(forthcoming, Oct 2007)
English Language Teaching Journal
The teaching plan was developed around the introduction of two specific written genres –procedure and information report (see Macken-Horarik 2001: 21-23). First, we outlinethe activity/ genre-based approach that was applied to the teaching of writing proceduraltexts. Then we evaluate the approach and discuss how it was revised to provide studentswith the essential linguistic tools to scaffold their learning of information report genres.Our aim is to demonstrate how the conceptual level of the genre approach to teachingwriting could be effectively applied within a specific context. In addition, we illustratehow the genre approach could be supported through the incorporation of activity-basedtasks.The genre approach has been tried and tested in a number of different contexts, includingcontexts where children were identified as being disadvantaged (see Christie, 1999).However, very few studies discuss the practical details of how the model could beintroduced by a teacher in a low proficiency EFL context. In this paper, we attempt toshow that this approach is rich enough to be modified to suit low proficiency EFLlearners.
Background: Students with Learning Disabilities (LD)
The pedagogy described was introduced to students with Learning Disabilities (LD).Learning Disability can be seen as a problem, which affects most areas of literacy.Students with LD typically produce writing samples that are shorter, less coherent andless refined. They have difficulty organising text, generating ideas and applying meta-cognitive skills (McAlister et al. 1999). These are the difficulties the students in our studyexperienced and were identified by English teachers at the school in initial interviews.Teachers frequently express similar concerns in relation to low proficiency L2 students(Cumming 1989; Sasaki and Hirose 1996). These difficulties compel the teacher to findways to reshape learning environments and instructional strategies. This is a difficult task for the English teacher, given the fundamental problems low proficiency students havedue to a lack of linguistic and rhetorical awareness.
The study took place in a secondary college, which specialises in the education of students 11-18 years with LD (for more details see, Firkins, 2004). The research teamcomprised two English teachers from the school (one a native English speaker, who is aco-author of this article, the other a Hong Kong, Chinese English teacher), a ResearchAssociate (RA) and two Assistant Professors from a nearby university (also co-authors).Initial interviews were conducted with the principal, four English teachers and a focusgroup of eight parents, and writing was identified for the reasons given above as aparticular area of difficulty. The interviewees reported that students demonstratedconsistent difficulties with both the mechanics and organisation of writing. In additionthe interviewees reported that students obtained poorer results on writing tasks than theirpeers from the wider community in Hong Kong. Thus, the research team decided tofocus on strategies that would enhance the student’s English language writing.2