Teaching writing as a type of speech activity in FL
Developing skills, English language teaching methods for foreign students. Reasons for teaching writing as emphasizing the communicative aspect of the English language. Techniques and effective methods of teaching writing. Practical advice for teachers.
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Nowadays when learning to communicate has become the principal object while studying a foreign language, each skill plays an important part. To have success a very important part is played by teaching language skills in a communicative way. The aim of this work is to consider the importance of teaching writing skills in a communicative way and what teachers should do to have effective teaching. Writing also enhances language acquisition; it develops critical thinking and helps learners to express freely as in their mother tongue, using English for communicative purpose. The teacher has to use different techniques and strategies to develop communicative writing according to the age and language level of students. Teachers should have clear objectives in the teaching process. When texts do not offer a lot of writing activities is the teacher who has to prepare communicative writing assignments. An effective writing assignment can advance important course objectives, the instructions should be given clear, in this way it encourages students to learn actively. The goal is not simply dictate and written down a part but to develop into a higher level so as it continues the idea of what they hear at communicative level
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. Intercourse with foreign speakers is realized through written correspondence and exchange of written messages. Every school-graduator must be capable of writing a letter in the FL.
Writing is an important means of instruction. It serves to consolidate acquired language knowledge (grammar, vocabulary, phonetics: e.g. than-then) and communicative skills.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, my 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 my work can be proved that I tried to find optional methods of improving writing skills from the beginning level and applied them in practice.
Teaching writing is a common theme among most researchers who worked in a sphere of language learning and methodology. Deborah R. Yates claims that the importance of developing fluent writing in ESL learners is central to understanding and helping ESL learners. For example, there are idioms or nuances in American English that have to be taught. One must impart expertise in this area. It is not enough to just teach writing, one must teach these nuances. Often, the student will struggle with how to say something. It is important to help the student by explaining how to say something and what it means in American usage.
As papers are corrected for these students, they often start to make the connections. They can start to understand their mistakes and begin to correct them for themselves. Another aspect of fluency is based on verbal ability. What one can speak about, one can write about. Practicing English conversation can be helpful for this.
The aim of the work is to search methodologists' works in teaching writing and create own method of teaching writing to ESL students.
The subject is teaching writing as a type of speech activity in foreign language.
The object is the importance and relevance of teaching writing to ESL students.
The tasks of the work:
a) To study, analyze, and sum up the modern methods of teaching writing;
b) To prove the idea of importance of improving students' writing skills;
c) To analyze the major results achieved in the studied field;
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 my work are the method of analysis and the method of research. In my work, I analyzed school textbooks and added some new activities which I considered suitable for teaching and improving students' writing skills.
The methodological foundation of the work. In my research I used the ideas of English, Russian and foreign methodologies who worked in the sphere of foreign language teaching methodology and language learning. I addressed to works of, G. Rogova, Spack.R, G. L. Rico, J. Arnold, M. Boden and others for theoretical part of our work. In practical part of my work I appealed to school textbooks.
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. Also, I consider the idea of approbating new writing materials on English language lessons during my pedagogical practice is also one part of the novelty of my 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. 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 my qualification work where I described its actuality, practical significance, and fields of amplification, and described the role of writing skills in learning English. The main part consists of two sections. In the first section I reported the importance of teaching writing, the definition of writing process, main techniques for getting started writing process, the distinction between notation or writing practice and expressive writing or composition made by Wilga Rivers. The second section considers methods and techniques in teaching writing within different types and level of students giving writing tasks and exercises. In conclusion I summed up all the aspects and issues that were considered in the research work.
1. Teaching Writing as one of the most essential skills
1.1 The importance of teaching Writing
1.1.1 What is Writing?
Writing has a bad reputation in many schools, for both teachers and students. For the teacher, it means marking a pile of compositions and they are almost always worse than expected. For many students, writing is a boring chore and an “opportunity” to make a lot of mistakes. One of the biggest challenges teachers have faced in the classroom has to do with writing. Usually students do not want to write, because they have never been encouraged to do it or to enjoy it. It's worth remembering that most people never write anything of any length in their daily lives, or anything using a pen and paper, or without using a spellchecker. But this is often what we ask our students to do in English. However, I believe that writing can be a very interesting and involving activity for students of English.
