me, or let one of
them read (by choice), and I might read along with that student. After two weeks, the
group could choose to read a story independently which they did at times. When I read
to them I would stop at times for discussion questions or eliciting statements. If they
read independently, I would move from student to student and involve each one in some
discussion. Finally, I would have the students write in their lesson books. These I kept
and made comments in regarding their writing, usually just a positive word or phrase,
and made sure each entry was dated. I also kept my own journal, i.e. a record of the
story we read each day, a sampling of the questions I asked, and my general impressions
of the students?oral participation and writing improvement.

At first, the students?writings consisted of only a phrase or two or an isolated word or

words, perhaps a picture, or something copied from the story. As lessons progressed,
the students?became more involved in the discussions, their pronunciation and oral
reading improved, and their writing included more complete sentences; pictures with
captions seemed to be a favorite. This continued for a period of about 6 weeks, up until
a term break. Unfortunately, it was during that time that my house caught fire and
everything in it was turned to ash.

A Sample Lesson

The following is an example of what might be done while working with ESL students. I
used this type of procedure with the class 5 group and while working with classes 7-9. I
also presented this procedure as part of a teachers?inservice on classroom discussion
using children’s literature. It is not completely my own construction but an example I
recalled from years past. Keep in mind it is an exaggeration for the sake of clarity but
does exemplify the mass of thoughts that flash through a reader’s mind as a story is
read. A teacher certainly would not do the following with every sentence in a story or
with every story for that matter, for it would detract from the enjoyment of the story,
the language flow and rhythm, and thus defeat some of the purposes of using literature.
A teacher would utilize these and other possibilities according to the students' needs and

Using the nursery rhyme "Jack and Jill", the first line reads, "Jack and Jill went up the
hill to fetch a pail of water." The teacher can ask the students knowledge level or text
explicit questions: "Who is the story about? Where did they go? What did they do? The
answers to these are all found in the words of the sentence itself. Answers to questions
like, "What do you think ‘fetch?means? What is a ‘pail?" involve some prior
knowledge or using context clues to determine meaning.

It is important that the teacher ask some higher level thinking questions, guiding the
students to relate the ideas and events of the story to their own lives and to make some
judgements: "Have you ever had to ‘fetch?something? What have you heard people say
instead of "fetch"? Do you have ‘chores?at home? Tell us about them. How old do you
think Jack and Jill are? Why did both of them go? What did they do with the water?
How do you think they felt?" Next, the teacher might elicit more from some of the
statements like, "Tell me more about Jack. Tell me more about Jill." The teacher may
also point out the irregular verb form and either elicit or tell about it. "Look at the
word ‘went? It’s past tense for the verb ‘go? I ‘went?to the movie last night. You try a
sentence....etc." There are, of course, more possibilities (don’t forget the possible
spontaneous questions and comments the students will initiate).

At some point, other types of activities can be used. Rhymes are fun, and students,
depending on their skill level, can compose their own using the presented structure(s) as
a guide. Students?will try it out orally as they search for words, coming up with
rhyming nonsense words, too. They can then even work through the writing process of
pre-writing, rough draft, revising, editing, and publishing.
The teacher must balance instruction with the enjoyment of the story, but very often the
two will overlap. In this case the students have some opportunities to show what they
know, to consider the meaning on their own terms and relate it to themselves. They
have the opportunity to create. They are learning what they might consider when
reading stories on their own, and they are even learning some grammar ?painlessly.

Classes 7-9

Besides working with the student of classes 1-6, I also worked with the students in
classes 7, 8, and 9. They had special needs as I will explain, and one of my main goals
was to guide students to enjoy and participate in reading. Once in class 7, for many, the
main focus was on them doing well on the Common Entrance Exam (CEE). The CEE,
given in September each year, was to qualify them for a secondary school the following
school year. (The school year was made up of 3-13 week terms beginning approximately
the first of February through the middle of December). If students didn’t qualify in
class 7 (12-13 years old), they took it again in class 8 and finally in class 9. If they didn’t
qualify in class 9, their school days were generally over.

The test was comprised of one part Kiribati, one part Mathematics ?half of which was
computation and the other half word problems in English, and one part English with
tests on listening comprehension, reading comprehension, grammar, and writing. A lot
of time was traditionally devoted to what amounted to a lot of cramming, teaching to
the test, and taking "mock" tests ?tests from past years and tests made up by the

During the first and second terms, both in 1994, while I was at Barebutanna Primary
School, and in 1995, while I was at Tekatia Primary School, after school sessions were
held three times a week covering the three areas on the CEE. The program was
somewhat similar at both schools. On the "English" day, I and two other teachers
worked with students on listening comprehension, reading comprehension and writing,
and grammar, each teaching three 40-minute sessions. Three groups were created based
on ability since there was such a wide range of students?skill levels.

I taught the reading comprehension and writing lessons. During this time I used the
questioning/eliciting approach previously described along with questions similar to the
types of question found on past CEEs which were completely knowledge and
comprehension level questions. I still used the available literature, but I also used stories
of the type they would have on their exams. These were stories relating directly to their
culture, i.e. the settings, events, and characters were of Kiribati.

In November of 1994 when the CEE results were announced, of the twenty-two (22)
class 7-9 students sitting for the test, fifteen (15) passed (approximately 70%)and would
attend a secondary school the following school year. Barebutanna School had the
highest passing rate of the 3 Abemama schools, 4 more than the second highest school
and also with the highest percentage passing. The following year, while I was at Tekatia
School, the students?there ranked first in the number and percentage passing the CEE,
and Barebutanna School, not far behind, ranked 2nd.

Teacher Training
A main part of my purpose on Abemama was to conduct teacher inservices. The real
impact I hoped to make here was not so much just with the students but with the
teachers who would be teaching the students long after I had gone. A total of twelve
inservices were given during each school year on a variety of topics all related primarily
to improving teachers?skills in teaching English. Topics included English in the
classroom, teaching vocabulary, eliciting, asking questions, etc. I managed to include
the use of children’s literature in all of them.

This seemed to me to be an overabundance of information for anyone to process. I knew

that for teachers to change or alter the way in which they taught required simple
changes, i.e., changes that could easily put into practice and soon become a part of their
teaching routines. When trained in a new method, one that’s perhaps very different
from one’s own habits, a teacher continually must work to avoid reverting to their past,
more ineffective methods. It’s difficult to make change a part of oneself. Having each
inservice topic applicable to a literature-based approach, I felt, would give teachers a
constant throughout the program. I believed using literature in the classroom was a
method that could be more easily and "naturally" implemented by the teachers.

The Korean Experience

In Korea, I worked in the city of Suwon for a foreign language institute or commonly
referred to there as a "hakwon". These language institutes (hakwons), are private
businesses that primarily offer English conversation classes and also contract with
schools, businesses, and the government to provide teachers to teach conversation
English at their locations. The classes I taught at the hakwon were elementary and
middle school students, and I had a weekly class of Korean English teachers. Most of
the time I taught at elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools, and at a
government training center teaching government employees, with the bulk of my
assignments at middle schools and high schools.

My experiences in Korea were a complete contrast to those in Kiribati. I had few

opportunities to use literature or writing in the classes I taught. In fact, the availability
of literature in English in the schools was more limited than on the remote atoll of
Abemama. Conversation was the focus of the instruction, using a conversation
workbook with lessons on such topics as introductions, meeting friends, and any
number of situations. The only use of literature I could engage in, and this was seldom,
was reading aloud to students.

In two classes at one girls?high school, a 6-week session of classes was begun before the
students had any workbooks so I decided the content of the class period. I brought a
book I had obtained, a simplified version of The Secret Garden, and read to the students
for about 10 minutes each class period. (I don’t advocate the use of simplified versions
of books, but at the time they were all that were available to me.) Even though the story
was simplified to about a 3rd to 4th grade reading level according to L1 standards, it
presented a slight challenge to the students to understand all of the vocabulary and
content, and it was just right for their instructional level. The response was very
positive, and the students were attentive as I read. They looked forward to continuing
the story each day, and when I forgot the book one day, they let me know they were not
happy about it. Many had become involved in the story and would make comments
regarding the misfortune of the main character and that they didn’t like her. The
students indicated that they liked to talk about something they had opinions and
feelings about instead of the "boring" workbook topics. They commented that no one
read stories to them anymore and never had in English. Some said they liked to "just
listen and try to understand."

