Велика бібліотека української літератури

Writing

As a means of communication, writing differs from speaking in several important ways. Firstly, writing is permanent, speaking is not. Secondly, we can correct what we write before it is received by the reader. Corrections when we speak tend to take place after we have already made an error which our audience has received. Thirdly, we usually write for a receiver who is physically absent from us, whereas most speaking that we do is for an audience which is actually present as we speak. Fourthly, the physical distance between writer and reader means that the reader can't easily ask the writer to explain something unclear or ambiguous. In face-to-face speech, such feedback from listener to speaker is instantaneous. So the writer has to be very careful to ensure that his written message is complete in itself. He shouldn't make any assumptions about shared knowledge between himself and his audience. Nor should the writer leave any room for misunderstandings through unclear expression or faulty organization of his text.
Writing exercises are of two types - those which consolidate language already presented and practised orally, and those which develop the skills of communicating in writing.
Most textbooks contain plenty of examples of the first type, although such exercises are limited in what they can achieve. They may require the student to practise writing a number of unrelated sentences, and although this is perfectly acceptable as a practice activity, it must be remembered that we hardly ever actually write only one sentence at a time. A written message usually consists of a number of interrelated sentences.
Another limitation of such exercises is that they test students instead of teaching them. Typically, students are given a rule or an example, and then have to produce a number of other sentences in which the rule is applied. Sometimes this can result in the production of complicated sentences which would hardly ever actually be written. The students are simply practising instances of classroom or textbook language.
A third limitation is giving students instructions such as 'Write these sentences with the verbs in brackets in the correct tense.' The students are then given a series of sentences with the infinitive form of the verb as a prompt. They have to convert these infinitives into the correct tense, which can be a confusing and difficult task with the infinitive acting as a distractor. Such exercises tend to test the students before they are ready to be tested, and mistakes are common.
It is better to provide exercises in which students can actually consolidate their learning. Instead of asking them to convert actives to passives, or past tenses to present, or infinitives to the correct tense, it is preferable to give the correct form, and require the students to make a correct choice without being distracted by the wrong form. For instance, if we want the students to practise matching the appropriate verb form with a singular or plural subject in the present simple tense, we can provide a series of sentences dealing with both singular and plural on the topic, for example The horse/ horses is/are four legged animals/a four legged animal. They/it eats/eat grass. The students' task is to write out a paragraph with either a singular or plural subject. Everything they need is provided, but what they have to do is to make a meaningful and systematic choice from the items given. They are not being required to carry out a conversion exercise or to add anything new.
Another technique is to provide a type of substitution table from which the students have to select combinations to make up a series of correct sentences. Here is a very brief example:
They John |
met went |
to town.
at a restaurant.
He |
ate |
Mary.
In exercises of this type, the students not only have to make up correct sentences, but they also have to put them into a sequence which will form a brief narrative. There are clues to sequence in the above example -John would normally come in the first sentence to tell us the name of the actor. He, which is backward pointing, refers to John in the first sentence and so would be the subject of the second sentence. They, which refers to both John and Mary, would logically come in the third sentence, and so on.
This type of exercise brings us to the writing of connected sentences rather than isolated ones. It also introduces us to paragraph writing. This is an important step for anyone who wants to learn to use writing as a form of communication. In teaching writing beyond sentence level, we need to begin with a model text. The model provides the students with an example of what to do. This is important, because even when learning to write in our native language, we often refer to models as guides to our own writing. (The term 'model' here refers to any piece of acceptable writing of the desired type. It doesn't mean something which is 'perfect'.)
You can use the model as a reading comprehension passage so that it will serve a dual purpose. In the first part of the lesson, you can ask the students to deal with content (for comprehension) and language and organization (for subsequent application in their own writing). Information from the model text can be transferred to a worksheet as part of reading comwork.
When they have completed the worksheet, the students can then use it as a cue sheet in order to reconstruct the original text. In other words, they attempt to rewrite the model, though possibly in a shortened or simplified form. Their version will retain many of the important features of the origi-nal, though changes are permissible and may in fact be encouraged. For instance, you may wish to add some vocabulary practice to the exercise and this could lead to changes in words or expression in the version which the students produce.
Rewriting completes the first main stage. This can be followed by a second stage of parallel writing. In parallel writing the students are given new information which they use to write a parallel composition, similar in style to the original model. The main change lies in the content of the parallel version rather than in structures or functions. For instance, if you were dealing with narrative, you could give the students, new information -possibly in pictorial form - which would require them to use many of the same verbs as in the original model text, but in a different sequence.
The final stage, which might be done as a homework assignment, involves the students writing compositions of their own. They can then exchange compositions with a partner. Each member of the pair reads his or her partner's composition and uses the information to carry out an information transfer activity similar to the one which they performed in the first lesson. Since neither member of the pair knows in advance exactly what the other partner is writing about, there is a communicative element to this writing. Furthermore, by writing for each other and subsequently discussing each other's compositions, students will begin to develop a sense of writing for an audience as well as realizing the importance of being explicit and accurate in what they write.
