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Catedra de Limba i Literatura englez EFL Methodology year II English majors

DEVELOPING WRITING SKILLS


The traditional ordering of the four skills speaking, listening, reading, writing reflects both a general belief about the natural order of skill acquisition and one about instructional priorities. Of the four skills, writing seems to be the odd one out. All children learn to understand and speak their mother tongue, and school ensures that most people grow up able to read. If we think only of the pupils long-term needs, writing is probably the least important of the four skills. Only a few might be expected to need any extensive writing in either Romanian or English. There is no doubt that writing is the most difficult skill for L2 learners and that only a few succeed in mastering it. The difficulty lies not only in generating and organizing ideas, but also in translating these ideas into readable text. However, through the mastery of writing, an individual comes to be fully effective in intellectual organization and in the expression of ideas and arguments. Actually, the pupils need for writing is most likely to be for study purposes and also as an examination skill. At the purely practical level, good, clear writing leads to school success. The skills involved in writing are highly complex. Learners need to pay attention to higher level skills of planning and organizing as well as lower level skills of spelling, punctuation, word choice, and so on. The difficulty becomes even more pronounced if their language proficiency is weak. Teaching writing involves guiding in analysing and developing thinking, in shaping and organising it into central and subordinate ideas, in developing a line of thought and carrying it to the reader. At elementary and intermediate level, writing helps pupils to think and to learn. Writing new words and structures helps pupils to remember them, as writing is done more slowly and carefully than speaking. That is why written practice helps the pupils to focus their attention on what they are learning. Many English teachers feel that the development of writing skills represents an unrealistic goal for their pupils as most of them are still struggling to acquire this skill in Romanian. Writing, in general, is a difficult skill to master, requiring long practice. Writing in English will create even bigger problems. And yet, in the English classroom, a writing exercise may help to reinforce oral work, to confirm understanding of a reading text, to demonstrate awareness of English, as well as to provide a welcome change of pace in a lesson. By the end of this unit, you should be able to: set up, apply and monitor a variety of interactive classroom writing tasks offer a theoretical justification for each of these tasks integrate writing activities with the development of one or more of other skills identify the various sub-skills involved in the writing process select and apply appropriate classroom activities to develop these sub-skills assess the learning outcomes of specific writing activities.

Key Concepts: genre, writing sub-skills, cohesion, coherence, text-based


approach, process approach, communicative approach, audience, form and content, peer correction, self-correction

Anca Cehan

Developing Writing Competence: Writing Sub-Skills

Writing refers to several sub-skills: putting words on paper, making sentences and linking them in paragraphs, writing a poem, developing an essay, and many others. Nunan (1989) notes that writing involves: mastering the mechanics of letter formation mastering and obeying conventions of spelling and punctuation using the grammatical system to convey ones intended meaning organising content at the level of the paragraph and the complete text to reflect new/given information and topic/comment structures polishing and revising ones initial efforts selecting an appropriate style for ones audience. The first three of these are sentence-level skills; spelling, punctuation and grammatical accuracy all receive regular attention from teachers. However, sometimes it appears that these are the only things considered worthy of attention. The pupils failure to produce good creative writing suggests that paying attention to just these three aspects of the writing process is not enough. The last three items are text and discourse-level skills and usually do not receive much attention. When they do, it is often in the form of red-pen comments on returned essays, such as badly organised or essay lacks shape. Section 7.4 considers the effects of this kind of feedback. Sometimes pupils lose their meaning in the process of writing because they have a simplistic view of their task, or they see their writing as definitive from the beginning, except for minor alterations of form. The ideas themselves should be seen as the most important aspect of the writing. On the other hand, pupils need to pay attention to formal aspects: handwriting, spelling, punctuation, grammar and vocabulary, etc. Writing is difficult as it involves the development and co-ordination of cognitive and conceptual sub-skills, including: Knowledge of the language system Pupils should have knowledge of those aspects of the language system (vocabulary, grammar) necessary for the completion of the task. They should also be able to organize texts appropriately in order to do particular jobs. Knowledge of the genre Teaching writing means teaching pupils to recognize the genre in which they are writing, and the grammatical and lexical choices that need to be made in order to match the text to the writing purpose. This includes knowledge of: a) content: knowledge of the concepts involved in the subject area; b) context: knowledge of the context in which the text will be read, including the readers expectations. For instance, learners need to realize the importance of framing the beginning of a text rather than jump in and so become increasingly aware of the readers needs. They also have to learn that for both descriptive and persuasive texts, it is necessary to view the task from a perspective other than their own. In the descriptive task, they have to consider and recognize features that would help someone visualize an object without seeing it. In the persuasive text, they have to realize the need to anticipate an argument and generalize reasons that support their stand. Knowledge of the writing process Pupils also need knowledge of the effective way of preparing for a writing task: planning, drafting, reviewing, editing, etc. Anca Cehan 2

Writing requires more correctness of expression and higher standards of language than speech. Luckily, the slow and reflective nature of the process of writing enables the writer to devote more time and attention to formal aspects during the process of writing.

Writing to Learn and Learning to Write

Writing to learn Writing is widely used in the English classes as a means of engaging the pupils with other language skills. The pupils note down new vocabulary, copy out grammar rules, write out answers to reading or listening comprehension questions, do written tests. In these activities, writing is mainly a means of getting the pupils to practise a particular language point, or as a convenient method of testing it. Which of the following kinds of text do you think your pupils would need in Romanian and which in English? advertisement, essay, filling in a form, letter to the manager, letter to a newspaper, letter to mother/father, note about a telephone message, newspaper article, poem, pop song lyric, postcard, report, shopping list, story, Ph.D. thesis. Learning to write Other activities have as main objective writing itself. These practise written forms either at the level of word or sentence or at the level of content and organization. The pupils have to express themselves using their own words. They have to state a purpose for writing, and often to specify a readership. Examples of such activities include narrating a story, writing a letter or a report. Some activities combine purposeful and original writing with the learning or practice of some other skill or content. For example, a written response to the reading of a text will combine writing with reading. A task which provides little or no practice for the pupils to extend their knowledge of appropriate content or context or to raise their awareness about the writing process is not really a writing task but a general learning task using writing. Writing in Romanian and Writing in English You may have already noticed thst pupils progress in language complexity much faster in English than in Romanian. They understand easily that some of the structural differences observed between speech and writing in Romanian are similar in English, and consequently attempt the same kind of language adjustments when they write in English. They realise quickly that the manner in which sentences grow in complexity is similar in Romanian and English: simple sentences are joined first through coordination, then subordination, and finally clause reduction. However, there are some features of written language that may cause major problems to your pupils as they may differ from those of Romanian. These operate above the level of the sentence: layout and physical organization on the page, text organization determined by the social function the text fulfils, relationships between clauses and clause complexes. That is why your pupils may benefit from an explicit understanding of how these work. For the Romanian student of English, many writing conventions will remain a mystery unless teachers are able to bring the forms and patterns of language use to conscious awareness. However, many English tests will evaluate their control of text organisation, sentence structure, etc. By providing learners with the language to talk about texts, they can better understand how to make a piece of writing more effective and appropriate to the Anca Cehan 3

communicative purpose. This also helps them increase their writing skills and become more efective during peer editing and revision. In writing English, which appears to create more difficulties to you, cohesion or coherence?

