Modern methods of training of the letter. Improvement of skills of the letter of students. Constructing sentences from words and phrases. Drawing up of paragraphs of words, phrases, and offers. The methods of developing creative writing skills.
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Chapter 1. Teaching writing as a type of communication
Part 1. Skill building and the process approach to writing
Part 2. Main techniques for getting started writing process
Part 3. Teaching writing techniques
Chapter 2. Teaching creative writing techniques
Part 1. The methods of developing creative writing skills
Part 2. Activities for teaching creative writing techniques
The list of used literature
General characteristics of the work
The actuality of the work. In recent years language researchers and practitioners have shifted their focus from developing individual linguistic skills to the use of language to achieve the speaker's objectives. This new area of focus, known as communicative competence, leads language teachers to seek task-oriented activities that engage their students in creative language use. In the process of learning English as a foreign language, writing is considered as one of the most essential skills. In addition to being a communicative skill of vital importance, it is a skill which enables the learner to plan and rethink the communication process. Therefore, teaching writing skills should be taught gradually starting from instrumental skill to content-based writing. Teaching writing should be started from beginning level. Most school textbooks are focused on teaching writing separately without integration of other skills. In other words, our qualification work pursues as its major aim to help foreign students improve their writing skills with the integration of other skills from the beginning level. The significance of our work can be proved that we tried to find optional methods of improving writing skills from the beginning level and we applied them in practice.
The degree of studiedness. Teaching writing is a common theme among most researchers who worked in the sphere of language learning and methodology.
The tasks and objectives of the work. Having based upon the actuality of the theme we are able to formulate the general goals of our qualification work.
a) To study, analyze, and sum up the modern methods of teaching writing;
b) To analyze the major results achieved in the studied field;
c) To prove the idea of importance of improving students' writing skills;
d) To analyze school textbooks and work out a series of activities for improving students' writing skills.
The methods of the research. The main methods for compiling our work are the method of analysis and the method of research. In our work, we analyzed school textbooks and added some new activities which we considered suitable for teaching and improving students' writing skills.
The methodological foundation of the work. In our research we used the ideas of Uzbek, Russian and foreign methodologies who worked in the sphere of foreign language teaching methodology and language learning. We addressed to works of J. Jalolov, G. Rogova, Spack.R, G. L. Rico, J. Arnold, M. Boden and others for theoretical part of our work. In practical part of our work we appealed to school textbooks “Fly High” 5 and 7.
The novelty and practical importance of the work. The novelty of this research work is to find information about how to improve students' writing skills, analyzing school textbooks and applying found ideas into the lessons appropriately. This theme has been worked out by many scientists and researchers before but from the point of analyzing Uzbek school textbooks and creating a series of writing tasks in those textbooks hasn't been done yet. Also, we consider the idea of approbating new writing materials on English language lessons during our pedagogical practice is also one part of the novelty of our work. The present work might find a good way of implying in the following spheres:
1. In High Schools and scientific circles of language teaching methodology it can be successfully used by teachers and philologists as modern material for writing research works dealing with improving writing skills.
2. It can be used by teachers of schools, lyceums and colleges by teachers of English as a practical manual for teaching writing.
3. It can be useful for everyone who wants to enlarge his/her knowledge in English.
The structure of the work. Content of the work. The present qualification work consists of four parts: introduction, the main part, conclusion and bibliography. Within the introduction part, there is given a brief description of our qualification work where we described its actuality, practical significance, and fields of amplification, and described the role of writing skills in learning English. The main part of the qualification work includes several items. There we discussed issues such as skill building and the process approach to writing, main techniques for getting started writing process and teaching writing techniques. In the second chapter (practice part) of main part we described different types writing activities and included worksheets. In the conclusion part our qualification work we tried to draw some results from the scientific investigations made within the main part of the qualification work. In bibliography part we mentioned more than 20 sources which were used while compiling the present work. It includes linguistic books and articles dealing with the theme, a number of used encyclopedias, textbooks and some internet sources.
Chapter 1. Teaching writing as a type of communication
Part 1. Skill building and the process approach to writing
Within the communicative framework of language teaching, the skill of writing enjoys special status--it is via writing that a person can communicate a variety of messages to a close or distant, known or unknown reader or readers. Such communication is extremely important in the modern world, whether the interaction takes the form of traditional paper-and-pencil writing or the most ad- vanced electronic mail. Writing as a communicative activity needs to be encouraged and nurtured during the language learner's course of study, and this work will attempt to deal the early stages of EFL writing. The view of writing as an act of communication suggests an interactive process which takes place between the writer and the reader via the text.1 Such an approach places value on the goal of writing as well as on the perceived reader audience. Even if we are concerned with writing at the beginning level, these two aspects of the act of writing are vital importance; in setting writing tasks the teacher should encourage students to define, for themselves, the message they want to send and the audience who will receive it.
