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How to Help Your Child Improve in Writing Using Reading-Writing Connections

Updated on October 17, 2016

Steps to Follow For Best Results to Help Your Child Make the Reading-Writing Connection

I like to think of reading and writing as opposite sides of a coin. The old song “Love and Marriage” correctly states, “You can’t have one without the other.” We perform these skills differently, yet each skill is dependent on the other for understanding. A student who progresses in reading comprehension will naturally improve his writing skills. Conversely, students whose writing improves are likely to show gains in reading comprehension. Most teachers have been aware of this phenomenon even before it was validated by research. In recent years, however, reading-writing research conducted with students from grades one through twelve, as well as a few studies with college students, bear out this fact---reading and writing are connected. Students can benefit significantly from receiving instruction that combines the teaching of reading and writing.

Research Support for Reading-Writing Connections

There are several reasons why students who receive instruction in reading comprehension frequently show improvement in their writing. The main reason is that reading good literature provides a student with models of well-written paragraphs and stories. Seeing how the paragraph or story is organized helps the reader to know what to do when he or she writes a paragraph. In other words, the student then models his or her writing after excellent samples. In other words, the first step for a parent or teacher to take in helping a student improve her writing is to provide them with lots of well-written reading material.

Several studies in the field of reading, and there are too many to name them all here, support the reading-writing connection. Shanahan, one well-known reading expert, states that “reading and writing could be thought of as two separate, but overlapping ways of thinking about the world” (1997). Another study by Clarke (1988) with younger students reported that both reading and writing activities have a positive impact on children’s spelling. In a study with older students of high school age, (Nauman, 1990) reported that students benefit from combining reading and writing lessons. This study found that both reading and the writing skills improved after students received instruction that combined the teaching of these two subjects.

Preliminary Preparation. In guiding students through this process, the teacher or parent should select high quality material for the student to read. At some point in this process, the student should be aware that she will complete a writing assignment.

1. The student should select a topic before beginning the writing assignment.

2. Brainstorming. After selecting a topic, the student fills a page with as many ideas as possible that are relevant to that topic. This brainstorming step is to be completed at some point early in the writing process. I will write an additional hub on the steps one should follow in guiding a student through the brainstorming process.

The following steps outline the procedure to follow in first completing the guided reading and then writing a paragraph.

Step 1—Find the main idea of the paragraph. In a longer selection the main idea is the thesis or sometimes it may be referred to as the central point.

A teacher, parent, or tutor who is guiding a student in the reading-writing process might want to begin with a paragraph instead of a longer selection. As the student reads for comprehension, she learns to identify several parts of the paragraph. In my hub “How to Help Your Child Find the Main Idea of a Paragraph,” I outline the steps in finding the main idea. Knowing how to find the main idea is essential because main idea is the heart of reading comprehension.

Step 2---Find the major supporting details. After locating the main idea of the paragraph, students can find the major supporting details of a paragraph. The supporting details are usually reasons, facts, examples, or steps that explain the main idea. Again, these guidelines apply mainly to academic reading and writing. One method for locating the major supporting details is to find the transitions within the body of the paragraph. These words form bridges between the ideas or sentences and give important clues about the type of organization of the paragraph. Some of the more common transitions are listed in a separate chart on this hub. Another step in locating supporting details is to refer to the main idea and ask the question: What sentences in this selection provide reasons, facts, examples, or steps about this general statement, the main idea. The supporting details all have common characteristics that link them to the main idea. Supporting details are specific statements while main ideas are general statements.

Step 3---Minor supporting details. After each major supporting detail, the writer usually has a sentence or two explaining the major detail. These minor supporting details aren’t necessarily present after each major detail, but many of the major details need a sentence or two for additional explanation of the ideas. A typical well-developed paragraph usually presents three or four major supporting details and a sentence or two after each major detail that explains the major detail. These sentences that follow the major supporting details are the minor details. However, a major supporting detail does not have to have a minor detail. Finally, the last sentence of the paragraph is usually a closing statement that summarizes or ties together the main idea presented in the paragraph.

Step 4---Application for writing. Brainstorming. Students usually complete a page of brainstorming before beginning to write. First of all, in beginning the writing process, the student refers to his or her brainstorming page and determines the main idea, the general idea that covers what most of the ideas in the selection are all about. {For steps on how to find the main idea, read my hub “How to Teach Your Child to Find the Main Idea.}”

Step 5---Application for writing. Writing the Main Idea or Topic Sentence. Just as the main idea of a paragraph in a textbook is usually the first sentence, the main idea or topic sentence should be placed first. It’s a good idea at this point to explain to the student that it’s not unusual to see main ideas in other places in nonacademic writing. Their paragraphs should usually follow academic standards for paragraphs and essays. They can branch out later and experiment, but they will avoid problems in their writing if they follow this guideline for now.

Step 6---Application for writing. Supporting Details—Major and Minor. Supporting details are reasons, facts, examples, or steps that explain the main idea.

To determine the major and minor supporting details, the student looks over her list of ideas on the brainstorming page and selects three or four major details that she believes provide the best examples or facts or reasons or steps about the main idea. The student writes 3-4 sentences, one for each major detail in the paragraph after the main idea or topic sentence. Most of the sentences that give the major supporting details include a transition or bridge word. Right most of the supporting detail sentences, the student writes a sentence or two that explains that particular major supporting detail. These sentences are the minor supporting details.


To summarize, the topic sentence is usually the first sentence in a paragraph, followed by three or four major supporting details. Most of the major details will have a sentence or two that comes after the major detail. These sentences are the minor details. The last sentence in the paragraph gives the paragraph a sense of closure.

When students read paragraphs and learn to find the main idea, major and minor details, they are more effective readers. A student who can locate the essential parts of a paragraph is almost certain to see an improvement in comprehension and retention of ideas that she reads while achieving a more immediate goal---improved grades. The needs of younger children may require that the tutor, teacher, or parent guide them through the steps of writing a paragraph while high school or college students can work independently through this process.

Addition Words: Transitions That Signal Supporting Details

one to begin with in addition last

first another next last of all

first of all second moreover final

for one thing also furthermore



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    • simondixie profile image

      Nancy McLendon Scott 4 years ago from Georgia

      Thank you! I appreciate your comments.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      If a student grasps these important key points, they will find success in writing for a lifetime. Wonderfully stated!