Writing is a process, from gathering ideas through to checking what has been written. It is also a product, a text.
Writing as a process
The writing process consists of the steps we take when we produce a piece of writing. The process may include some or all of the following:
brainstorming (making a note of ideas, words and phrases related to the topic, in the order they come to mind)
planning (categorising and ordering the ideas according to the task)
drafting (a first attempt to write the ideas as a continuous text)
revising (deciding how to improve the first draft, in terms of both content and accuracy)
rewriting (writing the text again including the improvements)
Writing as a product
The writing product in “real life” is a text with a purpose. The purpose may be for example to inform, to thank, to request, or to simply entertain. The success of the text depends on the accuracy of the writing: grammar, vocabulary, punctuation, spelling, capitalization legibility, appropriate text conventions (e.g. letter format or headings for a report) and the appropriacy of the content: communicatively effective (the writer successfully conveys information to the reader), sufficiently detailed, logically organised (the reader finds it easy to follow the writer's ideas), original/interesting (not just copied or part-copied), believable (the ideas expressed make sense in terms of the real world), stylistically appropriate (it conveys the tone required e.g. formal for a job application) [1, 13].
Reading and composing are interconnected processes. Improvement in writing has been linked to reading development. Reading supports writing across all the levels of instruction and can be used throughout the writing process. For example, students might read a text to help them generate ideas for their writing. They might do research to provide background information for writing. During the revision process, students read and give feedback on a partner's writing to help the writer revise, and they may also do peer editing. During the editing process, students might read a form or style guide or instructions for publishing to help themselves and their peers. Process writing emphasizes the role of the reader as audience and, through development of multiple drafts, often creates a context for communication. Improved reading and writing skills are complementary instructional goals within the process writing framework.
Why teach writing?
There are two good sets of reasons for teaching writing to EFL children. The first set of reasons relates to the writing skill itself. The second set relates to foreign language learning in general.
The writing skill:
We can't expect young learners to develop their writing skill without teaching them how to write and giving them opportunities to practise.
Learners do not necessarily transfer their skill in writing from what they can do in their own language. In the case of young learners, they may not have developed their writing skill, even in their own language.
Writing is probably the most personalised, creative activity in the language class.
By developing their writing skills early, young learners are making a valuable investment for their future studies.
Foreign language learning:
Writing gives learners the opportunity to find ways of expressing their ideas in a foreign language.
Writing gives learners the opportunity to try out the language with plenty of thinking time.
A learner's writing gives the teacher a good opportunity to diagnose grammar and vocabulary problems and to identify progress.
Writing allows learners to practice new structures in an extended context.
Writing can provide more variety in class-work.
1.1.2 Making writing more communicative
Writing, like all other aspects of language, is communicative. In real life, we may write e-mails, lists, notes, cover letters, reports, curricula, assignments, or essays. Some of us write articles or work on blogs, forums and websites. All of these writing tasks have a communicative purpose and a target audience. In the English language classroom, writing often lacks that communicative purpose [2, 25]. However, there are ways to make the writing we do with learners more communicative and pleasurable.
Students need to be personally involved in writing exercises in order to make the learning experience of lasting value. Encouraging student participation in the exercise, while at the same time refining and expanding writing skills, requires a certain pragmatic approach. The teacher should be clear on what skills he/she is trying to develop. Next, the teacher needs to decide on which means (or type of exercise) can facilitate learning of the target area. Once the target skill areas and means of implementation are defined, the teacher can then proceed to focus on what topic can be employed to ensure student participation. By pragmatically combing these objectives, the teacher can expect both enthusiasm and effective 1 learning.