I also encouraged them to visit a bookstore in Seoul and begin reading books in English
themselves. Before I left at the end of the 6 weeks, a few students had taken my advice
and had purchased some books such as a simplified version of The Wind in the Willows
and a Disney story of Pocahontas. That was rewarding in itself.



The purpose of this project was to investigate the effectiveness of using an integrated
reading, writing, and discussion literature-based (IL-B) program to improve the
language skills of English as a Second Language (ESL) students. The results clearly
showed a development of student interest and improvement in class participation as
well as improved reading, writing, and speaking skills. Language acquisition was
fostered by input that was comprehensible, developmentally appropriate, redundant,
and involving. It had immediate effects on students?lives.

First, presented is a summary of the results from the Common Entrance Exam (CEE)
given to all class 7, 8, and 9 students on Abemama. The CEE was given in September,
during the break between the 2nd and 3rd terms of the 1994 and 1995 school years. The
results of the Common Entrance Exam are included here, not as any definitive measure
of the effects of students being involved in an integrated literature-based approach to
ESL, but simply as a positive rather than negative outcome that followed students
changing to a new approach to language learning. However, if the results had been the
opposite of what they were I would be more apt to attribute it to the failure of the IL-B
and my presentation of it.

The progress made by a group of five class 5 students is discussed. These students were
already involved in the daily school program. When working with students separately,
it may seem that they simply get more personalized instruction. However, I believe
other factors are at work that influence any outcomes whereas the classroom setting is
the authentic setting where the true results are to be obtained. Nevertheless, it was
attempted. Unfortunately, students?journals that had been maintained throughout the
study as well as my own daily journal of procedures, impressions, and evaluations of
students?oral participation and writing skills improvement were all destroyed in the
fire I indicated earlier.

Common Entrance Exam (CEE) Results

There were three primary schools on Abemama who participated in taking the CEE:
Barebutanna, Tekatia, and Tetongo Primary Schools. Twenty-two class 7, 8 and 9
students from Barebutanna School took the CEE in September of 1994. Of those sitting
the test, fifteen (15) passed (approximately 70%)and would be able to attend a
secondary school the following school year. Of the three schools, Barebutanna School
had the highest percentage of students passing, and also had the highest number of
students passing -- more than the school with the second highest. The following year,
1995, I moved to and worked at Tekatia School as all of the teachers at Barebutanna
had completed the inservice program. The procedure and emphasis on literature at
Tekatia was essentially the same as at Barebutanna. Tekatia School this year had the
highest percentage of students passing the exam. Actual student scores of the students
on Abemama or of all Kiribati students sitting the exam were unobtainable from the
Ministry of Education.

Class 5 Group

The five class-5 students were selected randomly and asked if they wanted to participate
in a special class after school. I wanted to see if they would make more use of English in
daily conversation, at least with each other during our sessions, and to see if their
writing would show any significant improvements. I intended to document their daily
writing with their journals.

I met with the group daily for 30 minutes after school. A story was read to them, or they
read a story themselves. There was some general discussion about the story, and the
students then wrote in their journals about anything they wanted related to the story.
The group itself was only moderately cohesive and seemed less prone to participate than
in the regular classroom setting.

They showed moderate improvement in the areas of reading, speaking, and writing,
though their writing was the most noteworthy improvement I found. Their journal
entries as a whole included more complete sentences and attempts to use a wider variety
of vocabulary. Pictures with captions seemed to be a favorite inclusion.

The students gradually became more involved in the discussions and were more capable
of forming answers; however, most answers were short, and seldom did they use
complete sentences. There was clearly a good attitude in the sessions and an enjoyment
of the stories. They became more curious about situations and unfamiliar words in the
stories, and, at times, they also began suggesting I read particular books.

The School

Many of the students were actively involved in checking out books after school. When
given the opportunities to do so during class, students began sharing orally with
classmates stories they had read. Students showed an eagerness to have stories read to
them and to read new books themselves. There was notable improvement in their
overall attentiveness in class and in participation in writing and discussion activities.
(From my initial observations in the classrooms, I noted a number of students in various
classes who seldom paid attention to what was occurring during English lessons). Along
with the improvement in participation and reading there was increased ability to
communicate more effectively in writing and speaking.

Another salient indirect result of using literature in the classrooms was that books
began to disappear from the teachers?office and would be discovered in teachers?
classrooms where they were making daily use of them, giving students opportunities to
read and share the books. This had not happened before. Books that had previously sat
dormant on a shelf were being put to use by teachers. This was possibly the most
important result to me in light of the success the students were experiencing.



This project was initiated to look at the effectiveness of an integrated reading, writing,
and discussion literature-based (IL-B) program in improving ESL students?language
skills. The beginning development and use of an integrated literature-based program
was based upon my early review of literature and my personal beliefs regarding the use
of literature in the classroom. The success in practice of an IL-B approach in my
English speaking (L1) classroom was shown to have a direct impact on my pursuit of its
use later in ESL classrooms.

The research was a narrative of my experiences using an IL-B approach in a unique

setting where ESL students previously had little contact with books. I discussed the pre-
existing conditions on the atoll of Abemama, the overall use of the IL-B program at two
schools, my experiences with a special intervention group, and the special work with
classes 7-9. Books and "print" were new to these students, in or out of the classroom.
They weren’t surrounded by books in the classroom or even by their own poster
creations, nor by the print on cereal boxes, food containers, candy wrappers, or street
and business signs that flood most people’s environment.

Weaver (1980) pointed out that not only must the text be meaningful for the child, but
also that the child must be able to bring his or her knowledge and experience to bear on
the text. It involves interaction between the mind of the reader and the language of the
text (Vellender, 1989). In Kiribati, where experiences were limited, the meaningfulness
of the literature was initially in the enjoyment the students derived from the newness of
stories and knowledge gained from the stories, and the participation in the experience.
The more students learned, the more they realized they could participate in gaining new
knowledge and participate in experiences with English speaking people such as myself.

This study was about a vision being mapped as I went. The day by day student
reactions, their involvement in language use, and their improvements supported its use.
Reading and writing of literature allowed students to learn through participation in the
language instead of merely memorizing rules through the drill practice previously
employed. The creation of and personal interaction with literature by children allowed
for a negotiation of meaning not possible through skill and drill activities (Halliday,
1975). Instead of trying to speak to me in I-Kiribati, they practiced what they knew and
spoke to me in English. Instead of only looking at the pictures in books and the
magazines, the students began to question and to read for answers.

In contrast, in Korea, students were taught primarily through skill and drill activities
and only recently have some had the opportunity to have an native English speaking
person as a part time English teacher. The reasons for the lack of language involvement
are complex, but it has meant that students seldom have the skills to communicate
effectively in English by speaking or writing, and their reading skills are far below those
of L1 students.
Through the experiences I’ve related, I tried to make the reader more aware of the
multiple connections that exist among teaching and learning, the children's responses,
the classroom context, and the language skills development of the students. Teaching is
something you do, and the doing is improved by reflecting.

Through reflection, the program and methods can begin to make sense and take shape
in teachers?minds. Bateson (1989) said we do this by, "discovering the shape of our
creation along the way, rather than pursuing a vision already defined""(p. 1).


The conclusions that can be drawn from this project are limited to what the reader
discerns from the literature and from my experiences using an IL-B approach. It
contains no quantitative data, and the qualitative data that had been collected was
destroyed in a house fire.