Approaches to Writing

There are two main ways of approaching writing: focusing on the product or on the writer. These perspectives have determined major approaches on the teaching of writing. The focus on the product gave birth to the traditional text-based approach. The teachers using this perspective often present model texts, usually given in textbooks, for the pupils to imitate or adapt. They believe their role is to cultivate conformity to models, and accuracy rather than fluency. They see mistakes as something they have to correct and eliminate. In this approach, the pupils write variations first on sentences, then on paragraphs, then on very controlled compositions, and finally, at an advanced level, they work on free composition. Examine one of the textbooks in use. a) What writing activities suggested in these textbooks give the pupils the opportunity to be creative and original? b) Find examples of activities which begin with an example text or samples of language that the pupils have to imitate or incorporate into their own writing.

3.1 The Process Approach


Traditionally, the teacher has been more concerned with the finished product than with the way it has been created. The text-based approach is based on the notion that pupils need to produce accurate pieces of writing. Over the past few years, however, interest has swung from the product of writing to the actual writing process itself. It has become apparent that if the teachers first concern is that an essay or story should be grammatically correct, then this will be reflected in pupil attitude and behaviour. Firstly, pupils will regard essay writing not as opportunity to express their views on a variety of topics, but as a long grammatical exercise. What they actually write about will be a minor consideration. Secondly, pupils will play safe. They will choose simple things to say to avoid the risk of error. The result will be reasonably correct essays that say nothing. However, the whole purpose of creative writing is to say something worth paying attention to. While not totally rejecting this earlier system, the current trend is to place emphasis on the process of writing and the writer. This approach lays stress on the activities which move the pupil from the generation of ideas and collection of data to the production and publication of the text. It emphasises the writing process over the product, with recognition of the recursiveness of the process and the encouragement of exploration of topics through writing. The writing process may be broadly seen as comprising four main stages: planning, drafting, revising and editing. The stages are neither sequential nor orderly, as many writers employ a recursive, non-linear approach, as writing a draft may be interrupted by more planning, and revision may lead to reformulation, with a great deal of recycling to earlier stages. Anca Cehan 4

PROCESS ACTIVATED

Planning

Drafting

PROCESS TERMINATED

Editing

Revising
Fig. 1 The Writing Process (Seow A, p. 315

Process writing as a classroom activity incorporates the four basic writing stages planning, drafting (writing), revising (redrafting) and editing and three other stages externally imposed on students by the teacher: responding (sharing), evaluating and postwriting. Process writing is highly structured as it necessitates the orderly teaching of process skills. It is now recognised that pupils not only need help throughout the writing process, but that creative writing in the classroom is a shared activity. This kind of thinking has resulted in much more attention being paid to the pre-writing stage. Planning Planning (pre-writing) encourages students to write. It stimulates thoughts for getting started. It moves students toward generating tentative ideas and gathering information for writing. The following activities provide the learning experiences for students at this stage: Group brainstorming. Clustering. Students form words related to a stimulus supplied by the teacher. The words are circled and then linked by lines to show clusters. The visual character of the activity stimulates the flow of associations. Rapid free writing. Within a limited time of 1 or 2 minutes, individual students freely and quickly write down single words and phrases about a topic. Rapid freewriting is done when group brainstorming is not possible or because of the personal nature of a certain topic. Wh-questions. Students generate who, why, what, where, when and how questions about a topic. or such questions can be asked of answers to the first string of wh-questions, and so on. This can go on indefinitely. Drafting Once sufficient ideas are gathered at the planning stage, the first attempt at writing drafting may proceed quickly. At this stage, the writers are focused on the fluency of writing and are not preoccupied with grammatical accuracy or the neatness of the draft. One dimension of good writing is the writers ability to visualise an audience. Although writing in the classroom is almost always for the teacher, the students may also be encouraged to write for different audiences (their peers, other classmates, pen-friends, or family members). A sense of audience will dictate a certain style to be used. Students should also have in mind a central idea that they want to communicate to the audience in order to give direction to their writing. Depending on the genre of writing (narrative, expository or argumentative), an introduction to the subject of writing may be a startling statement to arrest the readers attention, a short summary of the rest of the writing, and apt quotation, a provocative question, a general statement, an analogy, a statement of purpose, and so on. Such a strategy may provide the lead at the drafting stage.

Anca Cehan

Responding Responding to student writing by the teacher (or by peers) has a central role to play in the successful implementation of process writing. Responding intervenes between drafting and revising. It is the teachers quick initial reaction to students drafts. Response can be oral or in writing, after the students have produced the first draft and just before they proceed to revise. The failure of many writing activities in schools may be ascribed to the fact that responding is done in the final stage when the teacher simultaneously responds and evaluates, and even edits students finished texts, thus giving students the impression that nothing more needs to be done. Text-specific responses in the form of helpful suggestions and questions will hale students rediscover meanings and facilitate the revision of initial drafts. Such responses can be provided in the margin, between sentence lines or at the end of students texts. Peer responding can be effectively carried out by having students respond to each others texts in small groups or in pairs, with the aid of a checklist. Responding checklist What is the greatest strength of this composition/essay, etc? What is its greatest weakness? What is the central idea? Which are the ideas that need more elaboration? Where should more details or examples be added? Why? What are some of the questions that the writer has not answered? At which point does this composition fail to hold the readers interest? Why? Where is the organisation confusing? Where is the writing unclear or vague?
(after Seow A., 318)

Revising Comments and discussion may follow after a second draft is attempted, and so on. The pupils need to be assured that the final product is not the only thing to be judged. Praise for the first draft, and praise, advice and suggestions throughout the writing process are very important. If you accept that for teaching purposes at least, the process of writing is more significant than the final product, then it follows that pupils need to be given enough time to produce their essay. If it is a race against time, then few of the above procedures can be applied. Much of the teaching of writing comes at the first draft stage. Very little can be taught after the final version has been submitted. That is why you need to sit with your pupils and discuss the first drafts, be appreciative of good ideas, and make suggestions for general improvements in structure. When students revise, they review their texts on the basis of the feedback given in the responding stage. They re-examine what was written to see how effectively they have communicated their meaning to the reader. Revising is not merely checking for language errors (i.e. editing). It is done to improve global content and the organisation of ideas so that the writers intent is made clearer to the reader. Revising can be done in pairs, with the students reading aloud each others drafts before they revise. As students listen intently to their own writing, they are brought to a more conscious level of rethinking and re-seeing what they have written. Anca Cehan 6

