Exploring the interdependence of second language skills for middle school students studying English in Korea : effects of extensive reading and extensive writing on reading, writing, grammar, and attitude measures



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Despite the growing recognition of the reading-writing connection both in first language and second/foreign language acquisition, few studies have empirically investigated whether reading improves writing, or vice versa. Taking a step further from the existing correlation studies, the current experimental study examined the effects of extensive reading, extensive writing, and regular instruction (serving as a control) on reading comprehension, writing performance, knowledge of grammar, and attitudes of Korean middle school students learning English as a foreign language. Randomly assigned to one of three instructional types, the participants (N = 306) received treatment instruction, once a week for two semesters, as part of their English curricula. At the beginning and end of the treatment, the study administered language measures of reading, writing, and grammar as well as attitude questionnaires toward their treatment and toward reading and writing in English. Results indicated that both extensive reading and extensive writing had positive effects on the development of reading comprehension, writing performance, and grammar knowledge. The results reveal particular support for the reading-writing connections. For example, the extensive-reading group, but not the control group, made significant gains in writing, though neither group engaged in writing practice in English. The extensive-writing group, moreover, improved significantly in reading comprehension despite only practicing writing. Also, the contributions of treatment instruction to knowledge of grammar did not significantly differ among the three groups. Nevertheless, exploratory post hoc analyses suggest that extensive reading may have a more positive impact on general grammar, articles, and prepositions. In terms of students’ attitudes, the extensive-writing group did not indicate their willingness to continue to write, despite the significantly higher levels of enjoyment and engagement in the activity. In contrast, the extensive-reading group revealed a significantly stronger willingness to sustain reading books as well as a significant decrease in reading apprehension, particularly among students at the lowest proficiency level. The predominant status of reading over writing in English curricula as well as exams seems to influence students’ attitudes toward reading and writing. Findings are used to propose theoretical, practical, and pedagogical implications.