Nevertheless, I believe the effectiveness of an IL-B program is shown from the many
examples of student progress, involvement, and enjoyment from the use of literature in
the classroom. The effectiveness of a literature-based program also lies in its versatility,
i.e., being able to satisfy the interests and needs of ESL students. The ability to read is
an important component in empowering students to achieve personal success, and the
equation is simple; the more one reads the better one becomes at it.

There is through literature an interesting focus and authentic purpose.

It can be said that the integration of the components of an IL-B program is natural.
People read, write, talk, and listen daily. The IL-B program is by its nature one
involving interaction and reflection among students, and students and teacher. If
reflective power in people cannot be increased, says Heathcote, then you might as well
not teach because reflection is the only thing that in the long run changes anybody
(Johnson and O’Neill, (1984). Interaction and reflection focuses on inquiry which is
essential in creating a classroom atmosphere where learners take risks and mistakes are
seen as part of the learning process. The sharing of ideas through writing or discussion
facilitates children seeing each other as learning resources and students learn to value
the diversity of what each person can bring to the group process (Short, 1990).

It is for each teacher, administrator, and curriculum planner to determine the viability
of such a program, and it is up to the teacher to allow it to work. Literature is not a
strategy, it is the foundation from which strategies can be erected. It is the context from
which we begin to hear and enjoy a story being read to us, from which we begin to talk
about and write our thoughts and ideas about the events and characters that make up a
new world of experiences. Ultimately, it is up to the institutions training teachers and
the administration who have the power to determine the direction the ESL program will
take. I was fortunate enough through my graduate studies to work with a faculty who
largely had a high regard for literature in the classroom.

After reviewing countless studies and theories, the conclusion is also drawn that there is
a need for more long term narrative research to be written. Through it, a reader can be
given a chance to "hear" the real story. Change occurs in small steps as it did in
Kiribati, and it occurs over time. Reflection on the teaching and learning keeps what is
taught in perspective with what and how students are learning. Through narrative
research in the genuine classroom setting, the teacher/researcher has the option to
change or amend what is being done, to adjust the input in relation to its effects rather
than pushing through with the intervention to accomplish a measurement at the end.
Narrative reflection measures continuously.

There is a definite need to determine an approach to ESL that will provide students and
teachers with a process from which the greatest benefits can be obtained and
educational goals can be achieved. Many countries today have English as a second
language programs. Across the United States ESL programs abound. It is something
that is here to stay, and the need for teachers and effective programs continues to grow.
When students are involved in an integrated literature-based program reading books
that they can first enjoy, and when they have opportunity to express themselves through
writing and through discussion, integrating these processes will begin to provide the
student the opportunities to develop skills needed to function effectively in English in
this complex world.

Throughout the duration of using an IL-B approach, students made improvements in a

range of language uses and in areas of language knowledge. Students read and their
vocabulary grew. They grew more capable in communicating with me, with the
teachers, and with each other in English. If nothing else, the IL-B approach gave
teachers a direction for their teaching, and the teachers at my schools on Abemama saw
what they considered qualitative results when a larger-that-usual percentage of students
passed the Common Entrance Exams.

It is important to realize, too, that there are affective benefits as well. Success in reading
and its associated skills of writing and speaking makes learners come to enjoy language
learning and to find immediate value to their study of English. The benefits of an IL-B
program do not only come in the short term, day to day, but I believe also will include
substantial long-term benefits for students?success in learning English language skills.


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Volume 11. Issue 1

Article 5
Reading-Writing Connection for EFL College Learners’ Literacy
2010 JournalsA
2009 Journals
Ming-Yueh Shen
2008 Journals
2007 Journals
Bio Data: 2006 Journals
Dr. Ming-Yueh Shen is currently an associate professor at the 2005 Journals
National Formosa University in China Taiwan. She has taught 2004 Journals
English at the college level for more than ten years. Her main 2003 Journals
research interests include developing reading/writing literacy 2002 Journals
for EFL learners, learner autonomy and reading strategies Advertising
instruction. Author Index
Book Reviews
Institution Index
Journal E-books
Key Word Index
Subject Index
Teaching Articles **
TESOL Certificate
Top 20 articlesTE
This study aimed to examine the impact of a reading-writing
connection project on the first-year EFL college students who
studied English as a required subject in the first semester of
2005. A literacy environment that was supportive of reading-
writing connections involved explicit instruction of text
structures and story elements, reflective reading journals (or
reading logs) on each reading text, and creative writing based
upon the story book of the learners’ own interest. Data were
collected from the students' reading log entries, creative
writing, and the follow-up interviews. Results indicated that
the learners' literacy developed not only in linguistic progress
but also in critical thinking as well as in personal growth.
Reading helped the EFL learners’ development of their writing
with the stimulus, structures, vocabulary, and prior
experience (schema). The reading-writing connection also had
a positive impact on the EFL college students’ reading
metacognitive awareness (i.e., looking back what they read),
as well as their reflection of personal values and experience
transaction. Evidence arising out of these findings suggests
that reading and writing should be integrated in teaching for
the reason that they are not separated skills, but mutually
reinforced in EFL classroom.

Keywords: reading-writing connections, literacy

development, reading metacognitive awareness


The relationship between reading and writing has long been

recognized. Most educators suggested that reading and
writing share similar process and kinds of knowledge (Stosky,
1983; Quinn, 1995; Lindsey, 1996; Risemberg, 1996; Ruiz-
Funes, 1999; Abadiano & Turner, 2002). Other researchers
have proposed that reading and writing skills are
interconnected (Dahl & Smith, 1984; Noyce & Christe, 1989;
Ferris & Hedgecock, 1998; Nelson & Calfee, 1998; Lee,
2000). They all supported the belief that reading and writing
are active and constructive process for meaning. Most of their
findings have demonstrated that better writers tend to read
more than poor writers, and better readers tend to produce
more syntactically mature writing. Those empirical evidences
have pointed out the importance of integrated approach on
reading and writing. They also implied that experience with
one skill consequently fosters development in another.
In EFL learning context, it seems that reading and writing in
EFL context has often taught for many years as a separated
skill that puts its emphasis on grammar and mechanics
without developing learners' ability to express their ideas. A
significant number of college students get accustomed to the
pencil-and–paper tests and over-rely on grammar-translation
approach to “understanding” the reading texts. The problem
is that while learners master the grammar rules, they still find
it difficult to read or write a whole text. Such multiple factors
as inadequate learning habits and educational preparation
might consequently result in poor literacy development. It is
thus imperative for educators to provide effective instruction
and academic support that allows for appropriate literacy
This study addressed the following questions: First, how
does reading-writing connection project help EFL college
learners’ literacy development? Second, how does reading-
writing connection project impact on the EFL college learners’
personal growth?

Review of Literature

Reading and writing connections have been proposed under
the constructive orientation. That is, both reading and writing
require learners to actively involve in constructing meaning
(Spivey, 1989, 1990; Risemberg, 1996; Nelson & Calfee,
1998; Lee, 2000). For both readers and writers, they have to
actively involve themselves in interpreting and constructing
meaning from the texts. That is, a reader has to bring
meaning to the text and make inferences on the basis of the
prior knowledge and background experience. Similarly, a
writer constructs meaning by using his/her own background
experience to generate ideas. Nelson and Calfee (1998)
suggest that while constructing meaning for the whole text,
the writer has to specify "the functional aspects of language
to readers for organizing, selecting and connecting content"
(p.26). A writer also uses a text structure to plan out what
they want to express (Gleason, 1995). In this view, it seems
that writing is more obviously than reading a constructive
process. However, the process is recursive. A writer has to be
immersed in the texts that can serve as a model for writing.
Schema theory also underscores the close connections
between reading and writing. In order to construct meaning
and obtain the most comprehension, a reader needs to
activate the existing schema to interact with the text
information. Noryce and Christie (1989), in particular,
indicate that a writer utilizes the same schemata that are
used for reading comprehension. In order to write a topic, a
writer needs to have an access to the prior knowledge
(schemata) of that topic. Thus, these schemata serve as
resources for the content of writing. This view of schema
shared by both reading and writing lead us to infer that
reading can play a role in the writing process by providing
schemata (ideas) to write about. Conversely, writing a
prediction during the pre-reading activity activates the
learner's schemata about the topic and thus facilitates
reading comprehension.
Research has also indicated that reading and writing share
the parallel composing process. Tierney and Pearson (1983)
developed "a composing model" of reading that explains how
reading and writing share similar process of meaning
construction. According to Tierney and Pearson, reading and
writing share the similar characteristics as follows: planning
(goal-setting to approach a text), aligning (decision making
for how), drafting (meaning refining), monitoring
(evaluating), and revising (reflecting). Those aspects are
continuous and recursive during the reading and writing
To sum up, this theoretical evidence lends support for the
close relationship between reading and writing. Those
theoretical models lead us to assume that reading and writing
are "integrally connected" (Reid, 1993, p.64) and reading and
writing ability tend to develop concurrently rather than
sequentially (Nelson & Calfee, 1989).