The writing process, in comparison to spoken interaction, imposes greater demands on the text, since written interaction lacks immediate feedback as a guide. The writer has to anticipate the reader's reactions and produce a text which will adhere to Grice's (1975) cooperative principle. According to this principle, the writer is obligated (by mutual cooperation) to try to write a clear, relevant, truthful, informative, interesting, and memorable text. The reader, on the otherhand, will interpret the text with due regard to the writer's presumed intention if the necessary clues are available in the text. Linguistic accuracy, clarity of presentation, organization of ideas are all crucial in the efficacy of the communicative act, since they supply the clues for interpretation. Accordingly, while the global perspective of content organization needs to be focused on and given appropriate attention, it is also most important to present a product which does not suffer from illegible writing. Writing is, in a very sense, a mirror image of reading. Both are interactive. Readers decode what writers encode. Both draw upon schemata. The reader brings prior knowledge to the comprehension of a text; the writer draws upon similar knowledge in composing a text.
Wilga Rivers1 makes the distinction between notation, or writing practice, and expressive writing, or composition. Notation ranges from mere copying to the construction of simple sentences describing facts or representing typical, uncomplicated speech. Expressive writing or composition involves the development of ideas either of a practical or a creative nature. Pedagogically, there is considerably more control in the development of notational skills than in more expressive types of writing. The expectation is that the EFL student will progress through several stages of writing practice to the early stages of creative composition. This development from control to creativity continues a line drawn throughout this manual in the chapters on dialogues, oral exercises, and reading comprehension.
The first activities are skill building exercises taking the learners from the very beginning to the mid-intermediate proficiency level. Here the focus is on structural detail and accuracy in the use of the written language. Learners are presented with textual segments, clues, and models of typical prose to assist them as they attempt to rearrange words or sentences, complete partially written texts, and imitate or modify entire paragraphs. In skill building exercises the progression is from simple to more complex structures, a so-called bottom up approach. The second part of the chapter, which is meant for intermediate and advanced learners, shifts the focus from the mechanical manipulation of structure to the more creative activities of process writing.
The process approach to writing is based upon a set of principles basically different from those underlying skill building. Where skill building exercises move from simple to complex structures, process writing, which is a top down model, starts with a concept or theme and works down to the grammatical and semantic units. In the process approach each learner completes a writing assignment in a group, exchanging ideas with other members of the group and receiving editorial help at various stages of composition. When conducted properly, process writing is a prime example of cooperative learning.
The process approach, with its stress on group interaction, is a direct offshoot of communicative language learning, just as pattern practice was a product of the audio-lingual method. For many years preoccupation with structural accuracy allowed little room for the development of cognitive strategies in creative writing. Students, left to their own resources, were often at a loss as to how to formulate ideas on a topic or theme. Process writing provides for the formulation of ideas and plans through learner cooperation, Rivers eliminating much of the isolation, frustration, and uncertainty encountered in writing programs of the past.
Recent studies have attempted to redirect the process approach with its stress on the general mechanics of creative composition to training in writing for specific content areas. The reason for this is a fear that process writing does not prepare students adequately for an academic career. In a content-based approach students develop writing skills within specific academic disciplines so that they will be able to compose essays and reports using the specialized vocabulary and structures peculiar to these disciplines. Usually offered at the university level, such courses are often adjuncts to academic courses, such as economics, history, or physics. Sometimes they are taught by teams composed of an EFL/ESL teacher and an instructor from the specific content area. In many respects, the content-based approach to writing has a lot in common with English for Special Purposes (ESP) courses, which are geared to developing oral and written proficiency in specific occupational fields.
In a similar reaction to process writing, other researchers have suggested that teachers of writing classes concentrate on what is expected in the American academic community.1 Advocates of what has come to be known as the audience-based approach mean to train students in the type of writing that will be expected of them at a university or college. Valid as they are, neither content- nor audience-based approaches to writing lie within the scope of this handbook, which is meant to assist instructors in teaching "general English." The range of topics and fields to which students might direct their knowledge of the language is very wide, ranging from critical appraisals of literature at one end of the scale, to issuing written staff orders for the daily management of a hotel at the other. Basic fluency can always be channeled into specific directions at a later date, particularly through the acquisition of specialized vocabulary. Skill building exercises have been divided into three categories as follows:
I. Constructing Sentences from Words and Phrases;
II. Constructing Paragraphs from Words, Phrases, and Sentences;
III. Constructing Paragraphs from Original Material.
The purpose throughout is to train the learners to think in logical sequences and to draw upon what they know of the target language in producing limited but meaningful prose.
