Оксана Витальевна Алехина,
учитель английского языка
МБОУ "Лицей 21"
Статья "Пишите правильно" ("Write Right")
For some years linguists have been writing text – books designed to teach foreign students spoken English. But only recently, as teachers have found that many students want and need to learn how to write English as well as to speak it.
It’s obvious that grammar , aural comprehension, reading, and even aural production are to varying degrees involved in writing. Certainly we cannot teach a writing course that never touches on these areas. But at the same time , teaching a writing course that covers only these is redundant. Given the limited time most of us have to teach the student as much as we can about English, we should, if only for efficiency’s sake, use as a method that teaches him something he won’t learn in his other courses. That’s why we should use a method that emphasizes that which is unique in writing.
Learning to write , then, involves more than learning to use orthographic symbols. It involves selecting and organizing experience according to a certain purpose. It follows that teaching the student to write require active thought. When writing the student must keep in mind his purpose, think about the facts he will need to select and think about how to organize those facts in a coherent fashion.
Although, unlike pronunciation and grammatical production, he process of reading, e.g. requires thought, it doesn’t , as does writing, require activities. Reading is a passive process, while writing is active. Although he can learn through reading how various writers have selected and organized facts in order to carry out a specific purpose, the student himself must undergo the intense mental activity involved in working out his own problems of selection and organization if he’s ever really going to learn to write. That’s why the copy-book approach, which requires to copy and emulate certain writing, doesn’t work very well. While it does require the students to memorize structures, thereby increasing the grammatical ability, and perhaps even teaching him something about style, it doesn’t require him to do much thinking.
We can’t but recollect the wise saying by Francis Bacon
‘Reading makes a full man.
Conference a ready man’
Writing and exact man’.
Because the combination of thought and activity carrying out that thought is unique in writing, we must, in planning a writing curriculum, devise exercises that necessitate intense concentration. While grammar and reading are both certainly indispensable to such a curriculum, we must present them in such a way that the student will learn to use them as tools. For example, one of the first things the student will have to learn is that writing has certain structural differences from speech.
One difference is that writing generally has longer sentences – what might be two or three sentences in speech is often only one sentence in writing. So the student must learn how to combine the short sentences of spoken English by modification or by using sentence connectors of various kinds (conjunctions like however and therefore phrases like in the first place, etc.}…
Of course, one of the biggest problems of teaching writing is that the student must have facts and ideas in order to write and that these must be manifested in the form of grammatical English sentences. But if we allow him to use the facts and ideas gained from his firsthand experiences, he will think of these first in his own language and then try to translate them word-for-word into English, often with most ungrammatical results.
We can , however, avoid the problems caused by the student’s limited knowledge of grammar and of the idioms of English by requiring that, instead of using the facts of firsthand experience, he uses second-hand facts gained through the vicarious experience of reading. By using sentences gleaned from reading he can avoid making grammatical errors and can actively concentrate on the purposeful selection, and organization of those sentences: that is, he can concentrate on thinking.
The aims that should be achieved through mastering the basic steps of writing:
1) to learn to use orthographic symbols;
2) to suggest using complicated grammar material, active vocabulary and paying attention to style peculiarities;
3) to suggest getting acquainted with a great variety of self-control;
4) to explain specific techniques.
The main tasks stressed by teaching writing;
1) to require active thought and organize some facts in a coherent fashion;
2) to make outlook wider and extend knowledge, to communicate ideas;
3) to give constructions peculiar to written English;
4) to give students ample practice in writing.
As a result teaching writing should not be neglected as it’s a profound way of creative work, experience combining grammar, aural comprehension, reading and aural production.
At its best, a writing approach provides a set of techniques which can make the whole process more efficient and enjoyable in appropriate circumstances.
Now we shall view some problems in details in order to fish out the solutions of them.