The value of reading as a prewriting resource has been
demonstrated in many studies (Smith & Dahl, 1984; Noyce &
Christie & 1989; Raimes, 1983; Falk-Ross, 2002). Those
research propose calls our attention to the fact that reading
serves as a stimulus, causing readers to arouse the feeling
and generate the ideas in response to the reading texts.
Readers provide personal response and feelings that can be
transacted into expressive writing. In this way, reading is
used to stimulate writing as a source of motivation. Other
researchers have indicated that a large amount of reading can
have positive effect on learners' overall writing ability.
Krashen (1984) compared six co-relational studies that found
that good writers tend to do more reading outside of class
than poor writers.
Reading can do more than serve as a stimulus for writing.
Joyce and Christie (1989) emphasize that it also plays an
important role in acquiring students with the rules and
characteristics of skilled writing. Reading can "expose
students to models of different types of writing" (Joyce &
Christie, 1989, p.105), e.g. literature, expository or other
modes of texts. Eckhoff (1984) analyzed the writing of 2-
graders who had been trained to read two different basal
readers series: one read books with simple structures and the
other with more complex style. She found that the learners'
writing transferred certain characteristics of passages they
had been reading. In her study, learners who read stories
with more complex sentence patterns used more complex
syntax in their writing, while the other learners wrote with
simpler structure after reading the stories with simpler
patterns. Butler and Turbill (1984) also showed that the 8-
year-old boy's nonfiction writing resembled the narrative
stories to which he had wider exposure.
There is more evidence indicating learners transfer words,
content and structure from their reading to use in writing.
Corden (2000) argues that "interactive discourse" impacts on
learners' reading-writing connection. He illustrates how
children are able to discuss and evaluate texts and to transfer
the knowledge and insights gained to their own writing.
Through "interactive discourse", learners' attention was called
to particular story elements of setting, characters, plot, and
style. As a result, children develop their awareness of how
texts are constructed and eventually transfer their knowledge
and understanding to their writing.
Smith's "Reading Like a Writer Theory" helps to explain
that reading has its positive effects on writing. Smith (1983)
has proposed that one will unconsciously learn the rules and
conventions of writing while reading given certain conditions,
such as absence of anxiety, a clear understanding of the text
being read, and the perception of self as a writer. In other
words, when given those factors, the reader subconsciously
becomes sensitive to the style and mechanics of the text, and
read like a writer.

The participants were students at a technical university in the
central part of Taiwan. All of them were enrolled in a class
entitled General English. Those students have been defined as
less skilled and less efficient learners (Lin, 1995) compared to
others in Taiwan. All of them never had any writing course at
the time being studied. All that they had experienced in
writing is short answers with only one to three sentences in
During the interview at the prewriting stage, I found that
all the students had little confidence in writing. They were
unsure of their ability to write more than three sentences or
one paragraph. Such psychological suffering seems
unavoidable for the students when they were required to
write in a new language. Additionally, the students' language
competence was just at either low intermediate or high
intermediate level. They had limited vocabulary and sentence
structures that were believed to serve as foundation for
writing. When asked if assigned free writing on given topics
were acceptable tasks, all of them admitted that it would
require painful efforts to write with limited language
competence and to express themselves clearly with the
'blank' mind. They said, "I can't think of anything to write."
All the participants were divided into several groups of six.
There were nine groups in total in the class. They read,
discuss, and then write together for this semester-long

Text Selection
Narrative text was determined as the material to help connect
the learners’ reading and writing literacy. Generally speaking,
narrative text (i.e. fiction) is easier to comprehend and
remember than expository text (i.e. factual and informational
material) (Williams, 2000). In this study, all the students
chose the literary texts from Heinemann ELT Guided Readers
Series and compiled a preference reading list. To meet the
diversity of the students’ proficiency levels, the instructor
selected three books among the list, according to the
difficulty level, as the required reading assignments for one
semester. The first book, Nick McIver's love story, "Dear
Jan…," was a beginner’s work with approximate 30 pages,
600-basic word vocabulary level. The second book, "A
Christmas Carol," written by Charles Dickens, has 58 pages
with 1200 vocabulary level. The last one was "Wuthering
Heights," written by Emily Bronte, with approximately 90
pages, 2000 words of vocabulary range.

Implementation of Reading-Writing Connection Activity

This study attempted to connect reading and writing together
by guiding the students to read the simplified graded
storybooks and then write the response journals as well as
creative writing based on the book they read.

Story Frames. The activity was designed to help readers

organize their ideas about what they have read by completing
a story frame. The categories included 1) plot and suspense,
2) characters and relationships, 3) major themes, 4) methods
writer uses to communicate his/her attitudes, 5) reader's
response (Murdoch, 1992). They made students being aware
of the relationship between the reader and writers. The
students' attention was also guided to analyze the roles of the
different characters and the relationship to one another, and
to identify the main themes of the story, and so on. Each
student read his or her story book and kept the draft notes in
any format they liked. Those notes helped them recall when
they started to write.

Reading Log/ Response Journals. The students completed

weekly reading assignments which included chapters from the
course texts. To support the students' engagement with
reading and help them make connections with the story, a
reader-response prompt was given to each student for the
discussion on the fourth week. They were required to respond
to those questions on the prompts and write a short essay to
each question for discussion on the following week. This was
considered important to help students construct meaning
from the text. Those questions, guiding the students' thinking
after they read, were listed as follows:

1. Which character do you like or dislike most? Why or

why not?
2. Do you share any feelings of characters in the story?
3. What does this story (characters, incidents, or ideas)
remind you of in your own life?

Response journals allowed students to record how they felt

about a character, how they identified with a particular
character, how they felt about the text, how the text related
to their lives and how they predicted or reacted to the story
Response journals were collected and reviewed each week
by the instructors. At the end of the course, the reading log
entries were collected and photocopied for analysis. The
instructors provided feedback by writing comments and
questions in the margins.

Teacher-Students Conference. During the 18-week

periods, every group of students was assigned 2 sections of
teacher-students conferences with the teacher, with one hour
for each. For the first section, the conference focused on
solving the grammar, vocabulary and comprehension
problems, together with the guided categories of text
analysis. During the teacher-students conference, the teacher
made sure if the students could readily follow and sequence
the events, if they grasp the basic plot structure, and if they
were alerted to the way the writer created suspense. The
second section involved questions about the writing process,
listening to what the students said about why and how they
wrote, and guidance to the following writing activity.

