martes, 5 de marzo de 2013

Writing Approaches
Writing versus speaking
Of all the skills, writing is the most complex and unique. Like speaking, writing can be an effective tool for communicating. Unlike speaking, though, it typically takes much more time and thought to develop a written text than to express those same ideas verbally.
Writers also don't have the benefit of using facial expressions, tone of voice, or gestures to help them communicate their ideas. As a result, one must often take great care to be as clear as possible when composing a text that another will read.
Writing also has a permanency to it that speaking does not. It's often easy to backtrack and self-correct when we're talking. The same isn't true for writing, though. Our errors are exposed for all to see…and judge.
Process and product
In the minds of many students (and teachers), the belief is that if errors are eliminated, a text will be perfect. Yet an error-free text does not mean that the message is coherent and that communication with the reader will take place. So if merely editing a text is not sufficient, what can instructors do to help their learners become better writers? To answer this question, let's look at two methods often mentioned in relation to writing instruction: the product approach and the process approach.
The product approach focuses on the final text that will be written. This approach assumes that writers know what they are going to write before they start. Students follow prescribed organizational patterns and in some cases, plug their ideas into templates or outlines. The emphasis with the product approach is on the result: generating a final, finished product.
The process approach focuses on how the writer reaches the final product. It assumes that a writer's ideas develop as he or she writes. There is a continuous interaction between "developing knowledge and continuously developing text" (Bereiter and Scardamalia, 1987). Using this approach, the instructor focuses primarily on helping a learner develop and express his or her ideas in a coherent way. Details such as structure or punctuation are usually dealt with in later stages of the writing process.

Both approaches have merit
As with all other approaches in ELT, we should look for a middle ground where both can work together. The reality is that both the product and process approach have merit and can be used to help learners express their ideas in writing.
The following chart shows a possible series of activities for the two approaches. As you'll see, the approaches have similar steps. Which approach a teacher uses will often depend on the kind of text learners are asked to write.
Model: Students analyze a model of good writing.
Awareness: Students become aware of good writing by reading.
Model manipulation: Students are taught parts of the model. They study grammar, vocabulary, linking words and expressions, etc.
Support: Students develop good writing strategies and learn grammar, vocabulary, and context.
Planning: Students write following a prescribed template (for example, students develop an outline based on their ideas).
Idea Generating: Students develop ideas using different brainstorming techniques.
1st Draft: Students write following their plan.
1st Draft: Students write ideas without overemphasis on accuracy. The focus at this stage is on getting the ideas down on paper.
Feedback: Students get feedback from the instructor.
Feedback: Students get feedback from various sources.
Edit: Students correct grammatical errors and "clean-up" writing based on feedback.
Revise: Students reflect on and clarify ideas based on feedback and eventually correct mistakes in grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
Final draft
Final daft

Designing writing activities
Ultimately, all writing activities should include certain elements to ensure student success. We'll discuss each of these points in upcoming chapters in this lesson.
Writing activities should include the following:
  • a context (The lesson plan will designate this.)
  • a clear purpose (Why write?)
  • a pre-writing task (What preparation do students need to accomplish the task: vocabulary, grammar, writing strategies and skills)?
  • a writing task
  • a feedback stage
  • a revision and editing stage
  • a final draft

Chapter 2

In order to express oneself coherently in writing, a person must be able to…
  • define what his or her ideas are.
  • organize the ideas in the text in an appropriate manner.
  • use the correct structures (grammar) to express those ideas.
  • select and use the appropriate vocabulary.
  • identify and use appropriate style and tone in the text.
  • spell and use punctuation appropriately.
As you can see from the list above, writing is a challenging task, even in one's native language, and definitely in another. An instructor should keep this in mind at all times. There are a number of things, however, that teachers can do in the pre-writing phase to prepare students to compose a text in English.
Establish a context and a purpose
As with the other skills, establishing a context and purpose is very important. This context will help students begin to think about how the writing topic relates to their own lives. They hopefully will develop opinions about it and become motivated to write.
Student level should also be taken into consideration. Students at the lowest levels may only be able to write words or very simple sentences. Students at higher levels may be encouraged to write paragraphs, multiple paragraphs, extended narratives, essays, and reports.
Raise learners' awareness of good writing
Instructors can use models of good writing to help students understand what is expected in certain contexts and with certain kinds of texts. The models can be from other student writing (like from a
Language Experience process) or from published sources.
The instructor should be aware that students will sometimes feel they are expected to write at the same level as the writing model. Instructors should help students understand that it takes time to write at the level of the model.
Gabrielatos, in his article entitled EFL Writing: Product and Process, lists various activities that can be used to develop learner awareness of different kinds of texts. (The text below has been slightly modified).
Before students draft anything on their own, get them to...
  1. analyze texts for good writing.
  2. analyze texts for problems.
  3. analyze learner texts for merits and short comings.
  4. compare two texts for style and register.
  5. order jumbled text to create a paragraph.
  6. order jumbled paragraph to create text.
  7. add additional or missing information into text.
  8. divide a text into sections or paragraphs.

Many students also need vocabulary and grammar input and practice in order to develop a clear text. They should be given tools to do this. Again, Gabrielatos, mentions several activities that can be used in the pre-writing phase to prepare learner to write (modified slightly here):
  1. grammar input/revision and exercises
  2. vocabulary development
  3. ideas and content development
  4. organizational guidelines (for example, instruction on what a paragraph is, what it includes, how ideas are organized, etc.)

Students should not be expected to master, for example, writing topic sentences after being exposed to instruction only once. Address different points, one at a time, and be sure to recycle these regularly over the course of the term.
We've talked about brainstorming in many lessons of this course. During a brainstorming session, students are encouraged to think of all ideas possible for a given situation, topic, problem, etc. During this time, there are no right or wrong answers. This technique is especially good for pre-writing because learners' background knowledge is stimulated. Also, the group may come up with ideas that a learner (on his or her own) may not have thought of.
The following is a list of brainstorming techniques.
  1. clustering
  2. word associations
  3. categorizing
  4. developing charts and graphs
  5. surveying or conducting polls
If an instructor's goal is to have students write about healthy lifestyles, for example, first he or she might ask students questions about health in general to establish the context. Then together, the class might brainstorm ideas about which kinds of things are healthy and which aren't. These ideas could be categorized in a chart like the one below.
Healthy Practices
Unhealthy Practices
maintaining a good diet
drinking to excess
drinking plenty of water
easting fast food
visiting the doctor regularly
sleeping 12 hours or more every night
driving with a seatbelt
taking vitamins
driving too fast
getting 6-8 hours of sleep a night

Learners can then use this information to get started when it is time to begin writing.