I Constructing Sentences from Words and Phrases. At this stage the learner is engaged in the rudiments of writing practice as a means of reinforcing the command of basic syntactic structures. Intended for use with beginning level students, the exercises below are strictly controlled. In some cases the components of the structures are provided in random sequence, which the student is to arrange correctly. In others, essential elements of the sentence are omitted, and the student is to supply them. Both types of exercises involve copying, since the student should write out all completed sentences scattered elements provide practice in building both semantic and grammatical units.
1. | she intends | a teacher | Mary is planning to go | to become | to the university | because 2. | the village | the mountain | after | were | difficult climb | Anna, Bob, and Ralph their | when | very tired | up | they reached | Adding missing items to incomplete sentences encourages learners to draw upon or enlarge their repertory of vocabulary items. Learners complete the sentences below by putting the correct word in the blanks. In some slots more than one answer may be appropriate.
1. Mary _____ very happy______ see Harry _______ he returned ______his trip. ______ he _______ been away for _______ time.
2. _____ you like ______ go fishing _______ in _______ morning _______ the sun comes______?
II. Constructing paragraphs from words, phrases, and sentences.
And this is what truly distinguishes the spoken from written language. People do not normally speak in paragraphs. The spontaneous give and take of conservations is composed of elements that are seldom longer than sentences or sentence fragments. A short series of logically connected sentences may be uttered ina conversation, but carefully structured paragraph belongs to writing.
This type of writing exercises are meant to train learners first, to think logically in arranging words, phrases, and sentences in their proper order and second, to use limited amount of imagination and creativity in completing or composing sentences as part of paragraphs which have already been defined or described in some way. The tasks in section A do not require original contributions in the target language by the students. The tasks in section B do.
Section A. Constructing paragraphs from material provided in full.
Rearranging Full Sentences. Arrange the six sentences below in correct logical order to form a unified paragraph by placing a number in the blank to indicate the correct sequence.
____ After that they walked over to see the animals.
____ They told some funny jokes and did lots of tricks.
____ Last week, Harry took Mary to the circus.
____ Harry said there would be many different kinds, both fierce and friendly.
____ First, they went to see the clowns.
____ Mary thought they were interesting, but she preferred the clowns.
Section B. Constructing paragraphs from incomplete text. Here, as in the section above, Constructing Paragraphs from Material Provided in Full, learners are asked to draw upon their vocabulary resources. But at this point they are required to supply mainly lexical rather than grammatical forms as well as longer, more complicated structures. In the two exercises below learners fill in the blanks with words or larger constructions to form a logical and consistent paragraph. There is more than one possible solution to these exercises.
Supplying Missing Words or phrases.
Harry was carrying a large ________ in his with a lot of fruit in it. His _______, Tom, was carrying _________ too, but there wasn't any in it. There was just ________
Harry took a look at Tom's _________ and started to laugh. "I couldn't find any _______ this year," he ________ . "So I had to buy________ instead. But you were clever, Tom. Where did you find that _______?"
III. Constructing paragraphs from models. The activities presented here are based upon specimens of writing which serve as models for the iss. The exercises have two facets. First, they require that the learners understand the structure as well the content of the model paragraphs. Second, they direct the learners to imitate certain aspects of the structure and content of the model while making changes in others. In this way both reinforcement and activity are brought into play. The changes called for by these exercises may be purely grammatical, or they may involve vocabulary items of varying length and complexity. The goal, in all cases, is to achieve a certain degree of flexibility in the usage of individual elements while retaining a clear picture of the message and purpose of ae paragraph as a whole. The models used in this section are restricted to narratives. Learners rewrite the model paragraph below according to the instructions given in each exercise. As many altered compositions as time allows are read to the class, at which time corrections or improvements will be suggested. Model
It is a typical winter day, and Mr. Preston is taking a walk downtown. Even though the sun is shining brightly, it is bitterly cold, with a sharp wind. As he is walking along a side street, the wind suddenly blows his hat off his head and onto the roof of a nearby house. Mr. Preston is at first surprised and then quite angry. He fears that he has lost the hat forever because he is simply too old to climb houses. Since he is a reasonable man, however, he decides to forget the entire affair. Just as he is starting off again, another gust of wind blows the hat off the roof, and it lands at his feet. As he is bending over to pick it up, Mr. Preston thinks to himself, "I wish I were as lucky with things in general as I have been today with the wind."
