Teaching writing skills Essay

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The name of our work is “Teaching Writing Skills”. The aim of our term work is to develop communicative language competence in writing skills. Without a doubt, the most important invention in human history is writing. It provides a relatively permanent record of information, opinions, beliefs, feelings, arguments, explanations, theories. Writing allows us to share our communication not only with our contemporaries, but also with future generations. It permits people from the near and far-distant past to speak to us. Learning to write is usually one of the most difficult tasks a foreign language student has to cope with. Even native speakers at university level very often experience serious difficulties in showing a good command of writing.

Language teachers, then, tend to include writing skills in their foreign-language syllabus because they consider these skills essential for their students’ academic success. Teaching writing is an ongoing process which has a number of ways. Most people agree that writing skills are increasingly important and often not adequately taught. When writing is taught in schools, writing instruction often takes a backseat to phonetics, handwriting skills, and reading comprehension. Effective writing is a vital life-skill that is important in almost every subject in school as well in the work world. Writing helps students recognize that they have opinions, ideas, and thoughts that are worth sharing with the world, and writing is an effective way of getting them out.

The communicative language competence is a main goal for developing teaching writing skills, and it contains linguistic, sociolinguistic and progmatic components. Written language also has characteristics, some of which are orthography, complexity, vocabulary, formality. The Common European Framework describes in a comprehensive way what language learners have to learn to do in order to use a language for communication and what knowledge and skills they have to develop so as to be able to act effectively.

The Common European Framework is intended to overcome the barriers to communication among professionals working in the field of modern languages arising from the different educational systems in Europe. There are also specific tasks and exercises which are aimed at the development of writing skills. Our term work consists of two chapters. In the first chapter I have spoken about writing as a productive language activity. And the second chapter is on methodology and strategies of teaching and learning writing. So writing is one of the most difficult ways of developing communicative skills.

The Communicative language competence as a main goal for developing teaching writing skills

Methodology of foreign language teaching is an independent science which aims to study problems of formation, development of skills and abilities of oral and written communication, as well as problems of learners educational and cultural growth in the process. The aim of all language courses is to enable the learner to improve both his ability to communicate, and linguistic competence in the chosen language. A balance of receptive (reading and listening) and productive (speaking and writing) skills are developed through communicative study and self-study.

Communicative language competence can be considered as comprising several components: linguistic, sociolinguistic and progmatic. Each of these components is postulated as comprising, in particular,knowledge and skills and know-how. Linguistic competences include lexical, phonological, syntactical knowledge and skills and other dimensions of language as system, independently of the sociolinguistic value of its variations and the progmatic functions of its realisations. This component, considered here from the point of view of a given individual’s communicative language competence, relates not only to the range and quality of knowledge, but also to cognitive organisation and the way this knowledge is stored (e.g.the various associative networks in which the speaker places a lexical item) and to its accessibility (activation, recall and availability).

Knowledge may be conscious and readily expressible or may not. Its organisation and accessibility will vary from one individual to another and vary also within the same individual (e.g.for a plurilingual person depending on the varieties inherent in his or her plurilingual competence). It can also be held that the cognitive organisation of vocabulary and the storing of expressions, depend, amongst other things, on the cultural features of the community in which the individual has been socialised and where his or her learning has occurred.

Sociolinguistic competences refer to the sociocultural conditions of language use. Through its sensitivity to social conventions (rules of politeness, norms governing relations between sexes, generations, classes and social groups), the sociolinguistic component strictly affects all language communication between representatives of different cultures, even though participants may often be unaware of its influence. Progmatic competences are concerned with the functional use of linguistic resources (production of language functions, speech acts), drawing on scenarios or scripts of interactional exchanges. It also concerns the mastery of discourse , the identification of text types and forms, irony, and parody.

For this components even more than the linguistic components, it is hardly necessary to stress the major impact of interactions and cultural environments in which such abilities are constructed. All the categories used here are intended to characterise areas and types of competences internalised by a social agent, i.e. internal representations, mechanisms and capacities, the cognitive existence of which can be considered to account for observable behaviour and performance. At the same time, any learning process will help to develop or transform these same internal representations, mechanisms and capacities.

The language learners or user’s communicative language competence is activated in the performance of the various language activities, involving reception, production, interaction or mediation (in particular interpreting or translating). Each of this types of activity is possible in relation to texts in oral or written form, or both.

As processes, reception and production (oral and/or written) are obviously primary, since both are required for interaction. In this Framework, however, the use of these terms for language activities is confined to the role they play in isolation. Receptive activities include silent reading and following the media. They are also of importance in many forms of learning (understanding course content, consulting textbooks, works of reference and documents).

