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This article is about helping students to write better and teachers to teach writing more efficiently. Teaching writing is a complex task, especially when students do not enjoy writing, seeing it as a boring process (to some extent, it is). The task becomes even more complex when we ask students to write in English, the language most of them are still grappling with. So what should we do? What are some strategies in teaching writing to make it more fun and more efficient? This article addresses these two questions. Before presenting the strategies, I want to address another equally important question: why is writing difficult? Professional writers and novices alike agree that although the act of writing is liberating and enjoyable, it is inherently difficult. This is primarily because when writing, writers need to juggle many tasks simultaneously. To name just a few, they have to think about what to write, what to include and exclude, and how to present those ideas in a cohesive and coherent fashion. David Bartholomae (1985), a veteran writing teacher and scholar, admits: “Writing still, often, makes me unhappy, makes me sick, makes me do things—like smoke, for instance—that disgusts me” (p. 20). Donald Murray (1998), a Pulitzer Prize winner and a writing teacher, concurs: “All writers write badly—at first…Writers who write novels, speeches, news stories, screenplays, corporate memos, textbooks, plays, poems, history books, scientific reports, legal briefs, grant applications, TV scripts, songs all write badly—at first” (p. 1). Writing in a second language (which is English, in this case) further compounds the process. In addition to ideas, cohesion, and coherence, the students have to also worry about grammar and mechanisms: Am I using the right tense? the right word? the right article? Further, because many still rely on translation, they will often move back and forth between Thai and English: What do you call “การศึกษา” in English? How do you say “ฉันชอบอยู่บ้าน
มากกว่าไปข้างนอก” in English? Our student writers can easily feel incompetent to write and to write in English.
Consequently, as writing teachers, if we want to help them improve writing, we should understand the ordeal they must go through when writing so that we can empathize with them and hence provide appropriate support. What follows are seven strategies that I have gathered from reading and from my own experience. They are neither comprehensive nor prescriptive. Rather, they should serve as a platform for writing teachers to explore, ponder, experiment with, and test out in their classrooms. I encourage you to try these techniques yourselves (as I have A version of this essay appears on my blog: http://dialogueonwriting.blogspot.com. The author is an M.A. student in Composition and Rhetoric. He is interested in writing and globalization, academic literacy, composition theory and pedagogy, second language writing in English, and cultural studies. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Strategies for Teaching Writing 2 already done), to combine them, or better yet to come up with new strategies that best suit your teaching style, your students’ language proficiency, and your teaching context. Although they are not in the order of importance, I want to emphasize the first strategy: Become a writer. 1. Become a writer. I have recently realized that advice from writers is more valuable than that from a writing teacher. When you become writers, you experience the writing-related problems firsthand and therefore can advise your students to avoid them earlier in the writing process. Moreover, once you become writers, you will have established the authority to talk about writing. Students often trust those who practice what they preach than those who do not. 2. Write with students. Be a model and write with your students, either in the class or outside of class. You may also want to share some of your writing with your students. Your writing will serve not only as a model but also a proof to your students that you care about the topic you ask them to write and that you also have something to say about the topic. However, make sure that they do not perceive your version as authoritative, as the only "correct" way of completing the assignment. 3. Share your writing process with your students. You may want to share how you write with your students. Share with them the difficulties the assignment imposes, the challenges, the joy. Show them what you do when you get stuck, are at loss. Vivian Zamel (2001), a second language writing scholar/researcher, requires that her graduate students in Teaching Writing to ESL Students seminar to write “literacy narratives” that reflect how they learn how to write. Now let me briefly share with how I wrote this article. The article you are now reading has undergone three major revisions (and several editing). Initially, I did not plan to write about the strategies (it was about a theoretical approach to teaching writing). But once I started writing, I realized that if I discussed some practical teaching strategies, my audience would benefit more. So I changed my topic. Also, an earlier version of this essay did not begin with “This article is about helping student writers to write better and more enjoyable.” I went back and changed it to make it fit the context, when the article began to take shape. Anyhow, the point is that by sharing your writing process with your students, you can show them that writing is difficult, even for you. 4. Alternate between models and freewriting. At the beginning of the semester, you and your students may find it helpful to pick a good writing model and imitate its structure, its style. At times, however, you may want to ask them to enjoy writing freely. You can ask them to write about their favorite music, their love lives (a risky, personal subject), their friendship, etc. The possibilities are endless. This way they will
Strategies for Teaching Writing understand that writing is not confined to academic topics and that writing has no formula. This understanding can further motivate them to write more. 5. Encourage students to embrace errors. Students make errors in their writing, always. They may forget to put a noun, to conjugate a verb, to adopt the appropriate voice. But you should refrain from chastising them, or they will be averse to writing lest they will make mistakes again. They should see that writing is enjoyable and fun. Writing is partly about making mistakes and learning from those mistakes. 6. Focus only on recurring errors. When responding to student writing, pick a handful of errors to focus on. Avoid marking up all errors. The benefits of doing this are two-fold: first, you do not have to comment on every mistake which could be time-consuming and labor-intensive. Second, students can easily become discouraged when they see that their composition is marked (in red ink) throughout. Once low-spirited they usually avoid reading your comments and as a result continue repeating the same mistakes. (Your
effort hence goes fruitless.) A caveat, however: you should make your practice explicit to your students, so they do not exit your classroom assuming that all unmarked sentences were grammatically written. 7. Allow time for students to revise. Zamel (1985) suggests that students should be given time to revise. After giving their papers feedback, you should also allow them to rewrite those papers so they can integrate your feedback into their next drafts. In other words, students should work on the same paper at least twice: first to generate it and second to revise it with your feedback. Based on my experience, I have observed that when allowed to revise, students often performer better. What's more, they made fewer mistakes on the same issue(s) in subsequent drafts. (See also my article, “เขียน
essay แล้วให้เพื่อนๆ ช่วยแก้ ช่วยคุณเขียน
essay ได้จริงๆ เหรอ?”)
In conclusion, the seven strategies can be translated into this: if we want to help our students improve their writing, we should invest in writing (strategies 1-3) and in teaching writing (strategies 4-7). To invest in the former, we can start by keeping a diary or motivating ourselves to write a certain number of words daily; to invest in the latter, we can try out some of the discussed strategies in our classrooms. It may be impossible to incorporate all of the strategies in the classrooms because some may not apply to your teaching context. But you should try one of these strategies and continue to observe the results. You may want to keep a log of what works for you and your students, and what does not. When you do that, you are in a sense becoming researchers. Again, because the seven strategies are offered as a starting point, sometimes you may want to come up with new strategies as you teach. Whether they
Strategies for Teaching Writing 4 work or fail, the new strategies should be shared among your colleagues because collaboration and sharing among teachers will further enhance the teaching of writing.
References Bartholomae, D. (1985). Against the grain. In T. Waldrep (Ed.), Writers on writing (pp. 18-29). New York: Random House. Murray, D. (1998). The craft of revision (3rd ed.). Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace College Publishers. Zamel, V. (1985). Responding to student writing, TESOL quarterly, 19(5), 79-101. Zamel, V. (2001). Teaching (as) composing. In E. Kingston-Mann and T. Sieber (Eds.), Achieving against the odds: How academics become teachers of diverse students (pp. 103-124). PA: Temple University Press.
เมื่อลมแรง…ใบไม้ก็ร่วง. (2008.) เขียน essay แล้วให้เพื่อนๆ ช่วยแก้ ช่วยคุณเขียน essay ได้จริงๆ เหรอ?. Retrieved