The first one that we run across is orthography. The problem can be solved thanks to dictations (active words and word combinations, irregular verbs, etc. ), self-dictations based on the studied subtopics; compositions-miniatures such as ‘What is a holiday for me ?’, My Lucky Number’, etc. Tasks ‘Finish the sentence’ ( ‘Health is the greatest wealth that’s why….’, ‘Our time-table in the Lyceum is very busy because…’ )
These tasks provide an appropriate background which will secure the pupils the position of self-confidence.
Now a few words about DICTATORY. Being a surprisingly popular one, dictation has always been a rather controversial activity in the language classroom. I can’t but agree to the statement that dictation has its value as a testing device and it is very effective. And I would love to enumerate some advantages of this kind of work:
giving the dictation right at the beginning of the class forces the pupils to be punctual.
2) the dictation gives badly needed practice in listening comprehension. The students need to have excellent listening skills, to comprehend their lessons and to be familiar with the more ‘international style’ of English (it is very important while overcoming the first step of mastering writing).
30the dictation forces to write at least 35 or 40 words in English at each lesson and thus improves their general writing skill and increases their vocabulary.
Which way to turn out this learning activity into an enjoyable one passing through the next step? A few instructions:
a) all selected passages for dictation must consist of at least 40 words. The instructor must ensure that no cheating takes place during the dictation.
b) each dictation should be read only three times. The first and the last reading should be done at normal speech.
The second reading should be slow and clear. No explanation is needed during the reading.
c) dictation should be given at the beginning of each class and should be corrected by the instructor only.
While teachers are expected to follow the above instructions within the limits of these instructions they do have relative freedom to do as they please. That’s they can choose their own dictation passages; and they can select the level of difficulty that they deem fit for their students.
As a rule any dictation is viewed by the pupils as a boring testing device, So how can a teacher make the students enjoy what is essentially a boring and somewhat incomprehensive exercise?
How can a teacher make the pupils learn something from such an exercise?
How can he inject a note of continuity into the exercise/
In this case can be used a new way of giving a dictation which is termed ‘dictatory’ (according to Myo Myint, an EFL instructor at Assumption University in Thailand). The dictation should be turned into a continuous story in order to give the students an opportunity to listen to short paragraphs which together make up a short story. It may consist of 8 passages which can be distributed during eight English classes, Dictating is stopped at a very catchy moment and makes children look forward to its continuation. In this way the teacher is able to get them interested in the dictation passages, they are caught on to what their instructor is doing., start asking questions about and show a genuine interest in the breathtaking plot.
All of a sudden the dictation becomes something more than a mechanical exercise which has to be tolerated because of the marks the pupils are given for it. The skills at dictating are also improved because a catch dictation is a good stimulus for extra work. It’s thanks to a number of reasons;
the students pay more attention, so they HEAR and UNDERSTAND MORE;
20 they are THINKING AHEAD thus trying to guess what will happen in the story. It enables them to make educated guesses;
3)they aren’t merely doing a mechanical exercise, but instead are involved in a real COMMUNICATIVE SITUATION.
Last but not least, it was made certain that a number of words they were learning and grammar structures or patterns that they were being taught were incorporated into the ‘dictatory’.
CONCLUSION: ‘dictatory’ is worth doing because it changes a mechanical and often misunderstood exercise into a FUNFILLED ACTIVITY from which both the teacher and the students benefited.
For instance, every day for about 10 or 15 minutes the students can discuss what’s likely to happen next in the story. Such an activity allows to practise SPEAKING SKILLS, helps to WHETthe students’ appetite for the story and they remain INTERESTED in it.
Another problem that is faced touches upon the fact of inability of realizing self-control when checking a written test. The students cannot concentrate and their mistakes. The way out of the situation: to recommend the children to have a one-minute eye break (look through the window, look right and left), and then check the test once more. After handing out the exercise-book for tests the students must do the correction of mistakes. The teacher appreciates this kind of work, pays attention to a written task that must be done carefully. The of remarking achievements is taken into consideration but not the number of mistakes. In this case it is very important to overcome the so-called psychological barrier (the fear of mastering writing skills). It’s of great importance during the preliminary course (step). During the first step and corrective course which is closely connected with it, active thought is not required as a rule. But we can’t but accept the fact that the students are absorbed in thinking thanks to dictatory, self- dictations and compositions-miniatures (word combinations, grammar structures, patterns are combined into extended, complicated sentences ).