Editing At this stage, students are engaged in tidying up their texts as they prepare the final draft foe evaluation by the teacher. They edit their own or their peers work for grammar, spelling, punctuation, diction, sentence structure and accuracy of supportive textual material such as quotations, examples and the like. Formal editing is deferred till this phase in order that its application not disrupt the free flow of ideas during the drafting and revising stages. A simple checklist might be issued to student to alert them to some of the common surface errors found in students writing. For instance: Have you used your verbs in the correct tense? Are the verb forms correct? Have you checked for subject verb agreement? Have you used the correct prepositions? Have you left out the articles where they are required? Have you used all your pronouns correctly? Is your choice of adjectives and adverbs appropriate? Have you written in complete sentences?
(After Seow, A., p. 318 319)

The students are, however, not always expected to know where and how to correct every error, but editing to the best of their ability should be done as a matter of course, prior to submitting their work for evaluation each time. Editing within process writing is meaningful because students can see the connection between such an exercise and their own writing in that correction is not done for its own sake but as part of the process of making communication as clear and unambiguous as possible to an audience. Evaluating Very often teachers compress responding, editing and evaluating into one. This deprives students of the vital link between drafting and revision (that is, responding) which often makes a big difference. In evaluating student writing, the scoring may be analytical (i.e., based on specific aspects of writing ability) or holistic (i.e., based on a global interpretation of the effectiveness of that piece of writing). In order to be effective, the criteria for evaluation should be made known to students in advance. They should include the overall interpretation of the task, sense of audience, relevance, development and organisation of ideas, format or layout, grammar and structure, spelling and punctuation, range and appropriateness of vocabulary, and clarity of communication. Depending on the purpose of evaluation, a numerical score or grade may be assigned. Students may be encouraged to evaluate their own and each others texts once they have been properly taught how to do it. In this way, they are made more responsible for their own writing. Post-writing Post writing constitutes any classroom activity that the teacher and students can do with the completed pieces of writing. This includes publishing, sharing, reading aloud, transforming texts for stage performances, or merely displaying texts on notice-boards. The post-writing stage is a platform for recognising students work as important and worthwhile. Scrivener (1994) proposes at least nine stages of preparation before the final draft of a piece of creative writing is produced: Introduction of topic. Group discussion. Clarification of main writing task. Consideration of audience for the final text. Consideration of specific requirements style, information, layout, etc. Consideration of likely difficulties and problems. Initial individual or group brainstorming, Anca Cehan 7

Selection and rejection of ideas, Sorting and ordering of ideas note-making, Focus on useful language models, Small group or class construct of a preliminary skeleton or example text, Individual or group preparation of draft text, Discussion with others and with teacher, Individual or group preparation of final draft.

3.2 Implementing Process Writing


Teacher modelling Teachers should model the writing process at every stage and teach specific writing strategies to students through meaningful classroom activities. Relating process to product It is vital that as students go through various stages of writing and elaborate various drafts, they understand what kind of product is expected at each stage. Thus students need to be guided to set and achieve specific writing goals at every stage. Working within institutional constraints It is possible to teach some process skills appropriate to a writing stage within a twoperiod composition lesson. The teaching of the same process skill could be repeated in subsequent composition lessons. Process skills can be systematically taught each time until the entire series of such skills is developed over a period of time. Catering to diverse student needs The teacher will need to know what the individual student knows and work from there, implementing a flexible programme to cater to different student needs. The teacher may also decide to have students enter into different writing groups as planners, drafters, responders, revisers or editors during a writing session. Exploiting the use of computers in process writing Many word-processing programmes are user-friendly enough for students to handle. Their direct application to process writing, especially for the purposes of drafting, revising and editing, is rewarding for both the teacher and the students. The teacher can teach responding or editing skills via the computer hooked on to an overhead projector. The students can freely make any number of changes to their texts by deleting words or moving them around without having to retype large chunks of text all over again. Any work can be saved on the computer for revision later.

3.3

The Text-Based Approach

This approach is also called the controlled-to-free approach, as depending on the degree of freedom the pupils are allowed, the writing activities used are characterized as controlled, guided and free. There has been much argument about whether pupils should be allowed to engage in free writing from the start, or whether they should be led gradually into it. Some argue that, if writing is about expressing ones views, then pupils should be allowed a free rein. Others feel that strict control should be maintained until the pupils can produce error-free sentences. There is little doubt that, unless the pupils can produce syntactically acceptable sentences, their creative writing will not be very coherent. It seems fair to assume that some kind of sentence-level guidance will be necessary for many pupils at some stage. However, you cannot suume that sentence-level skills will be automatically transferred to creative Anca Cehan 8

writing. Further guidance, in the form of models, may be needed. You may therefore wish to consider several stages in preparing pupils for free writing. Raimes (1989) proposes five types of controlled writing: controlled composition, question and answer, guided composition, parallel writing and sentence combining. Controlled writing Controlled writing activities provide both content and form. The pupils are not asked to create anything. You give them a passage and ask them to make alterations to it. These alterations are normally grammatical. For example, you may ask them to re-write a passage about a single child so that it becomes a passage about several children, to re-write a direct speech text in reported speech, or to re-write a present tense passage in the past simple. Other activities include copying, gap-filling, re-ordering words, substitution (e.g. If he stayed/left/spoke they would disagree with him), correct the facts (e.g. re-write the sentences so that they match a picture), and dictation. They are typically used with beginners and the objective of this kind of activities is that pupils make as few mistakes as possible. This explains why in all these activities the pupils have to add little if anything of their own. These activities can be made more meaningful and interesting, still remaining very controlled, if the pupils are given a chance to think what they are writing. For instance, copying is completely mechanical when they are asked to copy a string of words: a sentence that they do not understand. In this case, their attention is focused only on spelling. But copying may become more meaningful if the pupils can contribute something to the text. Part(s) of the sentence can be left out for the pupils to write themselves. The teacher may write the sentence outline on the board, (e.g. they home afternoon), say the whole sentence and ask the pupils to write what they heard. You can also show or draw a picture to replace part(s) of the sentence. Alternatively, you may write the sentence on the board, and ask your pupils to write a similar true sentence about themselves. Another extremely restricting activity, gap-filling, can become more involving and challenging if the pupils are given the opportunity to choose between alternatives given in brackets. Without real comprehension, dictation is also a mechanical activity, restricted to practising spelling. If done traditionally, you read a text once through and then dictate it phrase by phrase. Then the text is read through once again. Even done this way, dictation cannot be denied a number of advantages: it is an intensive activity which helps to develop both listening and writing, requires concentration, and can be done with large classes. What are, in your opinion, the disadvantages of dictation?