A.Grammatical changes. 1. Gender The model paragraph is written about Mr. Preston. Change Mr. to Mrs. and make all other necessary alterations throughout the paragraph. 2. Tense The model paragraph is written as if the author were describing an event that is taking place at this moment. Rewrite the paragraph as if the action took place yesterday.
B.Vocabulary changes. 1. Substitution from a List . All of the items in the following list can be used as substitutes for items in the model paragraph. Take each item in the list and use it as a substitute for an item in the original. Make any other changes in the paragraph which are necessitated by the substitutes. The substitutes will be given in the list. 2. Free substitution. Learners rewrite the paragraph making any changes they wish. These may be in the nouns, verbs, adjectives, prepositional phrases, or any other constructions. Substantial additions or deletions should not be attempted; the general frame of the original should be maintained.
IV. Constructing paragraphs from cues. At this stage the students are expected to compose structured prose either with the direct aid of notes or with the indirect assistance of partial paragraphs which they are to complete. The first group of exercises under A below offers the students either a portion of completed prose as a guideline or a set of notes as an additional aid. The second group under В consists of completed sentences or short paragraphs upon which the students are expected to build. Students compose paragraphs using the cues and following the instructions provided for each exercise in sections A and В below. Completed work will be submitted to the entire class for evaluation and possible improvement.
A. Models and notes as cues. In this exercise the first paragraph is given in its entirety as a major cue. Write a second paragraph, using the notes provided.
Friday morning Bill Brown walked over to the university library to pick up some books. His father, who was a professor of English literature, needed them for a seminar he was giving that afternoon. On his way home Bill decided to stop and visit his good friends, Phil and Alice Cooper, whom he had not seen in a long time. The three of them sat down to talk, and after a while, Alice asked Bill if would like to join them for lunch. Naturally, Bill was delighted.
(lunch delicious; three friends sit down; play cards; forget time; two hours later; realize the time; run home; father angry; students happy; no seminar)
B. Only notes as cues. Writing composition of two paragraphs, using the following notes. ( Jim on way home, crossing street, not see car, driver try to stop, hit Jim, take to hospital, doctor examine, x-ray, no broken bones, two days in hospital, happy not serious, happy see visitors, happier go home)
Once students have been through skill building exercises, they are ready to start composing original essays, using process writing procedures. Working in small groups, they complete a writing assignment by mutual cooperation and assistance in giving expression to their thoughts, getting them down on paper, and molding them into a final product. They do not produce a single group essay, but each student composes his or her own composition, with the group serving as a resource for suggestions, criticisms, and evaluation. In process writing the teacher guides the students through all phases of an assignment by providing directions for the work sessions, monitoring the sessions, and evaluating the finished essays. Both documents are models and may be photocopied and used as they are or modified to suit individuals and groups, especially as the writing proficiency of the class develops. As learners develop facility in generating ideas and engaging in group dynamics, the role of the teacher may be reduced. However, instructors should always be ready to offer suggestions for developing ideas in the group sessions and notes for editing and correcting errors. The active participation of the teacher in each assignment is crucial to success.
Three level of writing activity are presented in this stage. At the first level teacher presents parts of an essay or article as guidelines for further development. In this way, students are not only given a topic, but also some information and details contained in the piece. At the second level, the teacher gives the class a definite theme to write on. It is up to the students to develop information on this topic in their group sessions. At the third level, students must select and develop their own topics in group sessions. At this level each group may very well generate a different topic.
Level 1. Completing a partial composition. This level is close to free composition. In this case only minimum directions are provided in the form of initial and concluding sentences. Students are to complete each composition based on the information provided in the sentences.
Level 2. Reviewing an essay or article. In this level no linguistic clues are provided. However, the theme is determined by the material under review.
Level 3. The theme provided by the teacher. Again, although the composition is composed solely by the teacher, the teacher exerts some control by providing the topic.