Making Creative Writing. The students had to read the

three literary books and then were required to choose one of
them to write a piece of creative writing in English according
to their own interest and language levels. The creative writing
was required as the final report which substituted the
traditional test with multiple-choice test. They were free to
write as they wished, e.g. a continuation of the story, a
changed ending, or a rewrite of the story, etc. In the coaching
process, the students were encouraged to interact with the
reading text highly actively. Most of reading was
cooperatively done outside of the classroom in the students'
free time to ensure a tension-free environment.
The students started to write from the twelfth week. They
planned their stories based on the framework they liked.
Before the end of the study, they were allowed to meet the
teacher any time for their writing problems, in addition to
one-to-one conference for revision and informal interviews.
At the sixteenth week, the students showed their draft
writing which they put their ideas and feeling on. They
already created their own story sequences. What we did, at
this stage, was to just focus on the organization of the writing
itself. It was a process of moving back and forth from
paragraph to paragraph, removing the irrelevant details and
adding more highlighting incidents. At the final week, we
worked on the grammar, vocabulary and mechanics. The
instructor helped them with rhetorical techniques, making
their expression more elaborate and effective. This also
helped make students aware of the necessary rhetorical
techniques for writing.

Data Analysis
This study examined the students' literacy development by
looking into their written entries, including reading log entries
and their creative writing, to find the effects of reading on
writing. The results of the informal interviews on two students
in each group also served as data sources.
Three reading log entries from each group were collected for
analysis. Entries ranged in length from one to two pages. The
constant comparative method of analysis was used for
analysis of the reading log entries (Strauss & Corbin, 1990) to
provide a determination of major patterns in changes in the
students’ reading comprehension. The key words were sorted
by the researcher according to categories which emerged
from the initial reading of the full entries and were refined
during the sorting process.
The data analysis of the creative writing first focused on the
quantity (how many pages) the students wrote, which was
evidenced as their initially observable ability to write. Then,
the analysis further examined whether they transformed and
were transformed by the text. That is, this study examined
how students transferred words, contents, and structures
from their reading to writing.

Results from Reading Log / Reflective Journal
As evidenced by the entries, the students engaged in critical
thinking and interpretive response1 more frequently. They
collaboratively used high level forms of information analysis,
such as relating the text to previous experience. The following
excerpts collected from each group show the overall trend on
the part of the students’ active engagement with the text.
The reading text acts as vicarious experience for personal
growth and evaluation of value.
In responding to the second prompt question "Do you share
any of the feelings of the characters in this story? "most of
the students activated their previous experience by using
visualization to make sense of the text as they reacted to the
author’s description of the character’s change into a different
person. Some excerpts from different groups are as follows:

"I can feel how happy Scrooge is when he was surrounded by

a group of orphans. He never cared the poor people before.
Scrooge changed from a mean, unkind and unhappy man into
a man who showed love to people around him. I think he
must feel happiness he never experienced before." (from
Group 1, A Christmas Carol)

“I can imagine how sad Bob was when his boss,

Scooge, refused to pay him more. What a difficult situation
to support a family without money.” (from Group 5, A
Christmas Carol)

Some students engaged in the metacognitive process,

activating their own previous experience.

"Scrooge was too stingy before. He should be nice to Bob,

because he is a boss. Bob has five kids and is a poor man. I
think Scrooge can finally understand that money can not
bring him happy. For me, I found I was a stingy person too. I
found I am too mean to my younger brother. Maybe I need to
be nice to my brother. I think help others make us happy."
(from Group 3, A Christmas Carol)

"I think people should choose their true love. It is stupid to

get married just because the man is rich. We know the cases
from many movie stars or TV actresses who marry with a rich
family. They usually have a unhappy marriage. They divorced
finally." (from Group 2, Dear Jan…)

"Well, Ruth is a brave girl who chose her true love. But, I am
not sure whether or not I can do so if I meet the same
problems. I'm afraid I will hurt my parents.” (from Group 5,
Dear Jan…)

The response emerged from the students with better

proficiency level was particularly in-depth. The responses
implicitly reflected the students’ life experience and personal

"I feel sympathy for Heathcliff, the center character in this

story. From childhood on, he was planning revenge. How
terrible! But in some way, I can understand why he did the
revenge because his heart is filled with hatred. I remember
when my father died, my aunt didn't want to lend money to
my family. At that time, I hated my aunt and even people
around me. I still can recall the hatred in my mind." (from
Group7, Wuthering Heights)

"In fact, I chose this book, Wuthering Heights, because the

characters and their individual personality strongly touch my
heart. They become what they are like because they came
from different living backgrounds.
Think of Cathy Linton and Hareton Earnshaws… Their
childhood is different. The childhood and their family
backgrounds affect their personality." (from Group 8,
Wuthering Heights)

In the study, the students encountered the values the

characters live by. The responses to A Christmas Carol Annie
and Dear Jan judged the characters' behaviors and
furthermore compared those behaviors with theirs in the real
life. Through sharing and evaluating different images of life,
each student reader felt sympathy and antipathy for persons
quite different from his or hers and built his or her own sense
of values. For example, one student in group 3 was able to
experience vicariously the emotion of Scrooge and compared
these experiences with hers, recalling she shouldn’t have
been mean to her brother. Some students reflected back their
own feelings when compared with Ruth in the story. One
student in group 7 expressed his feeling "How terrible!" to
show his reaction to the character's method of revenge.
Through reading the literary work, he was offered a chance to
evaluate moral values. Based on his own experience in
childhood, he was able to understand what the main
character Heathcliff faces by sharing Heathcliff’s problems and
showing his concerns. He helped formulate reasons for their
personal dilemmas of one character: the upbringing of each
affects their characters.
In this case, keeping reading log, as vicarious experience,
helped reveal the significance of the learners’ emotion and
actions, and self-understanding. Through the reflective
journals / reading log, the students integrated a lot of new
information concerning other people’s experiences. They
learned to react to the reading text in a more critical and
personalized manner.

Results from the Creative Written Production Entries

In this program, three out of nine groups chose “Dear Jan…”
to develop their story; four groups of them preferred “A
Christmas Carol;” only two groups chose the more
challenging and intricate story “Wuthering Heights.” The
findings showed in the participants’ written production entries
are categorized as follows. Positive changes occurred in their
understanding and use of proper English from the amount of
reading and being able to transfer what they read to their

Evidence of Transfer of Rules and Structures

Each group of participants finished reading the chosen story
and then wrote a creative story based on one of the books
their read. As shown in Table 1, the participants transferred
certain characteristics of the passages they had been reading.

Table 1. Evidence of Transfer of Rules and Structures

from the Reading Text

GroupsPagesApproach to Story
Creative Story Structure
Title PersonDialogue
A Christmas Carol
1 7 To continue the yes 3rd yes
story by
Dear Jan…
2 5 yes 3rd yes
To rewrite the story
A Christmas Carol
3 8 yes 3rd yes
To rewrite the story
Dear Jan…
4 4 To rewrite the yes 3rd yes
A Christmas Carol
5 6 To rewrite the yes 3rd yes
A Christmas Carol
6 7 yes 3rd yes
To rewrite the story
Dear Jan…
7 3 To rewrite the yes 3rd no
Wuthering Heights
8 10 no 3rd yes
To rewrite the story
Wuthering Heights
9 6 To write the no 1st no

The students demonstrated in their writing a transfer of story

structure from the reading text in the use of title, person, and
dialogue, as shown in Table 1. For example, the students in
group 1 started with one chapter followed by another chapter
with a title, respectively. Their first chapter was titled as, “A
Brand New Life,” followed by “The Little Angels,” “The Very
Miserable Thing,” “A Surprised Visitor,” and ended with “A
Plan.” It might be possible that they created their own story
following the structure in the story they chose. Moreover, as
the narrator did in A Christmas Carol, the students adopted
the third person to begin their creative story and introduced
the main character Scrooge. In each chapter, they began
with a short introduction followed by dialogues between
characters. It indicated a transfer of the story structure from
the text they chose.
In contrast, the students in group 8 introduced each
chapter without a title, although Wuthering Heights begins its
chapters with titles. A possible explanation might be that their
story was structured with a sequence of time rather than with
a topic or event. However, it seems that they followed the
structure in Wuthering Heights by introducing the setting and
background as Bronte did. Additionally, like Wuthering
Height, they began their creative story directly with a first
person narrative, the servant who took care of one boy and
one girl. The use of dialogues also demonstrated a transfer of
story structure from the text thy chose. Another example
from showing the transfer of story structure was found in the
creative story entitled as “A Different Ending.” The students
didn’t structure their story with several sections due to the
reason that they focused on the ending instead of some other
plots. They adopted the third person to tell their story as the
original story “Dear Jan…” did.
The dialogue-driven style in the creative writing also
demonstrated the influence from the original story.
Interestingly, most of the groups illustrated in their creative
writing transfer of this story structure from the reading text.
In their creative writing revealed a large amount of dialogues
as similarly employed by the author of the original literary