An alternative to traditional dictation is the dictocomp (a combination of dictation and composition), which develops both listening and writing skills and focuses on meaning. The dictocomp is not exclusively controlled writing, as it requires not only careful listening and accurate spelling but also thinking. The pupils listen to a text, jot down notes and then try to reconstruct the original from notes or from given prompts. They need to understand the text, think about its content and how to reproduce it, and how to construct the sentences. The dictocomp can be used with pupils at all levels, provided the original text chosen is challenging enough. Questions and answers A question and answer procedure continues your control over what is produced but allows the pupils a little more freedom. The text emerges from the answers produced by the Anca Cehan 9

pupils to questions asked by you. The questions may be based on a set of notes or a picture. A picture sequence can be used to make the task a little more interesting. picture 1: Classroom. Children studying. One boy with thought cloud above his head to show he is dreaming of playing football with his friends. picture 2: Same boy at teachers desk, holding head and looking sick. picture 3: Same boy playing football with his friends on playing field picture 4: Footballers point at restaurant, suggesting cold drink picture 5: Boy with friends in restaurant having cold drinks picture 6: Teacher walks into restaurant.

example

You begin by asking what is happening in each picture in turn. Individual pupils suggest answers, such as The boy is asking the teacher if he can go home because he is sick. You write the best answer for each picture on the board. When all the questions are complete, you ask the pupils to use the six answers as the basis for their text, reminding them that the story must be told in the past tense. Before settling down to produce their texts in pairs or small groups, the class may decide together what the wording of the first sentence will be. As confidence and skill grow, you can ask the pupils to create a story directly from a sequence of pictures, without the question - answer stage. In this activity, writing can be integrated with oral work. Class discussion establishes what is happening in each of the pictures, then pupils decide in pairs or small groups how they are going to put the story together. Each pair writes a first draft of the story then passes it to the next pair for comment and correction. Second drafts are then written, and so on. In this way, all the class are involved in the writing process. In another version of this activity the whole class share in the writing of the same story (e.g. a fairy tale type in which the characters and plot are fairly predictable). After class discussion of standard forms and sequences of events in fairy tales, one pupil is asked to write the first sentence of a story on a piece of paper. The paper is then passed on to the next pupil who writes the second sentence, and so on. Once the class is accustomed to this kind of combined writing, several stories can be circulating at the same time. The completed stories are read out to the class by individual pupils for comments and suggestions. As a follow-up task, the pupils may be given copies of the story to check for grammatical accuracy and punctuation. Guided writing In guided writing, you still retain a certain amount of control over the form and content of the pupils writing. The pupils are given information that they must include in their writing. Sometimes you also give the first and last sentences. The information may come in the form of a picture. For example, you give a picture of a lake on a summer day with people doing various things (e.g. swimming, diving, having picnics and sunbathing). In the distance a farmer is seen with his sheep dog. The task is to write three paragraphs about the scene. You tell the pupils to begin by saying that the picture shows a scene in the countryside. Then you ask them to say something about the weather, the colour of the sky, the sun and the shade given by the trees round the lake. They must describe the lake: is it big, small, deep, shallow, clear or dark? In the second paragraph the pupils are asked to describe the people and say what each group is doing. What does the farmer use his dog for? Finally, you tell them to end the paragraph with the words Other people can enjoy themselves in the summer sun, but the farmer has to work. Parallel writing Such activities are typically used with pre-intermediate and intermediate pupils. In this type of writing activities, content is free but form is given. You first give the pupils a piece of writing to see and then they use it as a basis for their own work. The original piece sets a model and guides them in expressing themselves. This type of activity is central to the Anca Cehan 10

teaching of connected discourse since it sets models from which the pupils can work. It generally addresses the paragraph level. Parallel writing tasks come in various forms to allow for varying degrees of control by the teacher. example John is an English boy who lives in Shipton, in the north of England. Shipton is a small village on the edge of the Irish Sea, near Lanchester. The village has a church, a small shop, and a post office. There is no school in Shipton, so Peter goes to school in Lanchester. To get into Lanchester he has to catch a bus outside the post office. The bus leaves the post office each morning at eight oclock. Your task is to: 1. Write a similar paragraph about Rita, using these notes: Rita Scottish girl Heston small town River Benlow Edinburgh supermarket cinema football club small railway station no library train library in Edinburgh railway station every two hours. 2. Write about your own village or town. Sentence combining Sentence combining tasks are rather more mechanical than parallel writing tasks. They provide the pupils with the materials and ask them to manipulate them. You give sets of simple sentences and ask the pupils to combine them in grammatically acceptable ways to produce complex sentences. This helps to develop their style. example Combine each of the following pairs of sentences into one complex sentence: She overslept. She was late for school. He was injured. He played football. They were having a picnic. It started to rain. The singer arrived. Everyone was seated. At a higher level of organisation, pupils need practice in combining sentences to form cohesive and coherent paragraphs. The main difficulty encountered by pupils working at paragraph level is cohesion. Cohesion is difficult in writing because often we do not get direct feedback on our writing from our readers and we are not in a position to clarify points which have not been understood. Cohesion involves not only the ordering of sentences, but also the use of cohesive devices. Typical activities practising cohesion are sentence combining, sentence reordering, sentence insertion and noun and sentence substitution. Unfortunately, it seems that pupil performance in improving the syntactic complexity of writings tends to erode once sentence-combining practice is discontinued. Paragraph writing has to be practised as soon as the pupils have mastered basic skills of sentence writing and need to progress beyond very controlled writing exercises to sentence combining. This transition is more easily done by offering a short text as a model or by doing oral preparation for the writing. The main problem is finding a suitable model as it is not always possible to use a text from the textbook. The model text might be limiting or misleading, especially if the pupils topic is somewhat different and they are in the habit of following models closely. During oral preparation you can build an outline on the board to which the pupils contribute suggestions, and you key expressions. Later on, the pupils use this material as a basis for their writing. This technique is flexible and involving and reveals the interests and Anca Cehan 11

abilities of the class. Also, it requires no specially prepared materials. The ideas about what to write are generated by the pupils themselves. Before asking your pupils to write an example of a particular text type, you might want to go with them through some stages. Put the stages suggested below into an appropriate order and justify your decision: a) practising guided writing which follows prompts (e.g. pictures or sentences that summarise paragraphs) b) doing exercises that practise characteristic features of text type (e.g. passive voice) c) reading examples of the text type d) analysing a sample text to isolate typical features.

