Just as there are non-swimmers, poor swimmers, and excellent swimmers, so it is for writers. Why isn’t everyone an excellent writer? What is it about writing that blocks so many people, even in their own native language? Why don’t people learn to write “naturally”, as they learn to talk? How can we best teach second language learners of English how to write? What should we be trying to teach? Let’s look at these and many other related questions concerning with this skill.
TYPES OF CLASSROOM WRITING PERFORMANCE
1. Imitative, or writing down
At the beginning level of learning to write, students will simply “write down” English letters, words, and possibly sentences in order to learn the conventions of the orthographic code. Some forms of dictation fall into this category, although dictations can serve to teach and test higher-order processing as well. Dictations typically involve the following steps:
– Teacher reads a short paragraph once or twice at normal speed.
– Teacher reads the paragraph in short phrase units of three or four words each, and each unit is followed by a pause.
– During the pause, students write exactly what they hear.
– Teacher then reads the whole paragraph once more at normal speed so students can check their writing.
– Scoring of students’ written work can utilize a number of rubrics for assigning points. Usually spelling and punctuation errors are not considered as severe as grammatical errors.
2. Intensive, or controlled
A common form of controlled writing is to present a paragraph to students in which they have to alter a given structure throughout. So, for example, they may be asked to change all present tense verbs to past tense; in such a case, students may need to alter other time references in the paragraph.
Guided writing loosens the teacher’s control but still offer a series of stimulators. For example, the teacher might get students to tell a story just viewed on a videotape by asking them a series of questions: Where does the story take place? Describe the principal character. What does he say to the woman in the car?
A significant proportion of classroom writing may be devoted to self-writing with only the self in mind as an audience. The most salient instance of this category in classrooms in note-taking, where students take notes during a lecture for the purpose of later recall. Other note-taking may be done in the margins of books and on odd scraps of paper. Diary or journal writing also falls into this category.
4. Display writing
For all language students, short answer exercises, essay examinations, and even research reports will involve an element of display. For academically bound ESL students, one of the academic skills that they need to master is a whole array of display writing techniques.
5. Real writing
This kind of writing aims at the genuine communication of messages to an audience in need of those messages. Some examples of real writing are post-cards, letters, personal messages, notes for other persons and other informal written texts.
PRINCIPLES FOR DESIGNING WRITING TECHNIQUES
1. Incorporate practices of “good” writers
This first guideline is sweeping. But as you contemplate devising a technique that has a writing goal in it, consider the various things that efficient writers do, and see if your technique includes some of these practices. For examples, good writers
– focus on a goal or main idea in writing,
– perceptively gauge their audience,
– spend some time (but do not too much!) planning to write,
– easily let their first ideas flow onto the paper,
– follow a general organizational plan as they write,
– solicit and utilize feedback on their writing,
– are not wedded to certain surface structures,
– revise their work willingly and efficiently,
– patiently make as many revisions as needed.
2. Balance process and product
Because writing is a composing process and usually requires multiple drafts before an effective product is created, make sure that students are carefully led through appropriate stages in the process of composing. At the same time, don’t get so caught up in the stages leading up to the final product that you lose sight of the ultimate attainment: a clear, articulate, well-organized, effective piece of writing. Make sure students see that everything leading up to this final creation was worth to effort.
3. Account for cultural/literary backgrounds
Make sure that your techniques do not assume that your students know English rhetorical conventions. If there are some apparent contrast between students’ native traditions and those that you are trying to teach, try to help students to understand what it is, exactly, that they are accustomed to and then, by degrees, bring them to the use of acceptable English rhetoric.
4. Connect reading and writing
Clearly, students learn to write in part by carefully observing what is already written. That is, they learn by observing, or reading, the written word. By reading and studying a variety of relevant types of text, students can gain important insights both about how they should write and about subject matter that may become the topic of their writing.
5. Provide as much authentic writing as possible
Whether writing is real writing or for display, it can still be authentic in that the purposes for writing are clear to the students, the audience is specified overtly, and there is at least some intent to convey meaning. Sharing writing with other students in the class is one way to add authenticity. Publishing a class newsletter, writing letters to people outside of class, writing a script for a skit or dramatic presentation, writing a resume, writing advertisements – all these can be seen as authentic writing.
6. Frame your techniques in terms of prewriting, drafting, and revising stages
Process writing approaches tend to be framed in three stages of writing. The prewriting stage encourages the generation of ideas, which can happen in numerous ways:
– reading (extensively) a passage
– skimming and/or scanning a passage
– conducting some outside research
– listing (in writing – individually)
– discussing a topic or question
– instructor-initiated questions and probes
The drafting and revising stages are the core of writing process. In a process approach, drafting is viewed as an important and complex set strategies, the mastery of which takes time, patience, and trained instruction. Several strategies and skills apply to the drafting/revising process in writing:
- getting started
- “optimal” monitoring of one’s writing (without premature editing and diverted attention to wording, grammar, etc.)
- peer-reviewing for content (accepting/using classmates’ comments)
- using the instructor’s feedback
- editing for grammatical errors
- “read aloud” technique (in small groups or pairs, students read their almost-final drafts to each other for a final check on errors, flow of ideas, etc.)
7. Strive to offer techniques that are as interactive as possible
It is no doubt already apparent that a process-oriented approach to writing instruction is, by definition, interactive (as students work in pairs and groups to generate ideas and to peer-edit), as well as learner-centered (with ample opportunities for students to initiative activity and exchange ideas). Writing techniques that focus on purposes other than compositions (such as letters, form, memos, directions, short reports) are also subject to the principles of interactive classrooms. Group collaboration, brainstorming, and critiquing are easily and successfully a part of many writing-focused techniques.