Productive activities have an important function in many academic and professional fields (oral presentations, written studies and reports) and particular social value is attached to them (judgements made of what has been submitted in writing or of fluency in speaking and delivering oral presentations). In interaction at least two individuals participate in an oral and written exchange in which production and reception alternate and may in fact overlap in oral communication. Not only may two interlocutors be speaking and yet listening to each other simultaneously. Even where turn-taking is strictly respected, the listener is generally already forecasting the remainder of the speaker’s message and preparing a response. Learning to interact thus involves more than learning to receive and to produce utterances. High importance is generally attributed to interaction in language use and learning in view of its central role in communication.

Can express himself or herself with clarity and precision, relating to the addressee flexibly and effectively. B2 Can express news and views effectively in writing, and relate to those of others. B1 Can convey information and ideas on abstract as well as concrete topics, check information and ask about or explain problems with reasonable precision. Can write personal letters and notes asking for or conveying simple information of immediate relevance, getting across the point he or she fells to be important. A2

Can write short, simple formulate notes relating to matters in areas of immediate need. A1 Can ask for or pass on personal details in written form.

Can express himself or herself with clarify and precision in personal correspondence, using language flexibly and effectively, including emotional, allusive and joking usage. B2 Can write letters conveying degrees of emotion and highlighting the personal significance of events and experiences and commenting on the correspondent’s news and views. B1 Can write personal letters giving news and expressing thoughts about abstract or cultural topics such as music, films. A2 Can write very simple personal letters expressing thanks and apology. A1 Can write a short simple postcard.

Characteristics of written language

There are some characteristics of written language. 1.Orthography Everything from simple greetings to extremely complex ideas are captured through the manipulation of a few dozen letters and other written symbols. Sometimes we take for granted the mastering of the mechanics of English writing by our students. If students are non-literate in the native language, you must begin at the very beginning with fundamentals of reading and writing. For literate students, if their native language system is not alphabetic, new symbols have to be produced by hands that may have gotten too accustomed to another system. If the native language has a different phoneme-grapheme system, then some attention is due here.

Complexity

Here writers must learn how to remove redundancy (which may not jibe with their first language rhetorical tradition), how to combine sentences, how to make references to other elements in texts, how to create syntactic and lexical variety, and much more.

Vocabulary

Writing places a heavier demand on vocabulary use than does speaking. Good writers will learn to take advantage of the richness of English vocabulary. 4.Formality Whether a student is filling out a questionnaire or writing a full-blown essay, the conventions of each form must be followed. For ESL students, the most difficult and complex conventions occur in academic writing where students have to learn how to describe, explain, compare, contrast, illustrate, defend, criticize and argue.

Classroom writing performance has five major categories:

1.Imitative or writing down At the beginning level of learning to write, students will simply “write down” English letters, words, and possibly sentences in order to learn the conventions of the orthographic code. Some forms of dictation fall into this category although dictations can serve to teach and test higher order processing as well. Dictations typically involve the following steps: (1)Teacher reads a short paragraph once or twice at normal speed. (2)Teacher reads the paragraph in short phrase units of three or four words each,and each unit is followed by a pause. (3)During the pause, students write exactly what they hear.

(4)Teacher then reads the paragraph once more at normal speed so students can check their writing. (5)Scoring of students’ written work can utilize a number of rubrics for assigning points. Usually spelling and punctuation errors are not considered as severe as grammatical errors.

Intensive or controlled

Writing is sometimes used as a production mode for learning, reinforcing, or testing grammatical concepts. This intensive writing typically appears in controlled, written grammar exercises. This type of writing would not allow much, if any, creativity on the part of the writer. A common form of controlled writing is to present a paragraph to students in which they have to alter a given structure throughout. So, for example, they may be asked to change all present tense verbs to past; in such a case, students may need to alter other time references in the paragraph. Guided writing loosens the teacher’s control but still offers a series of stimulators. For example, the teacher might get students to tell a story just viewed on a video tape by asking them a series of questions: Where does the story take place? Describe the principal character. What does he say to the woman in the car?…

Yet another form of controlled writing is a dicto-comp. Here, a paragraph is read at normal speed; then the teacher puts key words from the paragraph, in sequence, on the blackboard and asks students to rewrite the paragraph from the best of their recollection of the reading, using the words on the board.

Self-writing

A significant proportion of classroom writing may be devoted to self-writing, or writing with only the self in mind as an audience. The most salient instance of this category in classroom is notetaking, where students take notes during a lecture for the purpose of later recall. Other notetaking may be done in the margins of books and on odd scraps of paper.

Diary or journal writing also falls into this category. However, in recent years more and more dialogue journal writing takes place, where students write thoughts, feelings, and reactions in a journal and an instructor reads and responds, in which case the journal, while ostensibly written for oneself, has two audiences.

Display writing

It was already noted earlier that writing within the school curricular context is a way of life. For all language students, short answer exercises, essay examinations, and even research reports will involve an element of display. For academically bound ESL students, one of the academic skills that they need to master is a whole array of display writing techniques.