Evidence of Reading As a Stimulus for Imaginative

World. Another finding from the students’ written production
was that the students, by using their own imagination,
involved themselves with the character’s world in the story.
There is obvious evidence that reading stories may promote
our students' own creativity. Students showed that reading
the stories helpful as they made connections between the
reading text and their creative writing. For example, the
students in the first group wrote a continuation of the ending
for the original story, An Christmas Carol, in which Scrooge, a
rich but mean old man, changed his attitudes toward his own
life and people around him after four ghosts visited him on
Christmas Eve. In this continuation of the original story, they
described Scrooge as a kind man who visited his employee's
house and the orphanage to show his kindness and care.
They imagined that both Scrooge's sister and the orphanage
administrator died and came to visit him in his dream.
Instead of frightening Scrooge as the four ghosts did in the
original story, the two visitors in the continuation of the story
came as angels urging Scrooge to help the poor.
Another example was found in the fourth group’s love story
in which they rewrote the clichéd and plain ending into a
different one. Instead of accepting the arranged marriage, the
character Ruth became a brave girl who chose her true love.
The students designed more intricate plots, including more
detailed illustration. They imagined Ruth sitting in deep
thought, bursting into tears when informed about the
arranged marriage, and screaming hysterically. Furthermore
they described Mommy's dream and secret arrangement, the
sad departure of Ruth and finally, at the airport, a sad father
with a look of desperation in the eyes and with tears flooding
down his face. Based on the original story, they expanded
and visualized their ideas in a deliberate way.
The students in group eight with the more proficient
learners created a more complicated plot for their story. They
adapted the story from the original text, the Wuthering
Heights, but moved the setting from England to Taiwan
during the period of Japanese colonization. All the characters
belonged to two Japanese families. The students created the
main character as an adopted orphan with an entangled
relationship with his Japanese girl friend. In this way, the
students could see in the literary situation some analogy to
the problems common among most young students in the real

Evidence of Transfer of Use of Vocabulary from the

In addition to the imagination and creativity demonstrated in
this reading-writing connection project, there is also evidence
indicating that learners transferred words from the reading to
use in writing. Table 2 presents sample vocabulary used in
the student writers’ creative writings. Some of the words they
used were borrowed from the simplified version of one work
they chose to read. Most of them were looked up in the
dictionary when they found it necessary to describe the
feelings of the characters and the major theme.
In this study, the first group created a seven-page (single
space typing) continuous story, reacting to the story about a
cold, hard man, Scrooge. The students hoped to create a
changed character, by using compound words such as “love-
giving,” “heart-warming,” “the orphanage administrator,” etc.
They wrote a Chinese version before looking up the words
they needed to translate her story.
The students in Group 4 and Group 7 chose a very
beginning-level book with a cliché love story but they
managed to rewrite the plain ending into a more intricate
denouement. For instance, in the three-page story by Group
7, it seems that they used several words and compound
sentences beyond their current proficiency level. They
borrowed the verb “arrange” in the story and expanded the
vocabulary use into the phrase “burst into tears” and “with
tears flooding down his face” by looking up the dictionary
reading for “tear” intending to describe a character’s reactions
toward an arranged marriage. The students in Group 4 asked
the researcher for help during the one-to-one conference for
more descriptive vocabulary for their characters, such as “a
look of desperation,” and “in desperation.” They employed
the new words to describe the character’s emotional reaction.
Some of the excerpts indicating the expansion of vocabulary
are as follows.
“Ruth burst into tears when she knew she would be arranged
to marry a man she doesn’t love.”
“Ruth screamed hysterically when she was lost in desperation
“Ruth’s father rushed to the airport only to see his daughter
leaving. He stood there with a look of desperation in his eyes
and with tears flooding down his face.”
The students in Group 8 finished their story in ten pages.
They demonstrated a great potential to be the fluent and
efficient readers and writers. One possible reason might be
that they devoted themselves to studying English more
frequently than the others. Compared with the other
participants, they used more adverbs and adjectives to
describe the intricate plot, such as “disapprovingly,”
“admirable,” “unbearable, and “obedient,” etc, which made
the sentences more complex.

Table 2. Sample Vocabulary in the Student Writers’

Creative Writing

1. A Christmas Carol

(I.) Words used from the reading text---

A hard man (p.1); clerk (p.2); shut (p.5); sat down by the fire
(p. 5); put an arm around him (p.13); round the fire (p.29);
watch with open eyes (p.21); cold money-lover (p.22)
(II.) New words expanded from reading---Group 1
Continuation; orphanage; wooden crutch; creak; destination;
administration; mean; miserable; knock; allocated; urged;
sobbed; flowing; leant; departed; rush; distributed
1. Dear Jan

(I.)1 Words used from the reading text---

Lonely (p.10); repeated (p. 10); notice (p.11); knocked on
the door (p. 17); lay on her bed (p. 20); shouted (p. 20); run
upstairs (p. 20); miserable (p.22); hall (p. 22); leant out of
the window (p. 24)
(II.)2 New words expanded from reading---
Armchair, response; tragedy; sob; scream; allow; force;
disappear; reluctantly; hysterically; inquisitively; deep in
though; burst into tears; in a fit of panic
1. Wuthering Heights

(I.) Words used from the reading text---

Evil-looking (p.2); admit (p.3 ) remark (p.3); Admirable
(p.5); fiercely (p.5); with a trembling lip (p. 30) ;remained
unconscious of (p.41); look scornfully at (p. 45);
consciousness (p.63); grief (p.63); obedient (p. 124);
disapprovingly (p. 127); ashamed of (p. 128); unbearable (p.
141); came unexpectedly (p. 122, 126)
(II.) New words expanded from reading---
Successor; consciousness; appearance; treatment; governed;
depart; escape; inherited; mention; prohibited; betray;
persuaded; convince; retorted; immigrated; promised;
bullied; disobey; fantastic; splendid; unfair; rational

1.“Words in reading” refers to the words shown in the reading

texts, but borrowed by the student writers in their creative
stories. Page numbers indicate where these words appear in
each of the reading texts.
2. ”Words expanded from reading” refers to the words the
student writers looked up in a dictionary to describe the
characters and themes in their creative stories.

Results from the Interviews

To further understand the students' reaction to the reading-
to-writing activity, informal interviews about how they felt
were conducted at the end of the study. Two major themes
were identified from the interview data, as shown in the
following section: (1) reading serves as a resource for what to
write; (2) students become more reflective and perceptive.
When asked what benefit they gained from reading a
literary work, all the participants said that the literary work
had served as a resource for what they had to write. They
also responded that for them, the reading-to-writing activity
was meaningful because they were able to find something to
write. They also found it helpful as they made connections to
ideas and themes expressed in what they read. Additionally,
they realized that the act of writing is thinking about reading
which in turn produces writing. As the above statements, they
were amazed with their written production as this was their
first experience of writing formally and at length.

