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THE NATURE OF WRITING PROCESS IN THE ENGLISH LESSON. DEVELOPING WRITING SKILLS

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Mariya Baluk,
Lviv

 

the-nature-of-writing-process-in-the-english-lesson-developing-writing-skillsFor a second language learner, writing is an extension of listening and speaking. Therefore, the student must be provided opportunities to build, extend, and refine oral language in order to improve written output. Since writing involves some risk-taking, it is important for students to be comfortable taking risks. They need to know that their efforts are appreciated and that the message they are trying to convey is valued over the form.

The process approach to writing is ideally suited to the second language learner since listening, speaking, and reading can be so naturally integrated with it.

  • Writing is fundamental to learning in all disciplines
  • Writing deserves constant attention from kindergarten through university
  • Teachers are the key to educational change
  • The best teacher of teachers is another teacher
  • Effective literacy programs are inclusive, reaching all teachers in order to reach all students
  • Universities and schools accomplish more in partnership
  • Exemplary teachers of writing write and use writing themselves

One of the most important elements in teaching writing is an understanding of the writing process. This is the process used by professional writers during their work on articles, novels, academic papers, or speeches.

As teachers, we often assume students will work through the writing process without direct teaching. We must offer students instruction and practice in each stage of the writing process. If the teacher intends for students to produce a finished product, then the revision and editing steps are crucial. If the teacher wants to offer practice and training in writing, then a number of papers can be developed by using prewriting strategies and drafting. Finally, the students' best papers can be developed thoroughly through revision, editing and post-writing.

Writing is most likely to encourage thinking and learning when students view writing as a process. By recognizing that writing is a recursive process, and that every writer uses the process in a different way, students experience less pressure to "get it right the first time" and are more willing to experiment, explore, revise, and edit. Yet, novice writers need to practice “writing” or exercises that involve copying or reproduction of learned material in order to learn the conventions of spelling, punctuation, grammatical agreement, and the like. Furthermore, students need to “write in the language” through engaging in a variety of grammar practice activities of controlled nature. Finally, they need to begin to write within a framework “flexibility measures” that include: transformation exercises, sentence combining, expansion, embellishments, idea frames, and similar activities).

Obviously, not all students of the same age or grade level write in the same way; students pass through several developmental writing stages:

Stage 1

Novice Writer (unskilled, unaware, teacher-dependent writer)

  • has little, if any, individual style
  • has little awareness of writing process
  • has undeveloped skills and techniques
  • seeks approval from teacher
  • is reluctant to revise any writing
  • believes good writing comes easily

Stage 2

Transitional Writer (transitional, self-involved, self-delineating writer)

  • needs support and coaching in order to
  • learns from modeled behaviors
  • is developing a degree of comfort with the craft
  • is anxious to stand alone, yet is uncomfortable with peer collaboration
  • is developing an awareness of personal needs, interests, and preoccupations

Stage 3

Willing Writer (peer-involved, willing writer)

  • is able to collaborate well with others
  • requires external feedback to shape progress
  • is able to profit from criticism
  • is developing objectivity concerning work
  • enjoys practicing craft
  • is developing a sensitivity to audience

Stage 4

Independent Writer (independent, autonomous writer)

  • makes highly objective self-assessments
  • has developed a sophisticated personal style
  • has developed a writer's voice
  • takes risks and experiments
  • is self-motivating and self-aware as a writer
  • is a craftsperson

1. Teaching writing communicatively

We believe that an approach to the teaching of writing that combines communicative practice, an integrated approach and humanistic prin¬ciples is both overdue and not so difficult to accomplish as previously thought. Put diagrammatically, what is required looks something like this

Communicative practice + an integrated approach + humanistic principles
= A new approach to teaching writing

Although we have not yet carefully defined what is meant by communica¬tive practice, an integrated approach or humanistic principles, we suspect that there is a general sympathy for these ideas. To what extent, then, have they impinged on the teaching of writing?

Many teachers feel that writing has been the poor relation in the language teaching developments of the last ten years. Any widely travelled teacher-trainer will have been struck by the number of teachers who acknowledge the very real importance of writing, but despair of finding interesting ways of teaching it. Many teachers feel they are on top of communicative approaches to listening, speaking and, to a consider¬able extent, reading too, but that the key to teaching writing communica¬tively eludes them.

It also recognizes a second difficulty in teaching writing, which stems from the fact that the writing process involves making choices between several possible ways of making a point. For non-native speaker teachers in particular, this can be a real problem since an awareness of the possible options and of the criteria for choosing between them is not always present. For this reason, the writing exercises suggested are designed to place the non-native speaker teacher on an equal footing with his or her native speaker counterpart.

I. Process Writing Activities

1. Pre-writing: A Place to Start

Pre-writing, the first stage in the writing process, begins long before the writer puts thoughts into writing. The experiences, observations, and interactions that students have prior to entering the classroom have an impact upon what they will write and how they will write it. Within the classroom, pre-writing prompts and activities can be integrated into the writing process as scaffolds by teachers to help students generate ideas for their writing and to practice the thinking skills inherent in the activity.

To initiate thinking and generate possible writing topics, it is important for students to explore ideas for writing topics using a variety of pre-writing strategies, such as the following:

  • Brainstorming
  • Constructing thought webs and graphic organizers
  • Interviewing a person knowledgeable about the topic
  • Engaging in peer or teacher-student discussions and conferences
  • Listening to music
  • Reading about and researching the topic
  • Free writing or timed free writing about the topic
  • Viewing media such as pictures, movies, and television
  • Listing and categorizing information
  • Reflecting upon personal experience
  • Examining writing models
  • Responding to literature
  • Role playing and other drama techniques
  • Asking the 5 Ws--who, what, where, when and why.