8. Sensitively apply methods of responding to and correcting our students’ writing
Error treatment can begin in the drafting and revising stages. The errors can be treated through self-correction, peer-correction, and instructor initiated comments. As we respond to the students’ writing, remember that we are there as an ally, as a guide, as a facilitator. After the final work is turned in, we may indeed have to assume the position of judge and evaluator. Ideally, our responses are in the forms of written and oral comments. Here are some guidelines for responding to the first draft:
– indicate the grammatical errors either directly (say, by underlining) or indirectly (for example, by a check next to the line in which an error occur)
– resist the temptation to rewrite a student’s sentence
– comment holistically, in terms of the clarity of the overall thesis and the general structure organization
– comment on the introductory paragraph
– comment on features that appear to be irrelevant to the topic
– question clearly inadequate word choices and awkward expression within those paragraphs/sentences that are irrelevant to the topic
9. Clearly instruct students on the rhetorical, formal conventions of writing
For academic writing, some features the students should perform to explain, propose solutions, debate, and argue are as follows:
– a clear statement of the thesis or topic or purpose
– use of main ideas to develop or clarify the thesis
– use of supporting details/ideas
– supporting by “telling”: describing
– supporting by “showing”: giving evidence, facts, statistics, etc.
– supporting by linking cause and effect
– supporting by using comparison and/or contrast
EVALUATING STUDENT WRITING
The table below shows the general categories that are often the basis for the evaluation of student writing:
Development of ideas through personal experience, illustration, facts, opinions
Use of description, cause/effect, comparison/contrast
Effectiveness of introduction
Logical sequence of ideas
Choice of the words
Citation of references (if applicable)
Neatness and appearance
– Rearrange the paragraph into a good paragraph!
My Terrible Day
(1) I had a terrible day today! (2) I woke up late. (3) I had to hurry. (4) I was hungry. (5) I didn’t eat any breakfast. (6) I got dressed. (7) I grabbed my books. (8) I ran all the way to the bus stop. (9) The bus was just pulling away. (10) I yelled. (11) The bus driver didn’t hear me. (12) I could take a taxi to school. (13) I could walk. (14) I decided to walk.
(15) One hour later, I arrived at school. (16) I had missed my first class. (17) I was late to my second one. (18) After lunch, I had a chemistry test. (19) I hadn’t studied for it. (20) Of course, I failed it.
(21) After school, I walked to the bus stop. (22) It started to rain. (23) I didn’t bring my umbrella. (24) I got soaked. (25) Finally, the bus came. (26) I got on. (27) I reached into my pocket for my bus fare. (28) My pocket was empty. (29) My money was gone! (30) I couldn’t pay the bus fare. (31) I had to walk home in the rain.
(32) At last I got home. (33) I cooked dinner. (34) I burned everything. (35) I ate it anyway. (36) I washed the dishes. (37) I did my homework. (38) I went to bed. (39) In the middle of the night, my bed collapsed. (40) I fell on the floor. (41) I could get up and fix my bed. (42) I could sleep on the floor. (43) I was very tired. (44) I decided to sleep on the floor the rest of the night.
(45) I certainly hope tomorrow will be a better day!
1. Copy sentence 1 without change.
2. Combine sentences 2 and 3.
3. Combine sentences 4 and 5.
I had a terrible day today! I woke up late, so I had to hurry. I was hungry but I didn’t eat any breakfast. I got dressed….
4. Combine sentences 6, 7, and 8.
5. Copy sentence 9 without change.
6. Combine sentences 10 and 11.
7. Combine sentences 12 and 13.
8. Copy sentence 14 without change.
9. Copy sentence 15 without change.
10. Combine sentences 16 and 17.
11. Copy sentence 18 without change.
12. Combine sentences 19 and 20.
13. Copy sentence 21 without change.
14. Combine sentences 22, 23 and 24.
15. Combine sentences 25 and 26.
16. Combine sentences 27 and 28.
17. Copy sentence 29 without change.
18. Combine sentences 30 and 31.
19. Copy sentence 32 without change.
20. Combine sentences 33, 34, and 35.
21. Combine sentences 36, 37, and 38.
22. Combine sentences 39 and 40.
23. Combine sentences 41 and 42.
24. Combine sentences 43 and 44.
25. Copy sentence 45 without change.
Note: Your answer to the starred sentences will be compound sentences with three independent clauses instead of two.
Example: I don’t like to cook, but my roommate does, so she does all the cooking.
Taken from Brown’s Teaching by Principles: An Interactive Approach to Language Pedagogy and Oshima’s Introduction to Academic Writing
EXERCISE (SENTENCE CORRECTION)
- Change the below sentences into correct sentences!
a. I know my hair needs cut but I never have time go to the barber.
b. The snow keep to fall and the workmen grew tired of try keep the roads clean.
c. They accused him of set fire to the building but he denied has been there on the night of the fire.
d. I must to ask you stop interfere.
e. Did you notice her reads my letter?
f. Ask him coming! Don’t keep him to wait at the door!
g. This book tells you how winning at games without cheat.
h. He made her repeating the message.
i. He heard the clock strikes six and he knew it was time for him getting up.
j. She like begin to knit but hate to finish it in the end.
- Change the below sentences into correct sentences!
a. It no good to write to him. The best way doing it and is going and seeing him right know.
b. They tried avoid to being late because they don’t want to late.
c. I can hear the bell rings but none seem to opening the door.
d. It is pleasant sit by the fire at night and hear the wind howls outside.
e. We heard the engine heard it fell with tremendous crash.
f. The boys next door used to likes make and fly a model aeroplane, but they seem having stopping do that now.
g. It is easy seeing animals on the road in the daylight but it is very difficult avoid hit them.
h. I instructed him do that but he refused do that.
i. My sister prefer go out than sleep now.
j. I had already told him doing it by himself without ask.