Level 4. The theme developed by the students. In this level, each student writes down a few ideas for a topic and ideas he or she might have concerning the topic.
letter skill word offer
Part 2. Main techniques for getting started writing process
Regardless of the type of writing tasks the teacher might favor assigning, a good place to begin classwork is to explore the prewriting stage, the stage prior to actual production of a working text. Because there isn't one composing process, the goal of the teacher should be to expose students to a variety of strategies for getting started with a writing task and to encourage each student to try to discover which strategies (in which circumstances) work best for him or her. Several heuristic devices1 (or invention strategies) which can be explored in class for the purpose of providing students with a repertoire of techniques for generating ideas are the following:
1. Brainstorming: This is often a group exercise in which all of the students in the class are encouraged to participate by sharing their collective knowledge about subject. One way to structure teacher to suggest a broad topic, such as for choosing a particular academic major, and have students call out as many associations as possible which the teacher can then write on the board. The result would be far more material generated than any student is likely to think of on his/her and then all students can utilize any or all of the information when turning to the preparation of their first drafts.
2. Listing: Unlike brainstorming, as described above, listing can be a quiet essentially individual activity. Again, as a first step in finding an approach to a particular subject area (such as the use and abuse of power, to cite an example), the students are encouraged to produce as lengthy a list as possible of all the subcategories that come to mind as they think about the topic at hand. This is an especially useful activity for students who might be constrained by undue concern for expressing their thoughts grammatically correct sentences, because lists do not require complete sentence
3. Free writing: Suggested by Elbow for helping native speakers break through the difficulty of getting started, free writing is also known by various other terms, such as "wet ink" writing and " quick-writing." The main idea of this technique for students to write for a specified period of time (usually about 5 minutes) without taking their pen from the page. As Elbow puts it, "Don't stop for anything. . . . Never stop to look back, to cross something out,. . . to wonder what word or thought to use ... If you get stuck it's fine to write 'I can't think what to say. . . as many times as уou like."1 Freed from the necessity of worrying about grammar and format, students can often generate a great deal of prose which provides useful raw material to use in addressing the writing assignment at hand. For EFL students, this technique often works best if the teacher provides an opening clause or sentence for the students to start with. So, for example, if the next assignment is to write a paper about one's personal philosophy of life, a short free writing session can begin with the words "Life is difficult but it is also worthwhile." The free writing generated after the students copy this sentence and continue to write down whatever comes into their heads can be kept private or shared with other students. It can also be used as the basis for one or more subsequent 5- to 10-minute free writing "loops"2 which are additional free writing sessions starting with whatever key idea derives from material discovered through the process of the previous quick-writing step.
4. Clustering: Another technique for getting many ideas down quickly, clustering begins with a key word or central idea placed in the center of a page (or on the blackboard) around which the student (or teacher using student-generated suggestions) jots down in a few minutes all of the free associations triggered by the subject matter--using simply words or short phrases. Unlike listing, the words or phrases generated are put on the page or board in a pattern which takes shape from the connections the writer sees as each new thought emerges. Completed clusters can look like spokes on a wheel or any other pattern of connected lines, depending on how the individual associations are drawn to relate to each other. By having students share their cluster patterns with other students in the class, teachers allow students to be exposed to a wide variety of approaches to the subject matter, which might further generate material for writing. Rico notes that clustering allows students to get in touch with the right-hemisphere part of the brain to which she attributes "holistic, image-making, and synthetic capabilities." She further notes that clustering makes "silent, invisible mental jesses visible and manipulable"1
It is very important that students experiment with each of these techniques in order to see how each one works to help generate text and shape a possible approach to a topic. The purpose, after all, of acquiring invention strategies is for students to feel that they have a variety of ways to begin an assigned writing task and that they do not always have to begin at the beginning and work through an evolving draft sequentially until they reach the end. Spack underscores the importance of having students practice a variety of strategies since she observed that none of her EFL students utilized invention strategies presented in the course textbook which they had read about but not practiced.1 She further notes that students may also devise their own invention strategies once they have learned the value of systematic exploration of a topic. But we must keep in mind the fact, as
Reid asserts, that for some students, the strategy of choice may be to produce a text in a linear fashion, possibly generated by an outline prepared prior to writing a full first draft.2 For some people, she points out, brainstorming can be more difficult than, and not as successful as, outlining.
Using Readings in the Writing Class. The use of readings in the writing class is another topic that has generated a great deal of debate among those searching for methodologies which promote improvement in writing proficiency. Before awareness of how to address the writing process in class and of the importance to students of actually doing writing in class, the primary activity of so- called writing classes was actually reading. As mentioned earlier, the traditional para digm for L1 writing classes was rooted in having students read and discuss texts which they would then go on to write about. When the process approach was first introduced, many writing instructors eliminated the use of readers, and used only texts written by the students themselves as the reading material for the course. The dominant philosophy seemed to be that one learns to write by writing, and that perhaps reading had very little to do with the acquisition of writing. ESL teachers following the developments in L1 writing classrooms also went through a period in which reading played almost no role in the writing classroom. But the pendulum has begun to swing in the opposite direction, and while readings have been reintroduced into the so-called modern process writing class-- both LI and L2--the nature of the readings and their function is viewed quite differently.