Final work can be viewed through a ‘draught’ dictation in order to check how the students cope with spelling, grammar structures (word order ), punctuation, to check their skill of writing by ear, to control understanding. You can think over varied tasks to be added to the ‘draught’ dictation. Such as thinking of an original title of the text, underline the main idea, make up a plan in questions, etc. These tasks are quite appropriate because such a dictation has a plot. It’s possible to exchance the written papers and the pupils will take an opportunity to check the work of his partner. Then the papers are handed in and by the teacher thoroughly.
Passing over to some other basic steps we can’t but remark that WRITING is viewed as a combination of SPEECH itself and way of thinking ( mode of thinking ). The contents are defined by emotional influence, selecting facts relevant to a purpose, experience, creative abilities. The mode of thinking shapes the written work: greeting cards, telegrams, ads, personal or business letters, annotations, reports reproductions, compositions, stories, poems.
The most difficult tasks include reproductions, compositions, annotations. They must take into consideration the pupils’ level of acquired habits and skills. The offered topics for writing should be striking, unusual and memorable and at the same time normal, familiar (judging by students’ experience ) and everyday. Besides the teacher should respect the demands of different students when improving writing habits. Thus, we cannot but appreciate the students’ desire to acquire profound writing skills, express their own clever, interesting thoughts. Any teacher can stimulate his gifted pupils’ work by varying the form of written tasks (advanced tasks 0 providing a meaningful context, and by using visual aids. The students are supposed to make up a mind map, a plan in questions to make the tasks easier before starting writing. They can express their own attitude to the events that take place in the story and do it emotionally.
The average students can be given some mind-maps, key phrases, a plan, pictures in order to combine them in the appropriate order and reveal the contents. So the differential approach is being observed.
When passing over to the advanced writing we come across some problems such as problems concerning grammar structures, logical mode of thinking, creative initiative, the ability to foresee the final result of such complicated work, fishing out key phrases, the main idea reflecting the plot of the story.
Thus, the first step is defined as the ‘must’, ‘obligatory’ one, the second level is intermediate; it reflects dynamics in comparison with the preliminary step, quantity is transformed into quality, the students are stimulated to work thanks to some raised problems ( actual burning ones ).
The work of the first step requires the ready- made form and contents the task set before a student is simple -“to remember”, any student is pressed emotionally.
The second and the third steps are viewed through a creative, flexible control. The demands are deep thoughts, well-thought-of contents, detailed transference, actuality, ability of coming to the conclusion and summarize all the ideas.
Creative tasks such as compositions, essays, etc. Should have the following structure;
-Topic Introduction –TI.
-Topical Sentence --TS.
-Example Sentence – ES.
-Restatement Sentence –RS.
A Slap in the Face. ( the title of the story )
TI. Human relations are something difficult to understand.
TS. A SLAP IN THE FACE MAY BE A SIGN OF LOVE AND HATRED.
ES.A friend of mine told me he had never been so happy as when… .
ES. … .
ES. … .
RS. As you see a slap in the face may be a slip of love.
One of the creative devices can be poetry writing:
LEXICAL GRID POETRY,
In the process of this creative work the pupils can write LIMERICKS according to the scheme or when answering a number of questions given by the teacher.
E. g. –What three coloures do you like best?
-What dream did you see last?
-What do you compare the clouds to ?
-What do you remember from your childhood ?
-How do you imagine the future ?
Thus, you can recite the following poetic prose ;
Red, and purple, and blue.
A horse standing in deep water.
The horses riding across the blue and red road.
Colored balloons everywhere around me.