Choosing a Target Area . Choosing the target area depends on many factors; what level are the students? What is the average age of the students, Why are the students learning English, Are there any specific future intentions for the writing (i.e. school tests or job application letters etc.). Other important questions to ask oneself are: What should the students be able to produce at the end of this exercise? (a well written letter, basic communication of ideas, etc.) What is the focus of the exercise? (structure, tense usage, creative writing). Once these factors are clear in the mind of the teacher, the teacher can begin to focus on how to involve the students in the activity thus promoting a positive, long-term learning experience. Having decided on the target area, the teacher can focus on the means to achieve this type of learning. As in correction, the teacher must choose the most appropriate manner for the specified writing area. If formal business letter English is required, it is of little use to employ a free expression type of exercise. Likewise, when working on descriptive language writing skills, a formal letter is equally out of place. With both the target area and means of production clear in the teacher's mind, the teacher can begin to consider how to involve the students by considering what type of activities are interesting to the students: Are they preparing for something specific such as a holiday or test?, Will they need any of the skills pragmatically? What has been effective in the past? A good way to approach this is by class feedback, or brainstorming sessions. By choosing a topic that involves the students the teacher is providing a context within which effective learning on the target area can be undertaken.
Finally, the question of which type of correction will facilitate a useful writing exercise is of utmost importance. Here the teacher needs to once again think about the overall target area of the exercise. If there is an immediate task at hand, such as taking a test, perhaps teacher-guided correction is the most effective solution. However, if the task were more general (for example developing informal letter writing skills), maybe the best approach would be to have the students work in groups thereby learning from each other. Most importantly, by choosing the correct means of correction the teacher can encourage rather discourage students.
The most important factor in writing exercises is that students need to be personally involved in order to make the learning experience of lasting value. Encouraging student participation in the exercise, while at the same time refining and expanding writing skills, requires a certain pragmatic approach. The teacher should be clear on what skills he/she is trying to develop. Next, the teacher needs to decide on which means (or type of exercise) can facilitate learning of the target area. Once the target skill areas and means of implementation are defined, the teacher can then proceed to focus on what topic can be employed to ensure student participation. By pragmatically combing these objectives, the teacher can expect both enthusiasm and effective learning.
Choosing the target area depends on many factors; What level are the students?, What is the average age of the students, Why are the students learning English, Are there any specific future intentions for the writing (i.e school tests or job application letters etc.). Other important questions to ask oneself are: What should the students be able to produce at the end of this exercise? (a well written letter, basic communication of ideas, etc.) What is the focus of the exercise? (structure, tense usage, creative writing). Once these factors are clear in the mind of the teacher, the teacher can begin to focus on how to involve the students in the activity thus promoting a positive, long-term learning experience [3, 58].
Having decided on the target area, the teacher can focus on the means to achieve this type of learning. As in correction, the teacher must choose the most appropriate manner for the specified writing area. If formal business letter English is required, it is of little use to employ a free expression type of exercise. Likewise, when working on descriptive language writing skills, a formal letter is equally out of place.
With both the target area and means of production, clear in the teachers mind, the teacher can begin to consider how to involve the students by considering what type of activities are interesting to the students; Are they preparing for something specific such as a holiday or test?, Will they need any of the skills pragmatically? What has been effective in the past? A good way to approach this is by class feedback, or brainstorming sessions. By choosing a topic that involves the students the teacher is providing a context within which effective learning on the target area can be understaken.
Finally, the question of which type of correction will facilitate a useful writing exercise is of utmost importance. Here the teacher needs to once again think about the overall target area of the exercise. If there is an immediate task at hand, such as taking a test, perhaps teacher guided correction is the most effective solution. However, if the task is more general (for example developing informal letter writing skills), maybe the best approach would be to have the students work in groups thereby learning from each other. Most importantly, by choosing the correct means of correction the teacher can encourage rather discourage students.
Writing, like all other aspects of language, is communicative. Think about what we write in real life. We write e-mails, lists, notes, covering letters, reports, curriculums, assignments, essays perhaps if we study. Some of us write articles or work on blogs, forums and websites. A few write stories and poems - but very few. All of these writing tasks have a communicative purpose and a target audience. In the English language classroom, however, writing often lacks this. There are lots of reasons, as there are lots of ways to make the writing we do with learners more communicative. By its nature, writing is often a solo activity, done silently, involving physical effort and taking a lot of time. This may not make it attractive to learners or teachers as a classroom activity. In addition to this, writing is difficult, even in L1. There are linguistic, psychological and cognitive problems involved, making teaching it and learning it a considerable challenge. It is also important to remember that many people never write anything of any length in their daily lives, or anything using paper and a pen, or without using a spellchecker. But this is often what we ask them to do in English.
