“Approaches to teaching writing in English” focuses on teaching writing and achieving the required level ensuring to pass the written part of the leaving examination successfully. The main part describes the development of writing, motivation, evaluation, the level of requirements, writing difficulties and the role of the teacher. The aim of the article is to identify and recommend the most optimal Course book and other resources for teaching high quality writing in connection with the leaving examination and acquiring ideas from teaching practice to increase the attractiveness of teaching writing.
Key words: importance of writing, teaching writing skills, Course-book, evaluation, writing, motivation, feedback
Being able to read and write in one´s mother tongue and also in a second language is considered to be indispensable for a literate person in the modern world. Writing, next to reading, speaking, and listening, is one of the four language skills. Learners of English as a foreign language are expected to acquire these skills together with knowledge of language structures and their use. Moreover, mastering writing is a necessity for passing the leaving examination as well as sought after international examinations successfully.
Teacher’s ‟feedback plays an important role in teaching writing as it helps students to reflect on their shortcomings and reshape their text. Undeniably, writing is the most exacting and neglected out of the four language skills. Not only because of the possible wrong spelling, collocations, word order, register, layout, incorrectly used tenses or grammar structures but also because of apprehension about the final outcome, incoherence and students´ reluctance to write. Sometimes teachers do not have enough time to practice writing in lessons and set the writing tasks for homework. To be able to produce a written text of a required form and structure students need to be familiarized with a wide variety of texts and then transfer, practice and consolidate the knowledge.
Nowadays there is an overwhelming amount of various Course books from different publishers available on the market and it is not easy to select the most suitable one for a particular group of students. Nevertheless, many teachers have their say in choosing the type of course book they use to prepare their students for the final exams.
The definition of a Course book
The term textbook refers to Course books which cover all aspects of the language as well as supplementary textbooks which apply to particular topics or skill areas [Grant, 12].
There are many diverse textbooks, which makes it difficult to put them into categories. While teachers have their own way of classifying textbooks, Grant proposes dividing textbooks into two extensive categories, which are traditional textbooks and communicative textbooks.
Traditional textbooks are attractive to some teachers for they get students to learn the language as a system. They are easy to use and examination oriented. However, after completing their studies students are not capable of using the language because they cannot use it for communication.
Working with a Course book
By using the Course book the teacher economizes preparation time and can make use of a wide range of material. The Course book also provides security and a base for homework, discussion and comparison with other teachers. On the other hand, it offers the learners a reference for checking and revising as well as an opportunity for independent and autonomous learning. It provides a sense of security, purpose, progression and progress. However, no matter how many advantages a Course book has, there always will be some activities which the teacher can do better, such as altering work in response to the students´ reactions.
Different roles of Course books in English language teaching and learning process as follows:
‒ a resource of material for presentation
‒ activities source for communicative interaction and practice
‒ learners reference on grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation
‒ a source of ideas for classroom activities
‒ a syllabus
‒ self-directed learning or self-access resource
‒ a support for less experienced teachers
Course books should assist teachers and learners not impose course content and teaching methods on teachers. Therefore, Course book´s aims should be in accordance with teachers´ aims and together they should “seek to meet the needs of the learners to the highest degree“ [Cunningsworth, 7].
When people learn languages, the fact how motivated they are plays an important role. Pinter compares the role of motivation when people learn first language and other languages and comes to conclusion that motivation is “crucial in learning other languages”.
Harmer suggests that motivation is “some kind of internal drive which pushes someone to do things in order to achieve something“ [Harmer, The Practice of English Language Teaching 98]. Generally we can distinguish between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation, i.e. motivation which comes from outside and from inside. Intrinsic motivation is connected with a learner´s desire to learn or enjoyment in learning whereas extrinsic motivation with a learner´s need to learn due to external factors such as academic requirements or employment. A combination of the two can result in a student who has to learn but does not want to and that leads to ineffective learning [Lindsay and Knight, 7].
Lindsay and Knight further state that teachers can sustain learners´ motivation by:
‒ searching for and using texts that entice students´ interests,
‒ creating a classroom culture which makes students confident and empowered to use the new language,
‒ including learners in decisions about the classroom learning process,
‒ enquiring which language learning activities our learners enjoy most and find productive,
‒ establishing what our learners expect from a course.
Feedback on written work
According to Raimes, “responding to students´ writing is very much a part of the process of teaching writing”. Thus if the teacher collects written work and responds to it only at the end by marking, it does not have that required effect as when the teacher intervenes at different stages of the writing process and involves the student in it as well.
Methods used when teaching writing: Follow the instructions in the Course book, grammatical construction from simple to complex sentences, independent writing, correction of homework, creative writing, use of model examples, analyses of mistakes and shortcomings, analyses of the text and grammar, transforming journal writing, quick writing, comics presentation, practice, production, games, dictation, interactive methods, text completion, written answers to questions, spelling, writing evaluation, emphasis on linking words, comparison of already written correct and incorrect piece of writing.
The Tasks of the Teacher in Writing
According to Harmer, there are certain before-, while- and after- writing tasks that teachers should provide for their students when they are asked to write, especially during writing for writing activities [Harmer, How to teach writing 41–42]:
‒ Demonstrating— teachers draw to students´ attention writing conventions and genre constraints in specific types of writing as well as layout issues and the language.
‒ Motivating and provoking— many students have difficulties in creative writing tasks and that is where teachers should help by creating beneficial conditions for the generation of ideas.
‒ Supporting— once students get writing, they need advice and constructive suggestions.
‒ Responding— when teachers respond to students´ work at different draft stages they make them aware of their progress and comment on their use of language.
‒ Evaluating— giving feedback to students should not be only grading but above all a learning opportunity.
Writing gives opportunities for language practice, it improves vocabulary and grammar, but it also gives students an opportunity to challenge them and to use different language. In writing learners are able to think about what they want to say and therefore they are able to produce extended pieces of language in their own time, which is very much unlike speaking.
In my opinion, we can always get the best Course book which covers all the requirements and objectives of the syllabi but if we lack enthusiasm for writing and do not trigger enough motivation in our students, the time dedicated to writing would not be used to the maximum. To promote more writing goes hand in hand with promotion of reading and raising fondness of written texts. Another point is the competition between the form and the content. If we pay too much attention to form we may lose interesting content.
In conclusion, students should be encouraged to write to be able to transform their thought processes into written form because from my point of view writing should not only be a practical task but also a work with students´ imagination.
- Cunningsworth, Alan. Choosing Your Course book. Oxford: Macmillan Heinemann English Language Teaching, 1995. Print.
- Grant, Neville. Making the Most of Your Textbook. London: Longman, 1987. Print.
- Halliwell, Susan. Teaching English in the Primary Classroom. Harlow: Longman Group UK Limited, 1992. Print.
- Harmer, Jeremy. How to Teach English. Harlow: Pearson Education Limited, 2007. Print. Harmer, Jeremy.
- Harmer, Jeremy. The Practice of English Language Teaching. Harlow: Pearson Education Limited, 2007. Print.
- Hedge, Tricia. Teaching and Learning in the Language Classroom. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2000. Print.
- Lindsay, Cora, and Paul Knight. Learning and Teaching English. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2006. Print.
- Pinter, Annamaria. Teaching Young Language Learners. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2006. Print. Raimes, Ann. Techniques in Teaching Writing. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1983. Print.