George Lucas Educational Foundation

Disconnect between reading and writing?

Disconnect between reading and writing?

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I'm a third year middle school English teacher in Austin, Texas. This year, I'm teaching 3 sections of 8th grade, one section of 7th grade, and two sections of a mythology elective. I have a student in mythology who literally cannot write a single word correctly. He is tracked by ESL and is evaluated every year, but does not receive any instruction from an ESL teacher. He is in regular-level courses. His writing is completely unreadable. He writes in this horrible mish-mash of misspelled Spanish and misspelled English. He inserts letters randomly with little to no sense. His reading however, is at an intermediate level. He can read and comprehend texts (below grade-level) fairly well. He speaks and listens pretty well too. He's not in my English class, but I've decided to start working with him after school on phonics. My question is, why can't this kid write? What's the disconnect between reading/comprehending/speaking and writing?

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Hubert V. Yee's picture
Hubert V. Yee
social media and marketing manager of startup

Hi Allison,

I shared your challenge with some Twitter folks. I received this response form a Twitter community member:

From @pressn4truth "@edutopiahubert Checked his reading comprehension? Lots of kids have superb fluency without much comprehension."

This tweet provide a lead for you.

You said he was evaluated every year. What kind of evaluations is he receiving?


Ms. Evans's picture
Ms. Evans
Founder of EVS Orlando Tutor

I agree, check all test records. How transient has the student been? Young ESL students' most common struggle is with comprehension. They learn how to read, but essentially have no understanding of the message in most passages. In Florida bilingual programs literally teach lessons in two languages. There are pros and cons, but in the long run if a student is able to stick with the program and has adequate intelligence the student succeeds as a fluent bilingual. Unfortunately, most bilingual enrolled students are very transient..... So just imagine. First thing, give him an English/ Spanish dictionary to keep. As for the writing, I would recommend a good writing tutor right away. He is welcome to join my blog for free, if he has a computer. Share my website. I can also meet him on video chat or Skype for a personal evaluation. A video chat tool can help me see his writing up close. I have worked with many ESL.

Melissa Beykirch's picture
Melissa Beykirch
Kindergarten Teacher in Little Egg Harbor Township, NJ

Being a primary teacher I am coming from a completely different angle. I too am curious as of his testing and evaluations. If he is struggling in an area I think it would be beneficial to know if it is ESL related. However, my gut is telling that because he was most likely an ESL learner for most of his elementary years exceptions may have been made and he most likely developed some bad habits. He may have never been taught how to write.
I am also curious - if he can read regular level texts can he read his own writings? Also, is he only struggling with the mechanics of writing?
A suggestion would be to have him keep a daily journal about himself... all students like to write about themselves...or any topic (s) you feel appropriate. Have him read his entries to you and then you rewrite or "underwrite" the correct spelling, spacing, etc... Then have him read it again.
I hope this is of some help.
Good Luck.

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