On one level, readings serve some very practical purposes in the writing class, particularly for ESL writers who have less fluency in the language. At the very least, readings provide models of what English texts look like, and even if not used for the purpose of imitation where students are asked to produce an English text to match the style of the model text, readings provide input which helps students develop awareness of English prose style. Krashen makes the case even stronger by claiming, "It is reading that gives the writer the 'feel' for the look and texture of reader-based prose."1
In class, close reading exercises can be done to draw students' attention to particular stylistic choices, grammatical features, methods of development, and so on. Such exercises help to raise student awareness of the choices writers make and the consequences of those choices for the achievement of their communicative goals. Spack points out, "An active exploration of the writer/reader interaction can lead students to realize and internalize the idea that what they write becomes another person's reading and must therefore anticipate a reader's needs and meet a reader's expectations."2 On another level, writing tasks assigned by many professors require students to do a great deal of reading in order to synthesize and analyze academic material in particular content areas . Thus, the EFL writing class can incorporate lessons which assist students in preparing academic writing assignments by using readings as a basis to practice such skills as summarizing, paraphrasing, interpreting, and synthesizing concepts.
Finally, many EFL students are not highly skilled readers, having had limited opportunities to read extensively in English; it is highly unlikely that anyone who is a nonproficient reader can develop into a highly proficient writer. For that reason alone, EFL teachers are well advised to include a reading component of one nature or another in their classes.
Writing Assignments. As the object of any writing class is to have students work on their writing, the topics students write about must be carefully designed, sequenced, and structured so that the teacher knows exactly what the learning goal of each paper is and so that the student gains something by working on the assignment. There are many factors to consider in selecting topics for student writing, but even if not consciously aware of it, the teacher will be primarily influenced by a particular philosophy about teaching writing which he or she (or the textbook being followed) adheres to and which significantly shapes the approach to topic design. In fact, even when topics are chosen in a random and ad hoc fashion, the teacher will probably select an assignment which seems appropriate on the basis of a felt inner sense of appropriateness, reflecting perhaps unconsciously how the teacher views the goals of the course, the ways in which writers learn, and what he or she values as good writing. For example, if the teacher wants the students to focus on standard organizational patterns common to English writing, it is usually because the teacher values essays which follow discernible patterns and/or believes that training students to recognize and produce those patterns is an important goal of the course. If the teacher believes that writers learn best by writing about topics of their own choosing and that text to be valued is that which reveals the most about the persona of the writer, then the assignments in that teacher's writing class will be presented to achieve those goals.
One very common approach to topic generation may be referred to as the "rhetorical patterns" approach, in which EFL students are exposed to a variety of types of discourse structure common to English prose. This is done by presenting examples of professional writing or samples of prose written by textbook writers for the purposes of illustrating a particular pattern that forms the focus of a lesson or sequence of lessons. Some textbooks also offer edited or unedited essays written by EFL students as samples of the various prose patterns. Then, typical writing assignments which derive from this philosophy ask students to imitate the structural pattern of the prose model--be it a genuine piece of professional or student writing or an artificially constructed one--using different content.
These sorts of assignments will usually be presented so that the student has to either create or plug in particular content according toaspecified manner of presentation. Examples of the "create" assignments are those which specify an organizational structure, such as comparison and contrast, but do not specify any content. Examples of the "plug in" assignments are those which specify an organizational structure, such as "cause and effect," and also specify the content area, such as "drugs and crime." The student's task in the former case is to identify two items which can be compared and contrasted and which lend themselves to presentation in that manner. The student's task in the latter case is to write about drugs and crime in such a way as to show the cause-and-effect relationship. Other patterns commonly included in the organizational approach to specifying writing assignments are chronological order, exemplification or illustration, classification, analysis, problem solution, and definition--all commonly referred to as patterns of exposition. Regardless of what else takes place in the class that shows concern for the process ofwriting, the "products" which result from this philosophy of assigning topics will invariably be judged primarily on how closely they follow discernible and traditional formats of the specified rhetorical pattern.