Real writing

While virtually every classroom writing task will have an element of display writing in it, nevertheless some classroom aims at the genuine communication of messages to an audience in need of those messages. The two categories of real and display writing are actually two ends of a continuum, and in between the two extremes lie some practical instances of a combination of display writing and real. Three subcategories illustrate how reality can be injected: (a)Academic. The Language Experience Approach gives groups of students opportunities to convey geniune information to each other.

Content-based instruction encourages the exchange of useful information, and some of this learning uses the written word. Group problem-solving tasks, especially those that relate to current issues and other personally relevant topics, may have a writing component in which information is genuinely sought and conveyed. Peer-editing work adds to what could otherwise be an audience of one (the instructor) and provides real writing opportunity. In certain ESP and EAP courses, students may exchange new information with each other and with the instructor.

(b)Vocational/technical. Quite a variety of real writing can take place in classes of students studying English for advancement in their occupation. Real letters can be written; genuine directions for some operation or assembly might be given; and actual forms can be filled out. These possibilities are even greater in what has come to be called ”English in the Workplace” where ESL is offered within companies and corporations. (c)Personal. In virtually any ESL class, diaries, letters, notes, personal messages, and other informal writing can take place, especially within the context of an interactive classroom.

Writing activities

Why should we include writing activities in a language course? Writing reinforces the grammatical structures; writing helps our students to learn vocabulary. Writing can also play a role in many of the activities in which the goal is oral production, reading comprehension, etc. Students have to develop the skills of communicating in writing; students need writing for study purposes. Writing as a channel of foreign language learning reinforces the grammatical structures, idioms and vocabulary that our students have been learning.

Thus, some writing exercises might be introduced to consolidate language already presented and practiced orally. Writing as a goal of foreign language learning can help students to communicate with other people in writing, that is why we could include some writing tasks to help learners develop the skills of communicating in writing. This is something they might need in their future social, educational, personal, or professional lives, when they have to fill out forms, write letters and postcards, give written instructions, take down notes, write telephone messages. However, different written exercises might have different purposes or emphasise one aspect more than the other.

And though it is important to work at the sentence level and reinforce grammar and vocabulary, especially with beginners, students should also benefit from writing whole texts which form connected and contextualised pieces of communication, even at the lower levels of learning. When teachers plan their writing activities they have to consider the level of their students and the difficulty of the task. We could mention two different ways of grading writing tasks:

1) According to the length. Much of the writing tasks in an elementary level class is at the sentence level and their texts are usually limited to just a few sentences. Then, students gradually produce longer and more elaborate texts. 2) According to the degree of control the task exercises over the student’s expression. Writing tasks for beginners tend to be fairly controlled; as they progress and improve their writing, teachers often guide them in many different ways before they are asked to write something freely. 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 can facilitate learning of the target area. Once the target skill areas and means of implementations 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? Other important questions to ask oneself are: What should the students be able to produce at the end of this exercise? What is the focus of the exercise? 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.

Generally speaking there have been two basic ways of teaching writing skills in second and foreign language courses: the product focused approach and the process approach. A product approach is a traditional approach, in which students are encouraged to mimic a model text, which is usually presented and analysed at an early stage. The process approaches to writing tend to focus more on the varied classroom activities which promote the development of language use. Hence, we can distinguish three types of writing activities: controlled, guided and free. Controlled writing activities include copying phrases or sentences which have been mastered orally or which are written in the book.

There are two basic ways of guiding the students’ writing. The first is by providing students with short reading texts or oral passages which serve as models for them to follow, as the product approach suggested. And the second one is by doing some oral or written preparation for the writing beforehand with the whole class, as the process approach suggested. In free writing activities is given a traditional composition in which the teacher asks the students to write about their own experiences, describe pictures. It’s a good example of free writing task. All the help students may have is a title or the first/last sentence of the composition.

Common reference levels of writing

The common European Framework is intended to overcome the barriers to communication among professionals working in the field of modern languages arising from the different educational systems in Europe. It provides the means for educational administrators, course designers, teachers, teacher trainers, to reflect on their current practice, with a view to situating and co-ordinating their efforts and to ensure that they meet the real needs of the learners for whom they are responsible. It describes in a comprehensive way what language learners have to learn to do in order to use a language for communication and what knowledge and skills they have to develop so as to be able to act effectively.

There does appear in practice to be a wide, through by no means universal, consensus on the number and nature of levels appropriate to the organisation of language learning and public recognition of achievement. It seems that an outline framework of six broad levels gives an adequate coverage of the learning space relevant to European language learners for these purposes. Breakthrough, corresponding to what Wilkins in his 1978 labelled ‘Formulaic Proficiency’, and Trim in the same publication ‘Introductory’. Waystage, reflecting the Council of Europe content specification.

Threshold, reflecting the Council of Europe content specification. Vantage, reflecting the third Council of Europe content specification. Effective Operational Proficiency which was called “Effective Proficiency” by Trim, “Adequate Operational Proficiency” by Wilkins, and represents an advanced level of competence suitable for more complex work and study tasks. Mastery- it could be extended to include the more developed intercultural competence above that level which is achieved by many language professionals.

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