The English Teachers Handbook (реферат)

The English Teachers Handbook

Writing

As a means of communication, writing differs from speaking in several
important ways. Firstly, writing is permanent, speaking is not.
Secondly, we can correct what we write before it is received by the
reader. Corrections when we speak tend to take place after we have
already made an error which our audience has received. Thirdly, we
usually write for a receiver who is physically absent from us, whereas
most speaking that we do is for an audience which is actually present as
we speak. Fourthly, the physical distance between writer and reader
means that the reader can’t easily ask the writer to explain something
unclear or ambiguous. In face-to-face speech, such feedback from
listener to speaker is instantaneous. So the writer has to be very
careful to ensure that his written message is complete in itself. He
shouldn’t make any assumptions about shared knowledge between himself
and his audience. Nor should the writer leave any room for
misunderstandings through unclear expression or faulty organization of
his text.

Writing exercises are of two types — those which consolidate language
already presented and practised orally, and those which develop the
skills of communicating in writing.

Most textbooks contain plenty of examples of the first type, although
such exercises are limited in what they can achieve. They may require
the student to practise writing a number of unrelated sentences, and
although this is perfectly acceptable as a practice activity, it must be
remembered that we hardly ever actually write only one sentence at a
time. A written message usually consists of a number of interrelated
sentences.

Another limitation of such exercises is that they test students instead
of teaching them. Typically, students are given a rule or an example,
and then have to produce a number of other sentences in which the rule
is applied. Sometimes this can result in the production of complicated
sentences which would hardly ever actually be written. The students are
simply practising instances of classroom or textbook language.

A third limitation is giving students instructions such as ‘Write these
sentences with the verbs in brackets in the correct tense.’ The students
are then given a series of sentences with the infinitive form of the
verb as a prompt. They have to convert these infinitives into the
correct tense, which can be a confusing and difficult task with the
infinitive acting as a distractor. Such exercises tend to test the
students before they are ready to be tested, and mistakes are common.

It is better to provide exercises in which students can actually
consolidate their learning. Instead of asking them to convert actives to
passives, or past tenses to present, or infinitives to the correct
tense, it is preferable to give the correct form, and require the
students to make a correct choice without being distracted by the wrong
form. For instance, if we want the students to practise matching the
appropriate verb form with a singular or plural subject in the present
simple tense, we can provide a series of sentences dealing with both
singular and plural on the topic, for example The horse/ horses is/are
four legged animals/a four legged animal. They/it eats/eat grass. The
students’ task is to write out a paragraph with either a singular or
plural subject. Everything they need is provided, but what they have to
do is to make a meaningful and systematic choice from the items given.
They are not being required to carry out a conversion exercise or to add
anything new.

Another technique is to provide a type of substitution table from which
the students have to select combinations to make up a series of correct
sentences. Here is a very brief example:

They John

met went

to town.

at a restaurant.

He

ate

Mary.

In exercises of this type, the students not only have to make up correct
sentences, but they also have to put them into a sequence which will
form a brief narrative. There are clues to sequence in the above example
-John would normally come in the first sentence to tell us the name of
the actor. He, which is backward pointing, refers to John in the first
sentence and so would be the subject of the second sentence. They, which
refers to both John and Mary, would logically come in the third
sentence, and so on.

This type of exercise brings us to the writing of connected sentences
rather than isolated ones. It also introduces us to paragraph writing.
This is an important step for anyone who wants to learn to use writing
as a form of communication. In teaching writing beyond sentence level,
we need to begin with a model text. The model provides the students with
an example of what to do. This is important, because even when learning
to write in our native language, we often refer to models as guides to
our own writing. (The term ‘model’ here refers to any piece of
acceptable writing of the desired type. It doesn’t mean something which
is ‘perfect’.)

You can use the model as a reading comprehension passage so that it will
serve a dual purpose. In the first part of the lesson, you can ask the
students to deal with content (for comprehension) and language and
organization (for subsequent application in their own writing).
Information from the model text can be transferred to a worksheet as
part of reading comprehension work.

When they have completed the worksheet, the students can then use it as
a cue sheet in order to reconstruct the original text. In other words,
they attempt to rewrite the model, though possibly in a shortened or
simplified form. Their version will retain many of the important
features of the original, though changes are permissible and may in fact
be encouraged. For instance, you may wish to add some vocabulary
practice to the exercise and this could lead to changes in words or
expression in the version which the students produce.

Rewriting completes the first main stage. This can be followed by a
second stage of parallel writing. In parallel writing the students are
given new information which they use to write a parallel composition,
similar in style to the original model. The main change lies in the
content of the parallel version rather than in structures or functions.
For instance, if you were dealing with narrative, you could give the
students, new information -possibly in pictorial form — which would
require them to use many of the same verbs as in the original model
text, but in a different sequence.

The final stage, which might be done as a homework assignment, involves
the students writing compositions of their own. They can then exchange
compositions with a partner. Each member of the pair reads his or her
partner’s composition and uses the information to carry out an
information transfer activity similar to the one which they performed in
the first lesson. Since neither member of the pair knows in advance
exactly what the other partner is writing about, there is a
communicative element to this writing. Furthermore, by writing for each
other and subsequently discussing each other’s compositions, students
will begin to develop a sense of writing for an audience as well as
realizing the importance of being explicit and accurate in what they
write.