3.4 Free Writing


Free writing tasks can be assigned after the study of the respective genre models. You can ask pupils from intermediate to advanced to write narratives based on a picture or series of pictures. They may describe an occasion when they felt disappointed or afraid, surprised, or relieved. They may describe someone they know very well, or write descriptions of people and places, based on photographs or some information about them. They may write an answer to a (given) letter of complaint, write application letters, etc. You can ask more advanced pupils to describe the process represented in a flowchart or any kind of diagram, write reports of books they read, reviews of books they enjoyed (and would like to recommend to other people in the class), instruction sheets for something they know how to do well (e.g. prepare some kind of food) or essays on various topics. Essay writing Whatever kind of writing activities pupils practise in the classroom, at some stage you will probably require them to produce an essay, and this will have to conform to an acceptable format. A sample format is given below. This format is by no means the only acceptable format for essays; many others are possible. But it may be useful as an indication to pupils that each of the parts of an essay must be clearly related to the rest, to form a coherent whole. a) Introduction. Here they need to define the terms. If the topic of the essay is, for instance, Urban Pollution, they may need to show that they understand what urban and pollution mean. Also here they need to state why the topic is of interest, where their main focus on the topic will be, how many parts they will break the topic up into. This will give the number of paragraphs they will have in the body of the essay. b) Body of essay. The introduction will tell how many paragraphs they are going to write. Thus: each paragraph refers back to the introduction. For example, the first/second/third type of urban pollution is Each paragraph discusses a different aspect of the topic and provides an example to illustrate the point(s). c) Conclusion. This is a brief final paragraph. There is no need to repeat what was said in the introduction or summarise the contents of the body paragraphs, except perhaps in a brief sentence. For example: Thus there are a number of clear reasons why urban pollution is a serious problem. The remainder of the conclusion looks briefly at any further implications of what has been said in the body of the essay.

3.5

The Communicative Approach

The communicative approach emphasises task-oriented activities that involve the exchange of information, with focus on fluency. Although the approach practises a good deal Anca Cehan 12

of modelling and controlled practice, a lot of attention is paid to motivation and to selfexpression. It stresses purpose and audience and encourages interaction among the pupils, with less emphasis on form and accuracy. Through the activities, many of them based on information gaps, and done in pairs and groups, the pupils are exposed to a lot of written language. Listening and reading materials of a factual nature are also frequently used. Here are some popular ideas of written communicative activities: Relaying instructions One pupil or one group of pupils elaborate instructions for the performance of a task. They have to tell another pupil or group to perform the task by giving them written instructions. Writing reports, advertisements, brochures The pupils write items for a school news broadcast or a school magazine. They can join together to write a brochure about the place they live in or are studying in. They can write and design their own advertisements. Co-operative writing The pupils may write joint stories, each pupil contributing a sentence. They may start either at the first or the last sentence (these may be or may not be supplied). The agony column The pupils invent some problem, write letters to the columnist and then have them answered by other members of the class. Letters of complaint The pupils write letters of complaint about faulty goods they have purchased or bad service they received. The company representatives reply to these letters. Job applications The applications can be later on judged and a decision taken about who is successful. Letter writing and journal keeping You can write a letter to the pupils in a (small) class, telling them something about yourself and inviting them to write letters to you, which you would reply to personally. The pupils may engage in correspondence about learning, their experiences, how they feel about school, etc. The pupils use writing for genuinely communicative purposes and get individual attention from you. The disadvantages of this procedure, as Rinvolucri, the initiator admits, are firstly that some pupils get too close to the teacher and secondly that it takes a lot of your time. Alternatively, you can ask the pupils to keep diaries. Here they will write what they want about what interests them. They will comment on the classes, on their personal experiences, on politics or they will write stories. You can ask them to write in their journals for five minutes at the end of every class, but also when they themselves want to. Such an activity ensures frequent writing practice and all pupils have a chance to use English to reflect their own thoughts and feelings. You have the advantage of interacting with your pupils as individuals. These diaries are not primarily to be corrected, but rather to be reacted to. In this activity, content feedback is far more important than form feedback. Journal keeping is a private and confidential, as well as highly individualized process. Consequently, assessing students journal entries is also a private matter between the writer and the teacher. Sometimes the teacher can respond to journal entries through conferencing. Journal entries can contribute greatly to the humanistic approach to teaching and learning, an example of which is the integration of values during the sharing sessions. Anca Cehan 13

Dialogue journals Dialogue journals are written conversations between teacher and student over a period of time, on topics that are of special interest to them. Their goal is to communicate in writing, to exchange ideas and information free of the concern for form and correctness so often imposed on developing writers (Jones, 1991: 3 in Peyton & Staton, 1991). Dialogue journals provide guidance to the learner in expressing ideas, thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Dialogue journal interaction leads to trust between learner and teacher. Dialogue journals have some ingredients that differentiate them from other forms of written communication, specifically journal entries (Peaflorida A., 350): Teacher and student write to each other, taking equal turns in writing and responding. In journal keeping, there is no equal turn taking in responding Teacher and student share ideas and information. In journal keeping the student does not have to share her/his writing with anybody. Teacher and student act as equal partners in the interaction between them. In journal keeping there is a hierarchical relationship between teacher and student. Dialogue journal writing is applicable to some content area courses such as literature, social studies, or science. Journal keeping is usually practised in language courses only. In dialogue journals, teacher gives students assistance beyond what they already know how to do. In journal entries, teacher assists students on the language used on the content of what is written. Both the dialogue journal and journal keeping provide intensive writing practice, promote learner autonomy, serve as informal means of assessment, are highly private and confidential, and are interactive in varying degrees. Projects Projects are longer pieces of work that involve the collection of information and reporting. The quality of the end product is important. The pupils can use tape-recorders and video cameras to record interviews with native speakers they can find, or they can consult libraries (including electronic ones) for source material. Portfolios Applebee and Langer (1992: 30) define portfolios as a cumulative collection of the work students have done. Some of the most popular forms are the following: 1. 2. 3. 4. a traditional writing folder in which students keep their work a bound notebook with separate sections kept for work in progress and final drafts a loose-leaf notebook in which students keep their drafts and revisions a combination folder and envelope where students writings exercises, tests, compositions, drafts, and so on are kept. 5. A notebook divided into two sections: one for drafts and the other for final copies (once called original and rewritten compositions). Learning logs Learning logs help teachers see what their students are learning, particularly in the writing class, and in the language class as a whole. In a learning log, students write on the knowledge they have gained from studying in their writing classes, and from their own thinking. A teacher need not grade learning logs, but can assess how much a student has gained or benefited from the writing class.

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4 Purpose and Motivation


The communicative approach has led us to pay more attention to the purpose of language, to the content of the message the pupils intend to get across. But it is sometimes difficult for both teachers and pupils to think of writing as a motivating, purposeful activity, especially if the goal of the activity is grammatical accuracy. In order for the pupils writing to be more effective, and for reading to be more enjoyable, it is important to create other purposes for writing. The class should approach their task in terms of two questions: to whom they are writing, and for what purpose. When the pupils have a better idea of whom their readers are and of how they can get prepared to negotiate meaning, their writing is more purposeful. For instance, instead of asking them to write a short autobiography, you could tell them they are applying for a scholarship to spend a year in Great Britain. The purpose of the pupils writing becomes thus more goal oriented. They will have to select the relevant qualities to speak about and present the information in such a way as to show that one could benefit from such experience and merits the scholarship over someone else. The incorporation of an element of real communication, such as publication, is motivating for most pupils. Going public in newsletters or class magazines and/or organizing the reception of a real response (from either a classmate, pupils in another class, penfriends or the teacher) may determine the production of more effective writing. What factors should you consider when setting a writing task?