Responding appropriately to writing that learners give us is time-consuming and taxing, whether we are addressing errors or the content. We often have to work as hard as our learners have done. Our response is also often dictated by our concern with sub-skills and so correction is often at this level rather than at that of communicative competence. This is aggravated by the fact that it is not easy to evaluate this competence, especially formally - as can be seen in the complexity of the speaking criteria for exams such as IELTS and Cambridge Main Suite. In addition, it is important to recognize that learners are equally concerned about correctness in writing at a sub-level, in areas such as spelling and punctuation. This is especially true when compared to speaking. This inhibits communication.
The kinds of tasks we set learners may not be motivating, relevant or indeed very communicative. Writing is rarely incorporated into a lesson, ending up relegated to homework - which reduces the possibilities to be communicative. We need to give learners tasks that are intellectually satisfying, especially when writing. Adult learners become aware of their limitations very quickly when they try to express complex ideas on paper. As a final note coursebooks don't necessarily always help us develop writing. We need materials that provide relevant, real and communicative practice.
We need to make a distinction between writing to learn (other things, like structures, spelling and vocabulary) and learning to write. If we understand this distinction and make sure our learners do too then the communicative purpose of writing will be clearer.
We need to work hard on developing ways of responding to the content of what our learners write - the message - and not just the level of language. If we can do this effectively, then our learners will make more effort to communicate when they write for us. This can support an emphasis on the importance of writing for a real audience, but we do also need to find real audiences for learner writing. This could include ourselves if we can respond as readers, other learners and groups, and public forums such as blogs, websites and letter pages.
We need to find ways to integrate writing with other skills and activities, giving it more relevance and importance - and also making it more interesting. We need to use meaningful, realistic and relevant writing tasks, based on our learners' needs and interests. We may need to design individual tasks based on what individual learners need to write. In addition we should talk about writing with our learners, how we write well, why we write and for who, and what makes it difficult. Learner training like this can provide valuable support and motivation.
Finally, we need to evaluate the impact on our learners' written English when most of our focus on writing is as homework. Are we supporting them as well as we could as they tackle the difficulties we discussed above?
The following ideas are helpful to make writing communicative:
1) Publishing in blogs, in newspapers, and on posters. Get learners to create individual and group profiles on social utility sites such as Facebook. Publish a class magazine of previous writing work.
2) Encouraging learners to write with a clear purpose and for a clear audience, for example in letters to newspapers, pen friends, to teachers and other students.
3) Finding challenging and rewarding tasks which can support a variety of learning aims and integrate other skills and language systems, such as summarising, project work, translation, writing up notes from interviews, and preparing a briefing or talk.
4) Using relevant and realistic tasks such as writing notes, recipes, e-mails, filling in forms and preparing signs for the class.
5) Responding to the content of the work that the learners give us as well as correcting the errors they make, by adding your own comments to their homework or establishing a dialogue through e-mail and learner diaries.
6) Making writing easier and more fun by doing group writing activities and group correction and editing of work. Process writing includes elements of this.
7) Supporting writing with reading. This not only helps learners develop the sub-skills they need but also helps them understand that good writing is a powerful and important communication tool.
1.1.3 Skill building and the process approach to writing
One of the most important requirements for designing effective writing tasks is to think of coherent, connected activity sets, which include pre-writing, during-writing and post-writing activities. Connected activity sets help students complete the writing task successfully and foster the process of writing [4, 87].
Working backwards from the final task makes it easier to design such activity sets. Only by viewing writing in the broader context of activity sets can you ensure that writing is taught as a process, with brainstorming, several writing and re-writing tasks, and active revision. While the activity sets are presented here in chronological sequence for clarity, during actual writing, there is much recursivity among the steps.