Another aspect of writing which needs developing is the organization of ideas. The ways of organizing ideas in English prose may be rather differfrom the conventions in the students* own language, and at intermedi-ate or advanced level, students sometimes have trouble with organization and logic rather than with grammar or vocabulary. It is partly a matter of style. In English, the writer of objective, referential prose stands at a distance from his subject, and adopts an impersonal attitude towards the topic and the reader. Informal references to personal experience as evi-dence are usually considered inappropriate to this type of writing, whereas in some cultures such personal anecdote is perfectly acceptable as a way of stating evidence.
Another dimension of the same problem lies in the organization of a series of statements to indicate logical relationships such as concession, hypothesis, inference, deduction, and so on. In academic writing in English it is common to put forward an entirely hypothetical argument which is usually, but not always, signalled by. Everything within the argument is hypothetical, including statements of concession or contrast. Students unfamiliar with these conventions will need help, not only in using such signals of meaning as however, although and whereas, but also in underthe meaning of such signals as part of the total text.
As with the writing work outlined earlier, it is probably best to begin with examples of the type of writing which you wish to teach. You can focus the students' attention on various aspects of the model text, particuthe organization of ideas and the ways in which these ideas are ex-pressed. The students can then be given parallel writing in which they apply features of the model text to a similar piece of prose. The final stage involves them in writing an original text of their own, incorporating the organization and logical features which they have practised in the precedlessons.
Other writing activities which can be introduced at intermediate and advanced level include adding information to an existing text, deleting information from within a text and placing it elsewhere in the same passge, changing the emphasis or viewpoint and changing the function of a text (for example rewriting a description of a process as a set of instruc-tions). Each of these is an authentic task because they are the kinds of activity which we often perform, even in everyday writing. For instance, one may face the problem of how to write an informal note to a friend or colleague who has failed, yet again, to perform a promised favour. There are subtleties of attitude and emphasis in such a note which might well result in writing several versions before the writer is satisfied that he has produced a message which was neither too aggrieved nor too forgiving!
Adding, deleting and reorganizing information are familiar activities to anyone who has to write reports, prepare proposals, argue a case or per-suade an audience. At more advanced levels, these are skills which need practice. They don't have to be done as solo activities. They can be carried out as group or class activities, in which you and the students discuss the most appropriate place to add information, the changes which such addiwill require and so on.
An important problem at all levels is that of dealing with errors and corrections. Unlike speaking, writing is the one productive skill in which we have time to think about what we have produced or are going to produce. This means that we can think not only about content and our intentions and meanings, but also about the form of what we will write. Furthermore, we can correct and modify as we write. Even fluent writers in their native language will tend to correct, reorganize and polish both dur-ing and after writing a first draft. The students need to be encouraged to develop these habits of self correction. They also need to be given some guidelines. If they feel that they have to correct everything, they will become discouraged and anxious.
If you are focusing on particular language and functional points in a writing lesson, tell the students to check their own work for the same features before they hand it to you for marking. In this way they may only need to check two or three particular features and they can be systematic about it rather than overwhelmed by having to check for lots of different items. It is also more likely that they will actually identify and correct errors if there are only a few things to look out for.
Gradually, over a series of lessons, you can focus the students' attention on different aspects, ranging from such elementary features as article usage to subject-verb agreement to punctuation (for example all sentences must end with a full stop) to the appropriate use of logical connectors like however, but and although. Your own marking of compositions can also focus on the same features so that the students know what you are looking for. You can also adopt a marking code, indicating in the margin the type of error by using a symbol or letter, for example V for verb, Ag for subject-verb agreement, A for article and so on. The sign in the margin alerts the student to the presence of an error in the line concerned. His task is to find the actual error and to correct it. Such a code assumes, of course, some knowledge of grammar on the part of the students.
The correction of errors is particularly important, and is something which it is wise to insist upon. Once you establish a habit of error correc-tion, the students will write out the correct form, which you can then check when they next hand in their composition work. If you keep a record of compositions written, you can add another column to your records for corrections completed. Whether you adopt a strict attitude towards the correction of errors is up to you, but you may find that students like to know that you are taking an interest in their work by insisting on error correction and checking the corrections once they are done.
There is no need for the teacher to be burdened by checking and correct-ing compositions. You can share the task by having students check and correct each other's work. This fits in well with the kind of pair work communicative writing described earlier. It doesn't absolve the teacher from checking and correcting, but it does spread the load and it involves students in the responsibility of marking.
To summarize, writing at all levels involves moving from a model to parallel writing to the final stage, in which students produce an original piece of writing based on their own ideas and content. As well as the skills of producing grammatically correct sentences, writing involves producing logically organized prose which is stylistically appropriate to the writer's purpose. It is difficult to focus simultaneously on all of these aspects, and we need to help students by dealing systematically with one feature at a time. Students can also help each other and the teacher by assuming some of the responsibility for checking and error correction. The importance of accurate and explicit writing will be more obvious to students if they write for each other, as they then have a real audience, and they will have to explain to each other the errors and ambiguities which they find in each other's compositions.
© 2014 - 2019 BigLib.info — это сокращение от Big Library (большая библиотека).
Целью создания этого сайта было сделать украинскую литературу доступной для всех, кто желает ее читать.
Использование любых материалов сайта без согласования с администрацией запрещено.
Обратная связь