Another aspect of writing which needs developing is the organization of
ideas. The ways of organizing ideas in English prose may be rather
different from the conventions in the students* own language, and at
intermediate or advanced level, students sometimes have trouble with
organization and logic rather than with grammar or vocabulary. It is
partly a matter of style. In English, the writer of objective,
referential prose stands at a distance from his subject, and adopts an
impersonal attitude towards the topic and the reader. Informal
references to personal experience as evidence are usually considered
inappropriate to this type of writing, whereas in some cultures such
personal anecdote is perfectly acceptable as a way of stating evidence.

Another dimension of the same problem lies in the organization of a
series of statements to indicate logical relationships such as
concession, hypothesis, inference, deduction, and so on. In academic
writing in English it is common to put forward an entirely hypothetical
argument which is usually, but not always, signalled by. Everything
within the argument is hypothetical, including statements of concession
or contrast. Students unfamiliar with these conventions will need help,
not only in using such signals of meaning as however, although and
whereas, but also in understanding the meaning of such signals as part
of the total text.

As with the writing work outlined earlier, it is probably best to begin
with examples of the type of writing which you wish to teach. You can
focus the students’ attention on various aspects of the model text,
particularly the organization of ideas and the ways in which these ideas
are expressed. The students can then be given parallel writing in which
they apply features of the model text to a similar piece of prose. The
final stage involves them in writing an original text of their own,
incorporating the organization and logical features which they have
practised in the preceding lessons.

Other writing activities which can be introduced at intermediate and
advanced level include adding information to an existing text, deleting
information from within a text and placing it elsewhere in the same
passage, changing the emphasis or viewpoint and changing the function of
a text (for example rewriting a description of a process as a set of
instructions). Each of these is an authentic task because they are the
kinds of activity which we often perform, even in everyday writing. For
instance, one may face the problem of how to write an informal note to a
friend or colleague who has failed, yet again, to perform a promised
favour. There are subtleties of attitude and emphasis in such a note
which might well result in writing several versions before the writer is
satisfied that he has produced a message which was neither too aggrieved
nor too forgiving!

Adding, deleting and reorganizing information are familiar activities to
anyone who has to write reports, prepare proposals, argue a case or
persuade an audience. At more advanced levels, these are skills which
need practice. They don’t have to be done as solo activities. They can
be carried out as group or class activities, in which you and the
students discuss the most appropriate place to add information, the
changes which such additions will require and so on.

An important problem at all levels is that of dealing with errors and
corrections. Unlike speaking, writing is the one productive skill in
which we have time to think about what we have produced or are going to
produce. This means that we can think not only about content and our
intentions and meanings, but also about the form of what we will write.
Furthermore, we can correct and modify as we write. Even fluent writers
in their native language will tend to correct, reorganize and polish
both during and after writing a first draft. The students need to be
encouraged to develop these habits of self correction. They also need to
be given some guidelines. If they feel that they have to correct
everything, they will become discouraged and anxious.

If you are focusing on particular language and functional points in a
writing lesson, tell the students to check their own work for the same
features before they hand it to you for marking. In this way they may
only need to check two or three particular features and they can be
systematic about it rather than overwhelmed by having to check for lots
of different items. It is also more likely that they will actually
identify and correct errors if there are only a few things to look out
for.

Gradually, over a series of lessons, you can focus the students’
attention on different aspects, ranging from such elementary features as
article usage to subject-verb agreement to punctuation (for example all
sentences must end with a full stop) to the appropriate use of logical
connectors like however, but and although. Your own marking of
compositions can also focus on the same features so that the students
know what you are looking for. You can also adopt a marking code,
indicating in the margin the type of error by using a symbol or letter,
for example V for verb, Ag for subject-verb agreement, A for article and
so on. The sign in the margin alerts the student to the presence of an
error in the line concerned. His task is to find the actual error and to
correct it. Such a code assumes, of course, some knowledge of grammar on
the part of the students.

The correction of errors is particularly important, and is something
which it is wise to insist upon. Once you establish a habit of error
correction, the students will write out the correct form, which you can
then check when they next hand in their composition work. If you keep a
record of compositions written, you can add another column to your
records for corrections completed. Whether you adopt a strict attitude
towards the correction of errors is up to you, but you may find that
students like to know that you are taking an interest in their work by
insisting on error correction and checking the corrections once they are
done.

There is no need for the teacher to be burdened by checking and
correcting compositions. You can share the task by having students check
and correct each other’s work. This fits in well with the kind of pair
work communicative writing described earlier. It doesn’t absolve the
teacher from checking and correcting, but it does spread the load and it
involves students in the responsibility of marking.

To summarize, writing at all levels involves moving from a model to
parallel writing to the final stage, in which students produce an
original piece of writing based on their own ideas and content. As well
as the skills of producing grammatically correct sentences, writing
involves producing logically organized prose which is stylistically
appropriate to the writer’s purpose. It is difficult to focus
simultaneously on all of these aspects, and we need to help students by
dealing systematically with one feature at a time. Students can also
help each other and the teacher by assuming some of the responsibility
for checking and error correction. The importance of accurate and
explicit writing will be more obvious to students if they write for each
other, as they then have a real audience, and they will have to explain
to each other the errors and ambiguities which they find in each other’s
compositions.

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