“I’ve never believed that I can write so much. You know….I

often write one or two sentences and I just stop there without
any idea to write…”(from Group5)
“When I read the story, I couldn’t t help but have something
to say. So many characters, so many things happen…I found
there was a lot in my mind.” (from Group 6)
“You didn’t tell me how many pages I needed to write. In the
beginning, I doubt I could write. But, when I started to write,
I was caught by the intricate plot and setting. Wow…I kept on
reading and found more to write. It is not difficult to write a
story based on a novel.” (from Group 8)
“When I read the story and then wrote our own story, I
imitated the structure from the story by following the
dialogue-driven style. It’s not so difficult to develop a five-
page writing. It’s so fun!” (from Group 4)
“I hope you can let us read the novels like this. I love story
and would like to read more. I found it easier and more fun to
learn and use the vocabulary in the story.” (from Group 2)

With regards to the question of if they had learned

something from the book, the students claimed that they had
become more reflective about their ideas and more perceptive
about the people or events around them.
“I’m okay with any materials you brought into the class. But,
if you let us read the short stories, there will be fewer
classmates sleeping in class. We can also discuss the story
and the characters, and try to solve the problems the
characters meet.” (from Group 1)
“To tell the truth, reading novels is more interesting than
reading the other articles you provided us in class. I hate the
way that we went over the article and then had to remember
the vocabulary. It’s more exciting to read the story and
immerse myself in the world which the characters are in.”
(from Group 9)
“I feel it meaningful to connect the character’s experience
with mine. I learned to express myself and understand
myself. “ (from Group 9)

The present study provides a number of important findings.
These findings lend support to the previous research by
Noyce and Christie (1989), as well as Butler and Turbill
(1984), indicating that reading text can be more than a
stimulus for writing. It also acquaints students with the rules
and characteristics of skilled writing. As Smith (1983)
proposed, a reader will be subconsciously sensitive to the
style and mechanics of the reading text, and unconsciously
acquire the rules and conventions of writing while reading.
Through “interactive discourse,” the reader’s attention is
called to particular story elements of setting, characters, plot
and style and “he or she reads like a writer” (Corden, 2000).
In this study, most of the participants’ attention was called
to the dialogue-driven style in the reading text and presented
their story with dialogues. The dialogue-ridden style in their
creative writing demonstrated the influence from the original
story. For instance, the students in Group 4 particularly paid
their attention to Ruth’s emotional reaction toward love and
rewrote a different ending for her. Those in Group 8 focused
their attention on Heathcliff’s rage and revenge on his
enemy’s family. They structured the creative story by
describing the complicated relationship between a Taiwanese
orphan Te and two families, the Maruyamas and the Suzukis.
In this way, reading text benefits students in developing
linguistic knowledge, both on a usage level and a use level
(Mckay, 1987).
Moreover, reading a variety of resources may promote our
students' own creativity. There is obvious evidence that
reading literature may promote our students' own creativity.
As this research has indicated, reading offers opportunities for
personally gratifying experience through the use of ones'
imagination, participation in vicarious experiences of
adventure, and involvement with human behaviors in many
different situations (Mckay, 1987). The reader needs not have
lived with the Earnshaws and the Lintons in Wuthering
Heights to experience the sufferings of the two unfortunate
families. By interacting, and transacting with the reading text,
the students came to the world in which the characters
A learner’s language proficiency might be a factor that
influences the use of words and sentence structures in
writing. In this study, the participants in the different groups
chose the texts with different difficulty levels; therefore, it
was difficult to compare the use of sentence structures in
their creative writing. However, the reading texts they chose
indicate different difficult levels with different vocabulary
sizes. In this case, we might claim that reading served not
only as a stimulus for expansion of ideas but also as a
linguistic model for the use of words and sentence structures.
This finding lends support to Eckhoff’s (1984) which indicated
learners who read stories with more complex patterns use
more complex structures in their writing.

Conclusions and Pedagogical Implications

Underpinned by the Reading-to-Writing Model (Corden, 2000;
Smith, 1983), this study aimed to investigate how a reading
to reading connection project helped EFL learners’ literacy
development by guiding them to read simplified graded books
and produce creative writing in responding to the text. It also
sought to examine how reading serves as a stimulus, causing
reading to arouse the feeling and generate the ideas in
response to the reading texts (Smith & Dahl, 1984; Noyce &
Christie, 1989; Falk-Ross, 2002). These results support the
view that reading plays an important role in acquiring
students with the rules and characteristics of skilled writing.
They also are in accord with previous studies which have
suggested that reading and writing should be mutually
reinforced; that is, reading helps writing with the stimulus,
structures, feeling and prior experience (schema), just as
writing helps readers look back what they read
(metacognitive skills).
This study adopted guided categories for text analysis to
help beginning EFL learners become involved in the plot,
characters' relationships, major themes, reader's responses
and so on. Through the guided reading of the texts, they were
able to comprehend the reading text easily and experience
vicariously the actions and emotions of the characters in the
story and shared their problems and concerns. As shown in
the findings in this study, reading the text offered students
opportunities to experience vicariously the actions and
emotions of the characters in the reading text. The
participants compared and contrasted these experiences with
their own and showed their responses to what they read and
felt. In this way, reading stories can be a vicarious experience
providing students important insights about themselves and
the world around them.
The results indicate that reading the simplified graded work
can not only be a stimulus for creative writing, but also
acquaint students with the use of words, as well as the rules.
Additionally, the students also became aware of the text
structure, the skills and characteristics the author deliberately
used to begin the story and then subconsciously transferred
them to their own writing. Evidence for this transformation
can be seen in the students’ pages of creative writing, within
which the students transferred the imaginative energy from
the literary text. That is, reading can be a stimulus to spur
readers' imaginative writing. Thus, in EFL learning, reading
stories helps to promote the students’ creativity.
The results of this study implied that EFL students have to
learn to read beyond the words and beginning EFL readers
need guidance from the teacher. They can read the simplified
graded work assigned by their teacher or bring their own for
story sharing with the other learners. What the teacher does
is to bridge the gap whenever student readers meet
difficulties in understanding the text. The teacher then
comments on the story’s organization, the characters, and the
plot. The world of students and the world of the novel will be
connected, too. Moreover, the classroom discussions help to
develop the reflective thought processes and writing skills in
the students.
Based on the schema theory, we suggest that teachers
should provide students with as various reading materials as
possible, leading to more input as Krashen suggests.
Through more access to reading stories and evaluating
different modes of construct, students gain valuable
experience to deepen and expand their consciousness of the
richness of life. A short story, a newspaper article, a letter, an
advertisement, or a poem can work as a content to provide
for writing. Other activities such as summaries, responses,
outlining or pre-reading writing are believed to be useful to
examine and facilitate reading comprehension.
Although the study showed positive with EFL college
students in term of their linguistic development and personal
growth, however, this reading-writing project was a required
course assignment through a semester. It is worth further
study to investigate the relationship between the value the
individual student associates with success from the reading-
to-write project and their motivation to read in English in
terms of each different constructs, e.g. intrinsic value of
reading, attainment value of reading, and extrinsic value of
reading, etc..

1.All quotations are presented in English for a consistent use

of the language use in this paper, although the interviews
were conducted and transcribed in Chinese. The English
version of transcript was reconfirmed with the students in order
not to change their original meaning.

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Online Resources: Digests

September 2001

Integrated Skills in the ESL/EFL Classroom

Rebecca Oxford, University of Maryland

Download a PDF of thi

One image for teaching English as a second or foreign language (ESL/EFL) is that of a tapestry. The tapestry is woven from many
such as the characteristics of the teacher, the learner, the setting, and the relevant languages (i.e., English and the native langua
learners and the teacher). For the instructional loom to produce a large, strong, beautiful, colorful tapestry, all of these strands m
interwoven in positive ways. For example, the instructor's teaching style must address the learning style of the learner, the learne
motivated, and the setting must provide resources and values that strongly support the teaching of the language. However, if the
are not woven together effectively, the instructional loom is likely to produce something small, weak, ragged, and pale—not recog
a tapestry at all.

In addition to the four strands mentioned above—teacher, learner, setting, and relevant languages—other important strands exist
tapestry. In a practical sense, one of the most crucial of these strands consists of the four primary skills of listening, reading, spe
writing. This strand also includes associated or related skills such as knowledge of vocabulary, spelling, pronunciation, syntax, me
usage. The skill strand of the tapestry leads to optimal ESL/EFL communication when the skills are interwoven during instruction.
known as the integrated-skill approach.