The colored balloons are all gone… .
The poem can be written to some tasks :
LINE ONE. Compare autumn to a leaf.
LINE TWO. Compare autumn to a vegetable garden.
LINE THREE. Compare autumn to the sky.
LINE FOUR. Compare autumn to life.
When writing the poetic prose you can be inspired by some associations which appear or flash into your mind thanks to ‘LEXICAL GRID’ ;
-Associate the sun with 4 nouns.
-Associate the sun with 4 adjectives.
-Associate the sun with 4 verbs.
-Associate the sun with 4 verbs.
Some sentences as USE THE SIMILE, SUE THE RHYME, USE THE RHYTHM, USE THE METAPHOR can help young poets.
The poem can have a certain kind of shape ( SHAPE POETRY ). It means that it has the shape of a described thing.
A tiny white egg
Lying on the ground
Resting in its
The poem can be written after filling in the columns. This device is called ‘THE POETRY SAUSAGE MACHINE’.HEAR
The steps of working at this kind of work:
a) first of all the teacher offers a topic.
‘A Storm in the Desert’,
‘A Busy Market Place’,
‘A Birthday Party’,
‘A Trip to the Zoo’,
‘A Circus Performance’,
‘A Night in a Haunted House’.
b) each column is filled in thanks to different adjectives and nouns vividly associated with the titles ‘Hear’, ‘Smell’, ‘See’. A pupil should write a list of sense impressions (it may be a group work ), each phrase must be a descriptive one.
A BIRTHDAY PARTY.HEAR
Scent of sweets
A lot of dishes
c) choose the favourite expressions and arrange them. The ‘ingredients’ for our ‘SAUSAGE MACHINE’ must be mixed up and squeezed out into the finished product. The table ‘hear – smell – see’ is filled in as a rule on the blackboard. The words and word combinations are put into rhyme.
The FINAL RESULT of such CREATIVE WRITING:
My Birthday Party.
By Anastasiya Ulyanova.
You see a lot of dishes,
You smell the scent of sweets,
You hear many wishes,
The guests my mother meets.
It’s my Birthday Party,
I’m so glad today.
Eat, please, my cookies faster !
Let’s play the whole day !
I have a lot of presents.
They al are really nice.
But when I feel your presence,
Of course, I’m happy twice.
My Birthday Party.
( group work )
joy and funny music,
the longest preparations,
my friends and guests
were coming to my place.
It was my birthday.
If I’m not mistaken the day of Thursday.
Oh, what a wonderful day !
At the very beginning of May.
Things and drinks,
Cakes and books
Were on the table and on the stools.
The had been brought by the guests.
So I hadn’t got even one minute of rest !
I remember all the dishes,
So tasty and delicious.
I prepared some tasty juice,
Mashed potatoes and a fried goose
I was happy once,
We and the greatest dance.
It was at home
So I wasn’t alone.
Of course, it was wonderful as it must be
And there were a lot of people around me.
They were fat like big cats’
They smiles were as five miles.
They couldn’t push through the doors;
They had eaten too much for the main course.
I’ll never forget that wonderful day
On Thursday at the beginning of May. (1999 год. )
This complicated work was done during summer practice in English and had great success. Writing took the pupils 30 –40 minutes of hard work but it gave them a true pleasure and was a push to writing their own poems. For example, one day I asked the pupils to write a composition on the topic ‘My Favourite Season’. And Anna Naidych did her best and wrote the composition in the form of a poem. Here it is.
My Favourite Season.
What is spring ?
What does it symbolize
When grass is green in most early months ?
When snowdrops somewhere grow,
The sun is shining in the sky,
The tulip, lilac will appear,
And a butterfly begins to fly.
The days grow longer every minute.
The moon is lovely outdoors,
The sky is blue and full of colors,
The woods are filled with merry songs.
And how rich the chain of sounds
In various places of the world
Which brings with it the real fondness
To every heart but not the cold.