To explore topics about which to write, the teacher may post suggestions on the bulletin board for student reference. He/she may invite students to add their own pre-writing strategies to ideas such as the following:

1. Brainstorming about people, places, and feelings

Write down or tell a partner the names of people you could describe, then quickly and briefly describe each one. Name several places you have visited and list descriptive words for each place. List and describe some memorable feelings you have had, and explain the situation in which they occurred.

2. Talking and listening in pairs or groups

Take turns telling about an interesting person, thing, incident, or object. Encourage the listeners to ask questions and add ideas. Record possible writing topics or ideas as they arise during the discussion.

3. Looking at art

Study paintings, photographs, drawings, or sculpture in magazines or art books. It may even be useful to take a trip to a local museum or art gallery. Jot down notes and questions about the artwork, the artist and the subject, and any topic ideas that come to mind during the observation. It may help to talk over your information and ideas with a partner or small group. Explain to a partner the stories in the art works.

4. Listening to music

Listen to music you like best or a variety of new and unfamiliar music. Listen to tape recordings or to the radio, closing your eyes and letting the music paint pictures in your mind. Record these images as you listen, or turn off the music and quickly record your ideas. It may be helpful to tell the story you have imagined to a partner or group.

5. Role playing

Pretend to be any character, ask peers to act as other characters, and dramatize an event or incident, and what happened as a result of that incident or event.

6. Observing with all senses

Be aware of all that is happening around you, in the classroom, at home, in restaurants, in malls, and wherever you go. Listen closely to conversations of the people you observe, and try to capture the details of their manners and dress. Observe for issues, problems, or achievements in your community. Jot down ideas and notes as you observe them or as soon as possible after your observations.

7. Listing ideas and information

List such things as the activities that interest you, the sports you play, the clubs that you belong to, and the community and world issues that you know about from the media.

8. Reading

Read such things as nonfiction books, novels, magazines, stories, newspapers, and poems. Jot down ideas that occur to you as you read and list questions you might investigate further. Keep track of interesting vocabulary, story plots, and characters.

9. Newspaper searches

Read the stories and captions that catch your interest. Jot down ideas for writing a newspaper article or ideas that can be developed into other kinds of writing.

10. Author visits

As the authors share their writing and discuss the craft of writing, students gain further understanding of the writing process and possibly get ideas for their own writing.

Pre-writing prompts or activities planned by the teacher can serve as writing scaffolds for inexperienced writers who have difficulty accessing their own feelings, ideas, experiences, and knowledge. Teacher-planned pre-writing activities, such as the samples that follow, give students a place to start and make them become aware of places from which to get ideas in the future. Students who have a place to start with will be more motivated to continue developing their ideas and their own writing voices.

Sample Pre-writing Activity #1

Time allotment (5-10 minutes)

Give each student any book or magazine to use (e.g., Readers' Digest, anthologies). The teacher should have a selection also, in order to model the process.

Have students open their books or magazines at any page and choose a word at random—the first word that jumps off the page at them--and record this as Word #1; close the book.

Continue this until each student has four words recorded. Students then focus for about one minute on each word separately, and list all their thoughts, ideas and associations that the word generates. Students then begin to make connections among the four words and their lists of personal associations by writing phrases, sentences, and ideas that demonstrate a relationship among the words. Students now have had a writing warm-up and may continue developing the ideas generated or bank these ideas for another day's writing.

Sample Pre-writing Activity #2

Time allotment (5-12 minutes)

Teachers may request that students bring pictures of people, or the teacher may supply them (photographs or pictures clipped from magazines). Each picture should show several people in sufficient detail to reveal size, facial expression, dress, and other facets of character.

Quickly walk the students through this activity, question by question, so they record the first thoughts and reactions that the pictures generate, rather than dwelling too long on one question. The teacher should ask students to examine their pictures closely, and explain that they will need to use their imagination for the activity. Some questions the teacher might ask are:

  • Who is the main character in the picture?
  • What is an appropriate name for this character?
  • How old is this character?
  • What emotions is this character showing in the picture? Describe the evidence that you have for this (e.g., facial expression, gestures).
  • What kind of work might the character do for a living? Give reasons to support your decision.
  • What might the person be thinking or saying? What makes you imagine this?
  • What other characteristics are revealed by the character's dress and stance?
  • What might have happened before the picture was taken? What might happen next?
  • How are the other characters in the picture related to the main character? What evidence makes you think so?
  • What is the attitude of the main character to the other characters? What is the attitude of the other characters to the main character? What are some possible reasons for these attitudes?
  • What might it be like to be the main character or one of the other characters?

Instruct students to record ideas briefly, using phrases and words rather than sentences. Students then may take the opportunity to develop their ideas further, or save their notes and ideas for use at a later date.

Sample Pre-writing Activity #3

Time allotment (5-8 minutes)

  • Prepare the students for free writing by explaining that they should write whatever thoughts enter their head from the moment that the teacher says "go" to the moment he/she says "stop", even if it means writing and rewriting, I don't know what to write. I don't know what to write. When the pen or pencil hits the paper it does not stop for pauses, erasures, or corrections. Eventually, most students begin to focus and the writing flows. Students then have the opportunity to develop these pre-writing ideas further or save them for another day.

Research done by Mariya Baluk

If the information is of your interest, might be continued.

the-nature-of-writing-process-in-the-english-lesson-2

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