Pre-writing activities prepare learners for a final writing task and activate, review or build sub-skills that prepare the learner for completing the main writing task. They usually focus on the audience, the content, and the vocabulary necessary for the task. These are typically word and phrase level activities.
During-writing activities engage learners in recursive writing, self-editing and revisions. As the students are guided through writing and re-writing, the teacher should guide them through other areas such as syntax.
Post-writing activities help learners reflect on and revise their writing based on feedback from an audience, such as peers and/or an instructor.
Pre-writing tasks review and build students' knowledge of relevant vocabulary, relevant grammar points and, most importantly, students' background knowledge, since that is what really generates thoughtful and interesting written work. Pre-writing tasks are a crucial element of successful writing instruction.
Pre-writing activities may take many different forms. Here we review a few effective ways to get the writing process started: associograms, prompts, interviews, and reading/listening activities. An associogram is a collection of lexical items and/or ideas that relate to a topic.
A well chosen picture or song can foster the learner's creativity. A few questions in addition to the picture can really help ideas flow.
Written prompts can help students hypothesize what is going on in the picture and generate interesting content. These prompts can be provided by the instructor or generated through brainstorming by the students. They can follow the Five Ws and the H from journalism: who, what, when, where, why and how.
Interviews can serve to generate ideas for writing and move learners beyond their own experiences. It usually works best when some of the questions (using the 5 Ws and 1 H) are unexpected or "hook" students' interests.
When language learners respond to texts, whether written or oral, they can learn new vocabulary, expressions, grammatical structures, and valuable pragmatic information (e.g., how to structure an e-mail, a movie review, etc.).
Below is an example of a reading-based pre-writing activity that leads to students writing their own greeting cards. The questions accompanying this model birthday card should lead the students to notice relevant expressions, rhetorical structure, grammar, content, greetings, etc.
Once students are ready to write, they need clear instructions and resources to complete the next steps in the process: writing drafts, revising, self-editing, expanding. Students should be allowed to use notes they generated from the pre-writing tasks. Decide also whether they may use a dictionary or spell-checker, and what you expect them to do for this activity. Ensure that your pedagogical objectives align with the actual activity you assign your students.
We define post-writing as the step in the writing process where the written text is shared with other audiences, such as a peer-editor or the instructor or even with the general public.
The basic components of post-writing activities:
Re-read your story, make sure sentences make sense.
Add phrases to make the story flow smoothly (cohesion markers, pronouns, conjunctions).
Eliminate "fluff" (unnecessary or redundant details).
Proofread for spelling, vocabulary, grammar (checklist).
Edit your paper (peer-editing, post-teacher editing).
Share with audience (website, print, etc.).
Publishing is optional and should be understood in the broadest sense of the word: sharing the author's written work with multiple readers or even viewers. Here are a few ideas for making student work public.
Publishing in written format:
an online blog
a wiki entry
a printed or online class newspaper/newsletter
a collection of poetry, short stor,y or mixed-genre writing
Publishing (Presentation) in oral format:
filming a news report
filming or producing a skit
producing a theater play or variety show, either for just the class or for a larger audience (long-term writing assignments)
Publishing or presenting written work can help focus learners' attention and motivation for writing: there is a real, legitimate communicative purpose for their work.
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 advanced electronic mail. Writing as a communicative activity needs to be encouraged and nurtured during the language learners' 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. 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.
Wilga Rivers makes the distinction between notation or writing practice and expressive writing or composition [1, 45]. 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 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.
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. 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 in a 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.
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.
1.2 Teaching creative writing
1.2.1 Developing writers creatively
The early years
Young children need to be offered the time and space to use different forms of writing in imaginatively engaging contexts, in which their early attempts at mark making are recognised as acts of communication and their words and meanings valued. As Vygotsky suggested, `an intrinsic need should be aroused in them, and writing should be incorporated into a task that is necessary and relevant for life'. [19, 68]
When writing to express themselves, to communicate information of personal significance, to reflect upon their lives and voice their views, children should be affectively and cognitively engaged as young authors, not as scribes. This chapter focuses on teaching early writing creatively; it focuses primarily on developing the compositional skills of young writers aged 5-7 years. It highlights in particular the role of improvisation in early writing, the importance of play and imaginative engagement, as well as the teacher's role as model writer [5,95]. In addition, the importance of fostering young writers' authorial agency and independence is examined.