There is ample evidence that "real- world" writing does not get produced in this fashion, which is one of the major criticisms leveled at textbooks which encourage these approaches. Not only do real writing tasks not begin from a particular form which merely lacks content to be complete, but content itself usually does not get generated without the writer's first having a purpose for writing. Taylor also points out that “a major result of a writing program which focuses primarily on form is an insufficient emphasis on content which would create the opportunity for students to experience the process of discovering meaning and then of struggling to give form through revision.”1
A completely different philosophy of teaching leads to viewing writing as a vehicle of self-revelation and self-discovery, and assignments are presented to students in which they must reflect on and analyze their own personal experiences. Some examples would be asking students to write about their experiences as second language learners or to reflect on a lesson learned in childhood. The content in either case would arise from their own personal biographies. This type of assignment has the potential of allowing the writer to feel invested in his or her work, not usually the case with the rhetorical pattern approach. Perhaps more centrally, the value ofwriting is seen in its role as a tool of discovery of both meaning and purpose. Proponents of the discovery approach claim that the writing skills learned in practicing personal writing will transfer to the skills required to produce academic papers.
Regardless of the underlying philosophy of teaching which motivates the types of assignments presented to students, teachers must also make a number of other decisions about assignments. They must decide where the writing is to be produced: in class or at home. When students are writing in class, teachers are often uncertain of what they themselves should be doing while the students are writing. Students also generally feel pressured by the limited amount of time available. When students write at home, teachers may be concerned that the student might receive outside input from another writer or from textual material, rendering the student's text unrepresentative of his/her own writing. For some students, writing at home will be completed in even less time than writing produced in class. One way to resolve this is that some assignments should be considered "timed" writing, written in a given time framework, submitted, and responded to as final products, while other writing assignments can be prepared over a span of several class periods (either in class or at home) and feedback provided to assist in the revision process.1
In fact, another decision teachers must make concerns the number of drafts for any given text that they want students to produce. Given the immense value to the student writer of learning to revise text and to work through a series of drafts before considering a paper "finished," new writing topics should not be assigned before the student has had a chance to work through a cycle of drafts on a prior assignment. If the teacher's goal is to foster student improvement, then providing a multiplicity of writing assignments on different topics (whether they be of the rhetorical pattern type or prompted by a more open- ended approach) will not allow students sufficient time to devote to working on writing in progress. That is, students working on a second or third draft of a given topic which is scheduled to be submitted the following week should not simultaneously be working on a first draft of yet another topic. But as Reid cautions us against dogmatism in presenting approaches to how students generate texts, Harris cautions us against dogmatism in applying an inflexible call for revision. In her research, Harris finds that writers range along a continuum from what she calls "one- to multi-drafters," and not everyone benefits from being asked to produce multiple revisions since the preferred strategy for some successful writers is to produce a single, polished draft. She notes, in fact, that "studies of revision do not provide the conclusive picture that we need in order to assert that we should continue coaxing our students into writing multiple drafts"1 because both efficient and inefficient writers are to be found who favor one or the other of these approaches to writing.
A final consideration regarding topic design is one of essay length, for in cases where teachers don't specify length, students often want to know how long their papers should be. Many ESL students are concerned with doing the bare minimum and will invariably submit very short papers; others may produce too much text for the teacher to find time to respond to, or for the student to be able to process and benefit from the extensive feedback that the teacher might need to provide on a lengthy but highly problematic text. One must bear in mind the need for a relationship between what the topic calls for and the length of paper produced. For example, to ask students to write 250 words on an encyclopedic topic is to ensure superficiality of treatment; conversely, to ask them to produce a lengthy paper on a narrowly focused topic is to invite padding and digressions. Also, what a teacher believes a student will learn from preparing a particular assignment should not be out of proportion to the amount of time the student will need to invest in preparing it.
Finally, if one believes that students best learn to write by writing, then the design of writing tasks is perhaps the key component of curriculum design. It is in the engagement with, and the completion of, writing tasks that students will be most directly immersed inthe development of their writing skills; thus, a great deal of thought must go into choosing such tasks.
Goal Setting. "Responding to student writing has the general goal of fostering student improvement. While this may seem to be stating the obvious, teachers need to develop/adopt responding methodologies which can foster improvement; they need to know how to measure or recognize improvement when it occurs. Although the teaching of first language writing has come a long way since most response took the form of written criticism by the teacher detailing what the student had done wrong on a paper, and teaching EFL has ceased to be seen as a vehicle for monitoring student acquisition of grammar, remains no easy answer to the question of what type of response will facilitate improved student mastery of writing. In reviewing dozens of research studies investigating various methodologies of responding, Hillocks concluded, "The results of all these studies strongly suggest that teacher comment has little impact on student writing.” Therefore, in setting goals, teachers should focus on implementing a variety of response types and on training students to maximize the insights of prior feedback on writing occasions.