It’s time of love fore everybody,
When you must listen to your loving heart,
And understand your dreams and wishes
Which make your life more nice and smart.
Spring is my lovely season
Because nature starts a new life.
The trees are covered with new leaves,
The poem is blossoming in a pleasant rhyme.
Now I’d like to pass over to the peculiarity of a dictation on the intermediate level. It gives an opportunity to develop creative writing. I’d like to say a few words about a group dictation. The two pupils are given pictures illustrating the events of the story. The pictures are mixed up. The task is to distribute the pictures according to the contents of the given story, write the text himself without any book support and to dictate it to his partner. Then the partners correct the dictation.
The dictation in the form of the game ‘a spoilt phone’ is very popular with the pupils.
The work that demands a great thought activity is a balanced report.
The arguments ‘for’ and counter arguments ‘against’ are reflected in a composition. The first part may include ‘for’, the second one ‘against. Besides both points of view can be mixed up. For instance the compositions ‘I’m a pessimist by nature, but I try to think of Russia in an optimistic way…’ or ‘Advantages and disadvantages of living in cities’ , ‘Greek meets Greek’ are good examples of compositions which demand deep reasoning.
Reports, individual research work on the basis of newspaper foresee the choice of some problems, their estimation in a proper way, solutions, material selection, fishing out some important facts, sayings comparison with another point of view, putting forward a hypothesis, coming to the conclusion. The pupils should look through the number of newspaper issues, articles, scientific terms in order to write the topics offered by me:
‘Advantages and disadvantages of living in cities’,
‘I’m the United States’,
‘American character: how sports help foreigners to study it’, etc.
This great job demands a lot of efforts and takes the students the whole month. Such individual reasoning tasks are given as a rule in the 11th form and are included in the third level that is creative, maximum. Writing is a means of communication, creative work and cognition on the third level.
A good stimulus for extra work is writing a ‘COLOFUL’ composition – reasoning, when the colors are chosen especially for each part of the written task in order to reflect the mood of creative work. Each part has its own peculiar shade and pictures or symbolic sketches which help the teacher to snick into the spiritual inner world of his pupil to understand his intentions, principles views. That helps to have the teacher- student feedback that students are eager to have as a rule. Besides my students can’t imagine their works without proverbs, sayings, pieces of poems which are inserted into their compositions, reproductions.. They rule your way of thinking, help to avoid doing frame work, monotonous and tiresome one. The students can find out the proper musical pieces when standing for their points of view. The epigraph is an integral part of compositions, reproductions, etc.
A good device that is very popular with the students is a number of photos given to the pupils. They should write a composition – miniature ‘What does it mean ?’ and explain, prove their point of view. The same can be done thanks to still – life set on the chair or the table which consists of some symbols that reflect the inner world of one of the pupils in the group or on eof the characters of the story. The task is to guess the name of the person and prove your point of view in writing.
ADVANTAGES; every student is ‘on his wavelength’, the teacher feels the pupils’ responses, the students have a great field of activity and realize the teacher’s desire to the child’s background, his interests typical of this or that age group, the ability of self – expression.
Now we can come to the conclusion that any thought activity demands a push, I mean an involving, catchy task based on emotional perception of the surrounding world, a task that should correspond to contemporary demands of he youth.. The creative task ‘SEIZE THE DAY’ given to the senior students of the 11th form can be a good example. The pupils were given some wise saying from the novel ‘Dead Poets Society’ in order to arrange them and the main task was to squeeze out the most interesting thoughts, express their own point of view and dig out some information, examples to make the composition extended, full of convincing arguments.
The passages given below make every student reason a lot, think over his future, views, values.
‘Gather ye rosebuds while you May,
Old time is still a flying:
And this same flower that smiles today,
Tomorrow will be dying’.
‘We are food for worms, we are only going to experience a limited number of springs, summers and falls…
…medicine, law, banking – these are necessary sustain life. But poetry, romance, love, beauty?..These are what we stay alive for!’