Encouraging your pupils to help each other in preparing their written tasks may also provide motivation and increase their confidence. The pupils can brainstorm ideas on a topic, organise points for, neutral and against a specified argument, negotiate a line of thought, etc. Pictures such as cartoons or drawings, may be used to stimulate ideas. Written tasks can also be the result of other classroom activities such as reading, debates, role play, etc. Your response on a pupils paper can also be an influential text in a writing class. Some teachers ask their pupils to keep diaries in which they record aspects of their life and address the teacher directly to ask for help or advice. In practice most teachers and textbook writers draw on more than one approach and combine and adapt various elements to suit their classes.

5 Feedback on Writing
In your own experience of learner of English, what kinds of feedback did you receive from your teachers? How useful did you find their feedback?

Many teachers feel a terrible temptation to take the pupils work, indicate all the places that need fixing, and return it to the pupils. Undoubtedly, the papers would be better if the pupils handed them in the second time. The question is whether the pupils care enough about their papers to want to put them into acceptable form and whether teachers know how to encourage them to do that. Responding or giving feedback to student writing can be both oral and written. There are a variety of response types that an English teacher can utilize in the classroom. C. Anca Cehan 15

Tribble (1996) identifies four basic roles that teachers may assume when giving feedback: audience, evaluator, examiner and assistant. As audience we read the text and say how we find it, and if the authors point is clearly formulated. We respond to the pupils ideas, feelings, and attitudes and indicate whether or not we enjoyed reading the text. Unfortunately, we often avoid this role and assume the other three, identifying problems, commenting and grading. However, our purpose as evaluators is to give feedback on the present strengths and weaknesses of a text, with a view to help our pupils to improve their future performance. The text is assessed on all dimensions: task fulfilment, content, organisation, vocabulary, language, and mechanics. Each dimension is normally accompanied by descriptors, adapted to the class level and purposes and made public. One main advantage of the descriptors is that the pupils know the basis on which their work is assessed. Another is that the teacher can recognise excellence in one aspect while indicating weaknesses in others. This will help the pupils to identify the areas they have to work on. The scores are finally converted into an overall grade. If they are not too vague (e.g. Good work, Well done), evaluations can encourage the pupils and point them in the right direction for future writing. Evaluations may be accompanied by a short personal response to the message of the text. Thus the pupils get complete feedback on the impact their texts have had on the teacher. Evaluating is pointing out strengths and weaknesses, while examining is assigning a grade. By giving a grade you indicate the degree of excellence that a task has achieved. Once a task has been graded, the pupils will give it little thought or work. You need to assess the pupils skills on the basis of explicit criteria. The use of analytical assessment criteria helps the pupils to understand what is expected from them and how a weak paper can be improved. Giving separate scores, one for each area, you can also help the pupils to understand their strengths and weaknesses. Weighting content and ideas twice as heavily as language or structure, for instance, will underline the importance of content. As assistants, you tell the pupils if you find their text effective in relation to its purpose, pass advice on language, genre, structure, and subject matter. You devote time to their command of language, trying to assist them at each stage in the writing process, and encourage collaboration among them. In this role, the most significant contribution that you can make in the writing classroom is to create a community of readers. However, your assistance cannot help the pupils to improve a text if you also grade it. As audience, evaluators, and examiners you give feedback on the pupils text as end product and your comments come too late to influence the piece of writing. Your feedback is usually limited to grading, commenting (superficially) and correcting errors. You give the pupils no indication of what they are to do next or what they have to work on. If their task has not been clearly specified and if they do not really know what the purpose of the writing has been, this sort of feedback can be time-consuming and demoralising for both you and the pupils. Consider the following comments made by various pupils. Try to identify what role their English teacher assumed when giving feedback: 1. My teacher wrote at the bottom of the page that my grammar is acceptable, but I still have some problems with the present perfect, and the definite article. 2. The teacher criticised: the conclusion is weak. It introduces new points. 3. She told me to change the introduction, making it more interesting for the reader. 4. The teacher located and indicated the nature of my errors. 5. The teacher made suggestions for changes. Anca Cehan 16

6. The teacher re-wrote my text, without changing its content and arguments and brought both my draft and hers to class. We all discussed and compared the text organisation, development of ideas, sense of audience and style, but my classmates were not told whose text the teacher used. 7. I got an 8 in my last assignment. 8. The teacher asked me questions. 9. The teacher emoted: What a terrible experience! 1. .. 2. .. 3. .. 4. .. You need strategies to give constructive comments on drafts. If feedback is done effectively, by the time the text is finished, most of the problems have been solved. Moreover, the pupils will understand the purpose of your feedback at each stage. Writing involves content, organization, style, syntax, mechanics, grammar and spelling. When looking at any piece of writing, you often feel you have to respond to all these. However, the most important thing to consider, especially at post-beginner level, is content, followed by organization and presentation. The quality and amount of pupil writing is very sensitive to constructive teacher feedback on content, and relatively insensitive to teacher correction of form. Feedback on content, unlike feedback on grammar, can determine the improvement of writing. If you limit your feedback to pointing out and/or correcting errors, your pupils will concentrate on producing error-free writing, neglecting the interest or even the meaning of the content. The equation teaching writing = error elimination is counterproductive and may result in a waste of time and discouragement. Ideally, your pupils should be familiar with various types of feedback. One problem is how to maintain a fair balance between form and content when assessing and giving feedback. This balance depends, to some extent on your own teaching situation, experience and opinion. The correction of written work can be done on much the same basis as the correction of oral work. You should not always be preoccupied with accuracy. There may be times when you are concerned with accuracy and other times when your main concern is the content of the writing. Some of us, although fully aware of the importance of content and organisation, find ourselves dealing mainly with language accuracy in our feedback, conveying the implicit message that this is what matters. This happens because language mistakes are difficult to ignore, they catch the eye; they are more easily and quickly diagnosed and corrected than the ones of content and organisation. Moreover, many pupils want their language mistakes to be corrected. In spite of all this, you should not convey the message that the language mistakes are your main concern. To avoid this to happen, you may note corrections within the body of the text, and write comments on content and organisation at the end. Feedback in the form of comments by the teacher is extremely helpful. The most important contribution you can make is that of being a careful reader, willing to respond to what pupils write in terms of clarity, coherence, and effectiveness of content. We have distinguished between learning to write activities, meant to help the pupils learn to write and writing to learn activities, meant to help them write to learn. What essential difference will there be between the way we respond to texts that have been written with these two different purposes?