By the end of the Early Years Foundation Stage, it is expected that children will be able to write their own names and other things such as labels and captions, and begin to form simple sentences as well as attempt writing for various purposes, using features of different forms such as lists, stories and instructions. The PNS strands most relevant to fostering the creative voice of the young child, both on page and screen, include:
Creating and shaping texts
Write independently and creatively for purpose, pleasure and learning.
Use and adapt a range of forms, suited to different purposes and readers.
Make stylistic choices including vocabulary, literary features and viewpoints or voice.
Use structural and presentational features for meaning and impact.
Sentence structure and punctuation
Vary and adapt sentence structure for meaning and effect.
Use a range of punctuation correctly to support meaning and emphasis.
Convey meaning through grammatically accurate and correctly punctuated sentences.
In relation to these strands, the PNS framework states that by the end of the first three crucial years of schooling, children aged seven will be expected to:
Draw on knowledge and experience of texts in deciding and planning what to write.
Sustain form in narrative, including use of person and time.
Maintain consistency in non-narrative, including purpose and tense.
Make adventurous word and language choices appropriate to the style and purpose of the text.
Select from different presentational features to suit particular writing purposes.
It also states that children will be expected to:
Write simple and compound sentences.
Compose sentences using tense consistently.
Use question marks and use commas to separate items in a list.
To develop creatively as writers, children need extensive experience of texts, tailored teaching of the appropriate skills, the opportunity to be imaginatively engaged in opened interactive contexts and the chance to make choices and write for real purposes.
Key principles in early writing include: recognising and building on children's existing and often implicit knowledge about language, providing a print rich environment and offering opportunities to write in playful contexts. The combination of the teachers' invitation to engage and imagine, and the professional use of observation and fine tuned intervention can help move children's learning forward. The Early Years Foundation Stage profiles such a play-based observation oriented approach to language and states that early mark making and writing should take place within meaningful and engaging activities, although it is a matter of debate whether all teachers in the early years of the primary school retain this strong emphasis on contextualising writing in play.
It is clear, however, that children in the very early years make no distinction between drawing, painting, modeling or writing as means of recording and exploring their experiences and need to be offered opportunities to mark make in a range of playful contexts using `what is to hand' (Kress, 1997). Teachers' knowledge of the range of literacy practices in which children engage in their homes is also essential to enable them to build on their diverse literacy resources and cultural capital, and to recognise the influence of the digital literacy that young children have access to at home, as well as the more traditional print literacy. Creative teachers encourage children to connect their own `school of knowing' with the `school of expressing' (Malaguzzi, 1998), making use of words, images, sounds as well as their own bodies to help them compose.
In supporting young emergent writers, teachers encourage children to make independent attempts at communicating and focus on their intentions as writers.
Through experimenting and playing with a range of materials, they draw on their knowledge and experience of different literacy practices and begin to gain control over writing, expanding their theories of how the writing system works in the process. It is argued that there are three phases in a developmental writing curriculum before the conventional writing phase, including:
children engaging in role-play writing, in which they become aware of written symbols and experiment with marks on the page;
children learning that speech can be written down and that there is a constant in the written word;
children beginning to have a sense of both audience and sentence.
The later years
In response to widespread criticism that the teaching of writing has focused too heavily on technical skills in recent years, the new PNS framework notes that `particular attention has been paid to the development of independent creative writers able to make informed choices about form, audience and purpose'. Such writers use their knowledge of language form and feature, but crucially also have something to say that is worth saying and the voice and verve to express themselves effectively [6, 88].
This chapter focuses on teaching writing creatively to 7-11-year-olds; primarily examining the artistic process of composing, it also explores the teaching of grammar and punctuation in meaningful contexts. The PNS strands of writing, on page and screen, most relevant to fostering the creative voice of the child writer include:
Creating and shaping texts
Write independently and creatively for purpose, pleasure and learning.