Shaping Feedback. Regardless of whatever repertoire of strategies teachers develop to provide feedback on student papers, students must also be trained to use the feedback in ways that will improve their writing--be it on the next draft of a particular paper or on another assignment. Without such training, it is quite likely that students will either ignore feedback or fail to use it constructively. In fact, research studies to date have shown a number of discouraging findings. Research on how LI students process written response from teachers has indicated that ;
1) sometimes students fail to read the written comments on their papers, caring only about the grade1;
2)sometimes they do not understand or indeed misinterpret the written comments, and find themselves unable to make appropriate changes in future drafts;2
3) sometimes they use comments to psych out a particular teacher's personal agenda, only hoping "to make the teacher happy" in the future;1
4) sometimes they become hostile at the teacher's appropriation of their text
In research on student response to comments in an L2 environment, Leki found that students expressed a lack of interest in teacher reaction to the content of their papers, and instead indicated a desire to have every error marked on their papers. Cohen found that students had a very limited repertoire of strategies for processing feedback, and as such, Cohen and Cavalcanti conclude, "Clear teacher- student agreements on feedback procedures and student training in strategies for handling feedback could lead to more productive and enjoyable composition writing in the classroom."2
To address some of these issues, one step is to assure that the feedback on a particular piece of writing addresses that text in the context of how it was produced and with a clear agenda for what the student is expected to do with any feedback. In a process-oriented produce more than one draft of an essay, reflecting the steps of producing real-world texts. Thus, feedback on a first draft should most appropriately provide guidelines and suggestions for how to produce a second draft which would show improvement at the level of content and organization. However, Zamel (1985, p. 81) reported that studies provide "overwhelming evidence that teachers attend to surface-level features in what should otherwise be considered first drafts," completely ignoring the philosophy of process which they claim to espouse. In examining the responding behaviors of 15 EFL teachers by reviewing their written comments on portfolios of student papers, Zamel goes on to identify a host of "incongruous types of comments" in which "the major revisions suggested and the interlinear responses are at odds with one another." This use of "mixed signals" helps explain why many students find it difficult to decipher teacher commentary. Why, for example, should the student pay attention to problems in the sequence of tenses in a particular paragraph if a marginal or end note indicates that the whole paragraph is irrelevant to the development of the paper?
As with other issues we have discussed, the question of the teacher's philosophy is a key determinant of his or her approach to commenting. Zamel notes of her 15 ESL teacher subjects “the teachers overwhelmingly view themselves as language teachers rather than writing teachers; they attend primarily to surface-level features of writing and seem to read and react to a text as a series of separate sentences or even clauses, rather than as a whole unit of discourse.” Unless the teacher adopts the stance of a writing teacher, he or she will be unable to provide feedback appropriate to that role.
Forms of Feedback. Up to now we have been discussing feedback that is provided in writing by the teacher on various drafts of a student paper, a fairly traditional and undoubtedly time-consuming method, even for those teachers who do not respond to every draft as a finished product. But there are other ways for students to receive feedback on their writing which can and should be considered in structuring a writing course. Writing teachers who view themselves as judges or repositories of certain truths about effectiveness in writing will want, of course, to be in charge of providing feedback to their students, believingthatsuch feedback can play a vital role in the improvement of student writing. Those who view themselves as coaches or editorial advisors will also want to provide feedback, though not necessarily in the same way. Teachers should bear in mind that feedback can beoral as well as written, and they should consider the value of individual conferences7 on student papers and/or the use of tape cassettes as two additional ways to structure teacher feedback. From another point oi view, most writing teachers realize that they have many students in one class and they might also be teaching two or more writing classes, so the teacher has a very limited amount of time to provide feedback to any one student. Teachers whose philosophies embrace the value of collaborative learning1 therefore turn to the other students in the class to assist in the feedback process. Other students in the writing class can be taughtto provide valuable feedback in the form of peer response, which serves to sharpen their critical skills in analyzing written work as well as to increase their ability to analyze their own drafts critically.
Oral Teacher Feedback. Because of potential communication problems, EFL students in a writing class need to have individual conferences with their teacher even more than native-speaking students do. Conferences of about 15 minutes seem to work best, and can provide the teacher an opportunity to directly question the student about intended messages which are often difficultto decipher by simply reading a working draft. Further, conferences allow the teacher to uncover potential misunderstandings the student might have about prior written feedback or issues in writing that have been discussed in class. Another benefit is that students can usually learn more in the one-to- one exchange than they can when attempting to decipher teacher-written commentary on their own.
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