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5.1 Self-correction, self-response or critical reading


This is a step torward learner autonomy. Studies have revealed that studenta are capable of analyzing and responding to their own writing given the proper training. By allowing them to react to their own work and to practice self-feedback, the teacher is encouraging students to be self-sufficient and independent. V. Zamel (1991) suggests four self-correction techniques that the pupils can use to correct their own work in class with a critical eye. 1. The pupils read their papers aloud to other pupils. Reading aloud will help them spot some of the mistakes. In most cases, they will naturally hesitate when a sentence does not seem to work. 2. A classmate reads the paper aloud. The new reader may pause when coming across a mistake or when a sentence is problematic. 3. The pupils take their text, cover up everything on the page except the first sentence, put their pencil point to one word at a time, and say the sentence aloud, word by word. They try to pick out the core (subject + verb) of the sentence. 4. The pupils read their last sentences first and so on, backwards through the text, sentence by sentence. This is a way of focusing attention on sentence-level accuracy and preventing the eye from leaping ahead for the content. Another technique is to give students a few sample questions as guidelines, e.g.:] What I am writing about? Is the main idea of my work clear? Do I have details (e.g. examples and illustrations) to support my main idea?

The question of class climate, personal relationships, trust and willingness to accept criticism and help from one another remains. Because critical reading does not come naturally for many pupils, you can help them with checklists and/or questions to answer. Thus the pupils will learn what to look for in a text in order to offer useful and constructive feedback.

5.2 Peer response


Correcting written work is very time-consuming, particularly if you have large classes. One possible solution is to let the pupils correct and edit each others writing. Peer response shows that readership does not belong exclusively to the teacher, since in this type of response, students share their writings with each other. Students may not like this at the beginning, but with the teachers encouragement, they will gradually get used to the idea of communicating their ideas to each other. Elbow (1992) believes that when students write only for their teacher (which usually means for a grade), they often treat writing as an empty school exercise and attempt simply to just get it right, or give teachers what they want. When students write for their peers, they become concerned about what they say and how they say it. Students may not be as skilled as their teachers at responding to each others work, but they can provide an audience. Peer responding must be modelled, taught, and controlled in order for it to be a valuable activity. Controlling peer response, just like selffeedback, can be done through the use of a checklist. Here are some typical questions for peer response (Kroll, 1991: 259): What is the main purpose of this paper? What have you found particularly effective in this paper? Do you think the writer has followed through on what the paper set out to do? Find at least three places in the essay where you can think of questions that have not been answered by the writer. Write those questions on the margin as areas for the writer to answer in the next draft.

The teacher can train the pupils in giving and asking for specific and constructive feedback. For instance a statement like I think that this sentence would be better if you Anca Cehan 18

added some colour words is constructive while Your sentences are problematic is destructive. The pupils should be encouraged to ask for feedback on spelling, punctuation, sentence variety, style, etc. Also, they should constantly check with their group members to make sure their comments are clear. They can be taught to ask questions like: developing? Is there any place in my text that is hard to follow? Is there any point that you do not really understand? Is there any place in which my examples, reasons, or explanations need Is there any place where I should add more details? Is there any place where I seem to wander from my topic? Are there any unclear or missing transitions?

Even if they cannot discern all the strengths and weaknesses of an assignment, the pupils will detect at least some of them. The problem is whether your pupils feel comfortable correcting, or being corrected by their classmates, and whether they accept criticism (positive or negative) form each other. Their comfort will depend on the general classroom climate. The attitudes that make peer correction helpful are mutual trust; a real listening to each other; a mutual recognition that whatever is said is a subjective opinion and not necessarily the absolute, objective truth, and a general desire to communicate effectively taking into account the others reactions. If peer correction works, it can be a substitute for the teachers first-draft reading. The pupils can work together, giving each other feedback on language, organisation and content. They then rewrite and give in the final version to you. The following activity is intended to teach pupils how to evaluate the content clarity and effectiveness of a classmates composition. The order of the steps has been modified. Your task is to try to put the steps in logical order: 1. Without looking at the text, tell the author what you think s/he is saying, or, if it is a narrative, tell the story back to the author as precisely as you can. 2. After each of you has given and received feedback, rewrite your task. 3. Then your partner(s) should give you the same type of feedback on your text. 4. Ask your partner(s) about anything which seems unclear or for constructive suggestions. 5. Read each others paper carefully.

5.3 Teacher Response


The last to respond to a written work is the teacher. The teachers load is lightened when students have done both individual and peer feedback. Conferencing, which is a one-to-one converstaion between teacher and student, is an effective means of teacher response to student writing. It is a form of oral teacher feedback. A short conference will enable the teacher to ask the student about certain parts of the latters writing which are problematic. Conferences have the additional advantages that they make teachers better acquianted with their students, and they allow the teacher to uncover potential misunderstandings that the students might have about prior written feedback. Conferencing takes place after the students have finished writing their compositions. The variations on the writing conference are many, but the basic pattern is simple: Anca Cehan The student comments on the draft. 19

The teacher reads and reviews the draft. The teacher responds to the students comments. The student responds to the teachers response.

The purpose of this basic pattern is to help students learn to read their own drafts with increasing effectiveness. It is the responsibility of the student to write and make the first evaluation of his/her experiment in meaning. It is the responsibility of the teacher to listen to the students response, then to listen to the text, and finally to respond to the writers reading of the text. Then it is the responsibility of the student to respond to the teachers reponse. Below are some responses teachers should try to avoid as there is not much the writer can do with or learn from such comments (Murray, 1985: 156): This is no good Wow! You can write! Dodnt you learn anything about writing? This is great, just great. This is a mess, just a mess. Ive never seen such a bad paper. I dont know what I can teach someone who writes like you (either overpraise or criticism).

On the other hand, the following comments may stimulate and encourage work (after Murray, 1985: 156): Some of this works, but what do you plan to attack next? Where do you think you get off the track? I like the way you wove the quotes into the text. Are there other things that could be woven in the same way? Where do you intend to go from here? I need to find out. And you said you had no voice. Tell me how you made this draft so different.