If this weaving together does not occur, the strand consists merely of discrete, segregated skills—parallel threads that do not touc
support, or interact with each other. This is sometimes known as the segregated-skill approach. Another title for this mode of inst
the language-based approach, because the language itself is the focus of instruction (language for language's sake). In this appro
emphasis is not on learning for authentic communication.

By examining segregated-skill instruction, we can see the advantages of integrating the skills and move toward improving teachin
English language learners.

Segregated-Skill Instruction

In the segregated-skill approach, the mastery of discrete language skills such as reading and speaking is seen as the key to succe
learning, and language learning is typically separate from content learning (Mohan, 1986). This is contrary to the integrated way
use language skills in normal communication, and it clashes with the direction in which language teaching experts have been mov
recent years.

Skill segregation is reflected in traditional ESL/EFL programs that offer classes focusing on segregated language skills. Why do the
such classes? Perhaps teachers and administrators think it is logistically easier to present courses on writing divorced from speaki
listening isolated from reading. They may believe that it is instructionally impossible to concentrate on more than one skill at a tim

Even if it were possible to fully develop one or two skills in the absence of all the others, such an approach would not ensure adeq
preparation for later success in academic communication, career-related language use, or everyday interaction in the language. A
example is the grammar-translation method, which teaches students to analyze grammar and to translate (usually in writing) from
language to another. This method restricts language learning to a very narrow, noncommunicative range that does not prepare st
use the language in everyday life.

Frequently, segregated-skill ESL/EFL classes present instruction in terms of skill-linked learning strategies: reading strategies, list
strategies, speaking strategies, and writing strategies (see Peregoy & Boyle, 2001). Learning strategies are srategies that student
most often consciously, to improve their learning. Examples are guessing meaning based on context, breaking a sentence or word
parts to understand the meaning, and practicing the language with someone else.

Very frequently, experts demonstrate strategies as though they were linked to only one particular skill, such as reading or writing
Peregoy & Boyle, 2001). However, it can be confusing or misleading to believe that a given strategy is associated with only one sp
language skill. Many strategies, such as paying selective attention, self-evaluating, asking questions, analyzing, synthesizing, plan
predicting, are applicable across skill areas (see Oxford, 1990). Common strategies help weave the skills together. Teaching stude
improve their learning strategies in one skill area can often enhance performance in all language skills (Oxford, 1996).

Fortunately, in many instances where an ESL or EFL course is labeled by a single skill, the segregation of language skills might be
partial or even illusory. If the teacher is creative, a course bearing a discrete-skill title might actually involve multiple, integrated
example, in a course on intermediate reading, the teacher probably gives all of the directions orally in English, thus causing stude
their listening ability to understand the assignment. In this course, students might discuss their readings, thus employing speakin
listening skills and certain associated skills, such as pronunciation, syntax, and social usage. Students might be asked to summar
analyze readings in written form, thus activating their writing skills. In a real sense, then, some courses that are labeled accordin
specific skill might actually reflect an integrated-skill approach after all.

The same can be said for ESL/EFL textbooks. A particular series might highlight certain skills in one book or another, but all the la
skills might nevertheless be present in the tasks in each book. In this way, students have the benefit of practicing all the languag
an integrated, natural, communicative way, even if one skill is the main focus of a given volume.

In contrast to segregated-skill instruction, both actual and apparent, there are at least two forms of instruction that are clearly or
toward integrating the skills.

Two Forms of Integrated-Skill Instruction

Two types of integrated-skill instruction are content-based language instruction and task-based instruction. The first of these emp
learning content through language, while the second stresses doing tasks that require communicative language use. Both of these
from a diverse range of materials, textbooks, and technologies for the ESL or EFL classroom.

Content-Based Instruction. In content-based instruction, students practice all the language skills in a highly integrated, comm
fashion while learning content such as science, mathematics, and social studies. Content-based language instruction is valuable a
of proficiency, but the nature of the content might differ by proficiency level. For beginners, the content often involves basic socia
interpersonal communication skills, but past the beginning level, the content can become increasingly academic and complex. The
Academic Language Learning Approach (CALLA), created by Chamot and O'Malley (1994) shows how language learning strategies
integrated into the simultaneous learning of content and language.

At least three general models of content-based language instruction exist: theme-based, adjunct, and sheltered (Scarcella & Oxfo
The theme-based model integrates the language skills into the study of a theme (e.g., urban violence, cross-cultural differences in
practices, natural wonders of the world, or a broad topic such as change). The theme must be very interesting to students and m
wide variety of language skills to be practiced, always in the service of communicating about the theme. This is the most useful a
widespread form of content-based instruction today, and it is found in many innovative ESL and EFL textbooks. In the adjunct mo
language and content courses are taught separately but are carefully coordinated. In the sheltered model, the subject matter is ta
simplified English tailored to students' English proficiency level.

Task-Based Instruction. In task-based instruction, students participate in communicative tasks in English. Tasks are defined as
that can stand alone as fundamental units and that require comprehending, producing, manipulating, or interacting in authentic la
while attention is principally paid to meaning rather than form (Nunan, 1989).

The task-based model is beginning to influence the measurement of learning strategies, not just the teaching of ESL and EFL. In t
instruction, basic pair work and group work are often used to increase student interaction and collaboration. For instance, student
together to write and edit a class newspaper, develop a television commercial, enact scenes from a play, or take part in other join
More structured cooperative learning formats can also be used in task-based instruction. Task-based instruction is relevant to all l
language proficiency, but the nature of the task varies from one level to the other. Tasks become increasingly complex at higher p
levels. For instance, beginners might be asked to introduce each other and share one item of information about each other. More
students might do more intricate and demanding tasks, such as taking a public opinion poll at school, the university, or a shoppin

Advantages of the Integrated-Skill Approach

The integrated-skill approach, as contrasted with the purely segregated approach, exposes English language learners to authentic
and challenges them to interact naturally in the language. Learners rapidly gain a true picture of the richness and complexity of th
language as employed for communication. Moreover, this approach stresses that English is not just an object of academic interest
merely a key to passing an examination; instead, English becomes a real means of interaction and sharing among people. This ap
allows teachers to track students' progress in multiple skills at the same time. Integrating the language skills also promotes the le
real content, not just the dissection of language forms. Finally, the integrated-skill approach, whether found in content-based or t
language instruction or some hybrid form, can be highly motivating to students of all ages and backgrounds.

Integrating the Language Skills

In order to integrate the language skills in ESL/EFL instruction, teachers should consider taking these steps:

• Learn more about the various ways to integrate language skills in the classroom (e.g., content-based, task-based, or a
• Reflect on their current approach and evaluate the extent to which the skills are integrated.
• Choose instructional materials, textbooks, and technologies that promote the integration of listening, reading, speaking,
writing, as well as the associated skills of syntax, vocabulary, and so on.
• Even if a given course is labeled according to just one skill, remember that it is possible to integrate the other language s
through appropriate tasks.
• Teach language learning strategies and emphasize that a given strategy can often enhance performance in multiple skills


With careful reflection and planning, any teacher can integrate the language skills and strengthen the tapestry of language teachi
learning. When the tapestry is woven well, learners can use English effectively for communication.


Chamot, A. U., & O'Malley , J.M. (1994). The CALLA handbook: Implementing the cognitive-academic language learning approach. Reading: MA: Ad


O'Malley, J.M., & Valdez Pierce, L. (1996).Authentic assessment for English language learners: Practical approaches for teachers. New York: Addison

Mohan, B. (1986). Language and content. Reading, MA: Addison Wesley.

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A full-length version of this article appeared in ESL Magazine, Vol. 6, No. 1, January/February 200

This digest was prepared with funding from the U.S. Dept. of Education, Office of Educational Research and Improvement, Nation
of Education, under contract no. ED-99-CO-0008. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of ED

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