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Free TESOL Quarterly Article:
"New Ways of Connecting Reading and Writing"
December 2013: Volume 47, Issue 4

This article first appeared in TESOL Quarterly, Volume 47, Number 4, pgs. 825–830. Subscribers can access issues here. Only TESOL members may subscribe. To become a member of TESOL, please click here, and to purchase articles, please visit Wiley-Blackwell. © TESOL International Association.

Over the last few decades, writing for academic, business, and professional purposes has moved almost entirely from paper to screen. Throughout the developed world and in much of the developing world, there is little serious writing that is not done digitally. The transition to digital reading has come a bit more slowly. Although Web-based reading has been gradually expanding for the last 20 years, it is only with the advent of smartphones, tablets, and e-readers that magazine and book reading has gravitated to digital media. A preference for digital reading is especially prevalent among the young, who also tend to be the principal audience of English as a second or foreign language programs around the world. Though digital literacy can be broadly defined, in this contribution we will focus particularly on the skills and practices of reading and writing, and how those are transformed in the digital environment. In doing so, we make reference to several of our recent research projects at the University of California, Irvine, each of which indicates important connections between digital reading and writing.


Researchers and educators in the field of TESOL have been among the earliest to explore scaffolded reading on computers, investigating the effect of features such as first and second language vocabulary glosses; visual, audio, and audiovisual supports; advance organizers; highlighting of words; and text-to-speech (Chun, 2011). The broad transition of reading from page to screen allows many more opportunities for digitally supporting reading. Anderson-Inman and Horney (2007) provide an excellent review and categorization of the ways that this can occur (see Table 1). Our research team in the Digital Learning Lab at the University of California has been investigating two of these ways, the presentational and the collaborative.

As for the presentational, we are studying the use of visual-syntactic text formatting (VSTF; Walker, Schloss, Fletcher, Vogel, & Walker, 2005) for reading. VSTF uses a cascaded form of organization that better matches the human eye span and highlights the syntactic meaning of texts (see Figure 1). Earlier studies suggested a wide range of literacy benefits for students, and especially for English learners (Warschauer, Park, & Walker, 2011). Our most recent research confirmed these benefits in a study of 23 sixth-grade classrooms with large numbers of English as a second language (ESL) students in southern California (Park, Warschauer, Collins, Hwang, & Vogel, 2013). The random-assignment experimental study found that students who read with VSTF for a school year had significantly greater improvement on the English Language Arts California Standards Test, as well as on its Word Analysis, Writing Strategies, and Writing Conventions subtests.

Download the full article and references for free (PDF)


This article first appeared in TESOL Quarterly, 47, 825–830. For permission to use text from this article, please go to Wiley-Blackwell and click on "Request Permissions" under "Article Tools."
doi: 10.1002/tesq.131

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Table of Contents
TC Homepage
3 Reasons to Flip Your Classroom
Ways to Increase Student Talk
Teaching Multiple Meaning Words
Quick Tip: Discussion Roles
Free TQ Article
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Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages

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