Use and adapt a range of forms, suited to different purposes and readers.
Make stylistic choices including vocabulary, literary features and viewpoints or voice.
Use structural and presentational features for meaning and impact.
Text structure and organisation
Organise ideas into coherent structure including layout sections and paragraphs.
Write cohesive paragraphs linking sentences within and between them.
Sentence structure and punctuation
Vary and adapt sentence structure for meaning and effect.
Use a range of punctuation correctly to support meaning and emphasis.
Writing involves both crafting and creating, although in the last decade teaching writing to 7-11-year-olds has tended to profile the crafting elements, and has involved analysing and practising discrete linguistic features at the expense of creating, composing and completing whole texts (Frater, 2000, 2004). Children need to experience a balance between the technical aspects of writing and the compositional and content elements, as well as between writing as a finished product and writing as a process. Learning to write does not simply involve combining different skills - it involves the consolidation of experiences and the gradual development of a more informed understanding about written communication. Such knowledge, experience and understanding will constantly be reshaped across life as writers make choices and encounter different and more demanding text types in new communicative contexts.
In this new media age, the nature of writing continues to change, and writing is now seen by many as an act of creative design, in which meaning is created not just in words, but also through the visual layout. In their writing, children reflect their rich and diverse experience of reading multimodal texts; texts that make use of sound, image, colour and a variety of visuals as well as words. In schooling, however, despite work to suggest alternative ways forward, current forms of assessment do not acknowledge the multimodal nature of writing.
Whatever the chosen modes and media, writers and designers need to be able to
make choices about:
the purpose and readership of the text;
the most appropriate form of the text;
the level of formality demanded;
the amount of explicit detail needed;
the form and organisation of the material;
the technical features of syntax, vocabulary and punctuation suited to the
Teaching grammar and punctuation in context
Focusing on the language features of texts and noticing and naming these can be tedious and ineffective if children are not actively engaged in exploring issues related to the text's meaning. In the context of such playful engagement, however, attention can usefully be paid to a text's constructedness. For example, in working towards expanding children's knowledge and use of speech punctuation, role-play could be used to bring characters from a novel to life, generating dialogue from a recently read scene [7, 125].
The children's motivated engagement will feed the resultant shared writing and will increase the number of children participating in the whole class dialogue. The main focus of the initial piece of shared writing is likely to be the content of the conversation, the appropriacy of the characters' words and their effect on each other. In rereading and redrafting this writing together, the class could focus on the efficacy of the dialogue; the content, composition and effect of the conversation on the readers. Later, following a mini-lesson on speech punctuation and the children's examination of its use in their own reading books, the scribed argument could be re-voiced in role to support the selection, placement and punctuation of speech verbs and adverbs.
In one class of 9-10-year-olds, during an exploration of the characters in Clive and the Missing Finger by Sarah Garland, Marcus, aged 9, improvised various possible conversations in the context of the text (see Figure 7.2). In this dialogue the father is trying to persuade his daughter Dorrie to remove her make up, which is in his eyes excessive. The class had improvised the ensuing row in role, in pairs, small groups, half and half and as 32:1 with their teacher in role as Dad. They developed this row and others in shared and guided writing contexts and were expected for their final assessed piece of work in the unit to effectively convey the tension of the argument in no more than a page. They were expected to use language appropriate to the text and the characters and to make use of speech punctuation, speech verbs (in all four placements) and adverbs. These were then performed to the class. Freeze-frames were employed to show the consequences of the row, which was also requested to be evidenced in their writing. In this example, in Figure 7.2, Dorrie is described storming off upstairs, just as Marcus' partner Nadia had been seen flouncing off in role as Dorrie in their freeze-frame. In this work, talk, drama and the children's creative engagement, motivated and contextualised their learning about punctuation and enabled Marcus and his peers to consider its effect on the reader, demonstrating that on the journey from reading to writing, talk, creative engagement, reflection and response each play a crucial role.
1.2.2 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 devices (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.” 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” which are additional free writing sessions starting with whatever key idea derives from material discovered through the process of the previous quick-writing step [8, 137].
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.”...
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