Don’t these wise, clever quotations sound, refreshing, beautiful? We can’t but admire the sense put inside this passages. TRY YOUR PEN! We have passed through the first two steps and on the maximum level my students aren’t afraid of expressing their own ideals, revealing their inner world.
And now a few words about writing skills at the lessons in HOME READING.
I’d love to enumerate some tasks:
fill in the Table One :
fill in the Table Two:
make up an outline, put it down and provide each logical part with a colorful shade to emphasize the mood of the story;
fill in the columns of the Table Three:
STEPS TO SOLVE IT
It includes EVENT, STATE, MORAL.
This kind of work is called STORY MAP.
SETTING: in this part the main characters are introduced and the time and the location of the story are stated.
THEME: the theme represents the objectives the main characters want to achieve.
EPISODES: the episodes are the plot of the story. Each story may have an indefinite number of episodes. Each episode consists of
SUBGOALS OR ATTEMPTS TO ATTAIN THE MAIN OBJECTIVE;
PROBLEM OR OBSTICLES TO ACHIEVE THE OBJECTIVE;
STEPS TO SOLVE THE PROBLEMS;
OUTCOME IS THE FINAL RESULT OF THE EPISODE.
RESOLUTION: the final result of the story in relation to the theme. It can be stated as an event or action, a state of feelings or a moral as in the case of fables.
The story in this case should provide MEANINGFUL and MEMORABLE CONTEXTS. This work is done at the MAXIMUM LEVEL and students have the opportunity to become involved in the field of literature. THE AIM: the students should be familiar with the writing discourse of stories.
THE STORY MAP has its ADVANTAGES:
-help pupils remember the development of the story when retelling it;
students become aware of story grammar, can increase their fluency if they are trained in its use;
- students can remember more elements of the story;
- the story map requires a four-skill approach to language teaching; an ability to read, understand, respond sensitively to literature and fix every thing in writing;
The next task is to EXPRESS THE MAIN IDEAS OF THE STORY WITH THE HELP OF THE CAPITAL LETTERS OF THE TITLE ITSELF. So main ideas are hidden in the title. Each main idea should start with this or that letter included in the title of the story, the song or the essay.
TWILIGHT ( the title of the poem )
T – tunes of nature.
W – wonders of the night.
I – idyll typical of twilight.
L - …
I - …
G - …
H – harmony between nature and people.
T - …
One of the pupils of mine combined the summary of the poem and the task mentioned above. Here it is.
Twilight is the deepest poem,
The Muse came to the Master
Wisdom was given to him:
Nightingale is the God’s minister.
If something is very bad
He will give him some advice
Light stars are people who died
And they interrupt a speech when comes
I’m afraid of death sunrise
But love helps us to live.
Giving love and talking is consolatory for me.
The God’s world isn’t so naive.
High land is too inaccessible.
And the moon is God.
To look after people is very possible,
Who committed a sin won’t come to the sky…
Dmitry Popenko, 9 G
( summer practice, 1999 )
Actually we can’t but mention a few words about TESTS which are written by students regularly in order to
set a firm control over the acquired skills. Besides a teacher has an opportunity to correct the students’ mistakes, errors on time, especially mistakes which are frequently observed and fished out by the teacher. In this case the table of mistakes can be drawn by the teacher in order to fix out lexical, grammar mistakes of each pupil. Then the mistakes should be corrected through exercises, dictations, credits. At the end of the term such a kind of careful work must be analyzed.
To sum it up I’d like to say that only thanks to efforts and attempts, creative nature of the instructor who realizes that writing skills are closely connected with listening, speaking, reading this great job can be EFFECTIVE, FRUITFUL. The teacher ought to be enthusiastic and eager to start. And as a rule the students feel it and enjoy the process of writing.
Two hours a week devoted to serious writing ( teaching writing ), some at a lesson as a writing drill stimulate speaking, listening, reading, the thought activity and help to keep profound knowledge.
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