5.4 Strategies for the Correction of Mistakes


Correction can be seen as an opportunity to make positive responses to a pupils work. This is extremely difficult to do if your concern is to mark every error in red pen. Of course, ultimately a grade will have to be given to the piece of writing, but if it is based entirely on grammatical accuracy, then the whole point of the writing will have been lost. This is not to say that mistakes in syntax or punctuation should be ignored. But it is a good idea to read a piece of writing twice: once for the content and the second time for the language. During the first reading, try to ignore grammatical errors and concentrate entirely on the content. Assign a mental grade to the content, then re-read to assess the mechanical aspects: syntax, punctuation, spelling, and the way in which the text hangs together. The final grade should reflect content, shape and grammatical accuracy. The problem of correction of mistakes is one of potential conflict between two of the roles of the teachers: language instructors versus assistants. If we accept that language should be corrected, then the problem arises: should all language mistakes be noted? Sometimes there are so many mistakes that the page will be covered with corrections and too much correcting can be discouraging, demoralising and distracting. Over-emphasis on language mistakes can distract the pupils attention from content and organisation. How can you judge which mistakes to relate to and which not? Your approach should vary according to context and the pupils individual needs. In any situation, your comments should relate to the task assigned. If the pupils are first asked to express their ideas in English (free writing, composition) and then to read critically what they have written in order to make changes, then you should also give a two-stage response,

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by separating your response to content and structure from your response to language accuracy. One approach is to ignore the language mistakes that do not hinder reading. You may correct only those mistakes which are very basic and those which affect meaning, leading to misunderstanding or confusion, such as sentence derailments or faulty subordination. Other errors may go uncorrected, but while identifying them you can make a list of error types as they occur, and thus create an individual grammar syllabus. To help your pupils to concentrate on particular aspects of language, you can tell them that their work will be corrected for only one thing, the use of tenses, for instance. By doing this, you ensure that their work will not be covered by red marks, and you encourage them to focus on particular aspects of written language. You can individualise language work by identifying for each pupil a few kinds of errors and assigning tasks that focus on these. Where a piece of writing contains a number of common errors, you may photocopy the work (erasing the writers name) and show it to the whole class, asking them to identify problems. In this way the attention of the class can be drawn to common mistakes and the photocopied document can form the basis for remedial work. You will learn about your pupils errors if you give them the opportunity to make them, fix them, and discuss them. You can ask your pupils to discuss where they think their mistakes come from and why they make them. This will help you to realise which mistakes the pupils can recognise and which ones they cannot. Asking the pupils to discuss their mistakes will provide you with information about their transfers from Romanian or from another foreign language they learn. In this way, the mistakes will no longer be everybodys enemy, but clear evidence of language learning. Another strategy is to point out both strengths and weaknesses. Thus, your pupils will have the chance to perceive a correct model in their own use of language and will be likely to continue taking risks if they see that their good qualities are noted and encouraged. Use of correction symbols (all levels) You can indicate mistakes in written work by putting a mark in the margin to show what kind of mistake it is (e.g. V for vocabulary, WO for word order, WW for wrong word, / for missing word, SP for spelling, P for punctuation, GR for grammar, VF for verb form, VT for verb tense, ? for unclear meaning or handwriting, etc.) Indication of mistakes is less time consuming for you than correcting and more effective for the pupils. The latter have to reread the text and spend time in identifying and correcting themselves the mistakes signalled in the margin. You need symbols for spelling, wrong tense usage, agreement, inappropriate language, punctuation, missing words, unclear meaning, etc. Whatever symbols you use, your pupils should understand clearly what they mean. When you first use the symbols, underline the word in the text and put the symbol in the margin. Later you will only use the symbol in the margin for the pupils to identify the mistake. When you bring back to class the pupils writing with comments on content and correction symbols in the margin, you should allow them time to identify their mistakes and correct them. While they are identifying their problems, you can help where they do not know what is wrong. If this stage is not gone through, your pupils will not take advantage of the system of correction symbols. There is certainly no perfect approach to giving feedback on writing. Yet it is essential that your pupils understand how you want the feedback system to work. You should clarify both for them and for yourself what your policy on mistakes correction is, what symbols and abbreviations you use, and what you want them to do with their drafts and your comments when they receive them.

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Use a correction code to signal the language mistakes in the following piece of writing: I am studying english because I want to work for a big company when I will graduate. Perhaps I may to continue my studys. So I must to reach a good level of english because of when I will go abroad sended by the company, Ill need to understand all. My father, who is mecanic engineer, he says that english is an interesting language for all kinds of reason. Another reason why I am studying english is that I like myself to listen to the music. I am learning new expressions and improve my listening, too. I can mix learning with the pleasure of listening to the music. Something else is we often have foreigners invited for dinner at home who are invited by my parents and usualy english is the language of comunication. Rewriting When you receive written tasks, you normally correct and comment on them and give them back. The question is whether you should insist on the pupils rewriting their tasks, incorporating your suggestions. Your pupils do not like doing it, but, on the other hand, frequent opportunities for writing and rewriting are an important tool for improving language, content and structure. Irrespective of the feedback the pupils receive from you, they improve their work when they rewrite their texts. According to A. Raimes, the number of language mistakes decreases by about 20%, even when the teacher response includes no explicit correction of mistakes (Raimes, 1983). Pupils rewriting should be followed by teachers re-reading. You can motivate your pupils to rewrite by seeing the first version as provisional, and assessing the revised version. In this way the pupils will carefully read and incorporate your comments and new assignments in their final version. Another reason to ask for rewriting and not spending a long time on first draft correction is that you can misread your pupils intentions. Successful communication also means that pupils say in writing what they mean. To make sure that their ideas are communicated accurately, you have to ask them to rewrite and edit their own texts, assisting them with questions and comments on the parts of the text that you find obscure.

Summary
Although recent ELT methodology considers the clarity and effectiveness of the content of a piece of writing to be more important than language correctness, writing is still regarded by some teachers as transcribed speech. They tend to consider the quality of writing in relation to the frequency and gravity of linguistic errors. They neglect composition, assuming that once the language has been mastered, the ability to use the same language for written communication will follow naturally. However, writing has a dual purpose: as a means (or a support skill) and as an end (or a communicative skill). Generally speaking, you will find two types of writing activities in the English textbooks: those designed to develop the writing skills per se (writing as an end/communicative skill) and those which provide opportunity of practising English (writing as a means/support skill). The kind of feedback that teachers give on writing is largely a matter of experience. Generally speaking, the red pencil is intimidating and discouraging, when teachers believe that form (grammar and spelling) is everything. Alternative ways of determining re-writing can be found, such as peer-correction and self-correction.

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Further Reading
Harmer, J. 2001. The Practice of English Language Teaching. 3rd ed., Longman Huerta-Macas, Ana. Alternative Assessment: Responses to Commonly Asked Questions in Richards, Jack C. and Renandya, Willy A., 2002. Methodology in Language Teaching. Cambridge: CUP. Nunan, D. 1991. Language Teaching Methodology. A textbook for teachers. Prentice Hall Peaflorida, Andreea H., Nontraditional Forms of Assessment and Response to Student Writing in Richards, Jack C. and Renandya, Willy A., 2002. Methodology in Language Teaching. Cambridge: CUP. Reppen, Randi. A Genre-Based Approach to Content Writing Instruction in Richards, Jack C. and Renandya, Willy A., 2002. Methodology in Language Teaching. Cambridge: CUP. Richards, Jack C. and Renandya, Willy A., 2002. Methodology in Language Teaching. Cambridge: CUP. Scrivener, Jim. 2009. Learning Teaching, Macmillan Books for Teachers Seow, Anthony, The Writing Process and Process Writing in Richards, Jack C. and Renandya, Willy A., 2002. Methodology in Language Teaching. pp. 315 320. Cambridge: CUP.

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