The Teaching of Writing

The Purposes of Teaching Writing:

  1. Writing is an important means of distance communication.
  2. It will be required by many students carrying out research studies in English medium universities.
  3. Many language educators consider writing to be an effective way for helping students learn a language.
  4. Writing can be an effective primary phase for conducting role-play.

Approaches for the Teaching of Writing:

  1. The Controlled-to-Free Approach.
  2. The Free Writing Approach.
  3. The Paragraph-Pattern Approach.
  4. The Grammar Syntax Approach.
  5. The Communicative Approach.
  • Each of these approaches focuses on some aspects of the writing process, so much so that none of them is comprehensive.
  • These approaches are not mutually exclusive, but they, in fact, complement one another.
  • The choice of any particular approach depends on the age and the level of proficiency of the students in English.
  • To become a professional writer, one will have to have mastery of the grammatical structure, vocabulary and a suitable writing style.
  • One of the ways of achieving this is to progress from controlled through guided practice to free writing.

Procedures for Planning and Conducting the Writing Lesson:

  1. Writing the performance objective.
  2. Conducting instructional analysis of the performance objective or the learning task.
  3. Writing the test item.
  • Having written the test item, the teacher will have to think of what to do to help the students achieve this.
  • Since we have discussed the how to gain the attention of the students, how to inform them of the performance objectives, how to recall the essential prerequisites and how to introduce the new vocabulary items, it will be necessary now to discuss the last three instructional events in relation to the teaching of writing:

  1. Presenting the stimulus:

Purpose:

To introduce the new language items that the students will have to learn to use in order to perform the writing task.  The language items may include grammatical structures, language functions, vocabulary items and idioms, etc.

  • The stimulus may be specifically prepared or selected for the writing task.
  • Reading or listening comprehension texts can be used as a stimulus for the writing tasks.
  • The text must first be presented in the same manner in which comprehension texts are presented.

2. Conducting Interactive Teaching and Learning:

  • The problem of teaching composition can be solved if we use the two concepts of formative and summative evaluation.
  • The purpose of formative evaluation is to give the student feedback about the correctness of her or his performance. This has also been called informal assessment.
  • The purpose of summative evaluation is to award the student a grade or a mark.
  • Most teachers seem to be using summative evaluation rather than formative evaluation when dealing with the students’ compositions or writing tasks.
  1. Eliciting the response:

(By using mechanical drills) (Controlled language exercises)

2. Enhancing retention and transfer:

  • Rule explanation.
  • Using guided language exercises.

3. Providing feedback:

  • Feedback about students’ performance is given whenever a student gives a correct answer to a question.

4. Giving learning guidance:

  • Learning guidance is given whenever a student fails to give a correct answer to a question.
  • The teacher begins the practice phase with controlled language exercises.
  • Some of the most commonly used controlled exercises are modeling, completion exercises, question and answer exercises, etc. For example, it is possible to miss out some of the key words in the text and ask students to complete the exercise.
  • The exercise can be done automatically without the students knowing the grammatical rules.
  • It is necessary to explain these grammatical rules and give the students another type of guided exercises.
  • The guided exercises used in writing practice include questions set on a picture or sequence of pictures, or questions set on a text, not for testing comprehension, but for making comparisons, value judgements or discussing moral questions, etc.
  • The students, who have done well in the guided practice phase, must be given the opportunity to take the summative assessment.

Assessing the Students’ Performance:

  • The purpose of this event is to find out to what extent the objectives of the lesson have been achieved. In other words, to find out to what extent the students have learnt what they have been taught.
  • Teachers as well as course and textbook writers must prepare achievement tests rather than proficiency tests.
  • Achievement tests help teachers find out to what extent their students have learnt what they have been taught.
  • If the content and the technique of the test are not congruent with the lesson’s or unit’s performance objectives, the test will not only have bad backwash effects, but it will also lack content validity.
  • If teachers make use of the concept of formative evaluation in addition to summative assessment, they will be able to teach and test composition writing.
  • Compositions are usually criticized for neither being valid nor reliable tests of students’ writing ability.

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