(Source of Picture: http://www.primary-education-oasis.com/images/teachingwritingtochildren.jpg)
On 8 March 2011, I attended an English Grammar Reinforcement Workshop (Bengkel Pemantapan Tatabahasa Bahasa Inggeris) hosted by the Education Department of the Sepang District (PPD Sepang) which was held at SM Teknik Sepang. As the name of the workshop implies, we were taught about past and present perfect tenses. The lesson was okay and useful even though I felt quite disappointed as I was enthusiastically expecting that the attendees will be having a workshop on HOW to teach grammar.
The second session of the course caught my attention as it discussed about the teaching of writing. The speaker, who is an experienced English teacher from SMKBBST shared her techniques which she finds effective on how she normally go about teaching writing to her students. I'd like to share the speaker's ideas:
- Pick a topic/question where students have to write a DW essay. (I think teachers could also use this techniques for any open-ended essays.)
- Get students to write only two paragraphs at a time.
- If students are able to write 2 paragraphs within a lesson, teacher can straight away mark their work and have an individual discussion about the mistakes they make, in class. If not, teacher can mark students' work later and discuss their mistakes with the whole class.
- After marking students' work and discussing the errors they make, students need to rewrite the same paragraphs as a second draft.
- Then, carry out Step 2. Students will then rewrite the same paragraphs as a third draft. This steps are repeated until students are able to write the paragraphs correctly.
- After students are able to write the first two paragraphs correctly, get students to write the next two paragraphs. Repeat Steps 2, 3 and 4.
- Finally, get students to write the whole essay of the same question/topic.
I haven't tried these techniques yet but I could foresee two major advantages of using these methods. Firstly, teacher could assist students in focusing on the development of ideas and sentence building for two paragraphs. Secondly, the marking time will be less agonizing as teacher only needs to mark two paragraphs at a time. Still, it's going to be a lot of work. The above methods are interesting. Nevertheless, in my opinion, teachers still need to carry out a lot of scaffolding activities prior to getting students to write even a sentence.
Maybe the English teachers out there might want to ask. How am I ever going to finish all those syllabus? There will surely be an outcry from the senior teachers and the school administrators who advocate the system where students need to write 2 essays per month! Well, the speaker does have a strong reason for advocating her ideas. The speaker said, "It's not the matter of how many essays that students have to write in a month. It's the matter of how many essays that students can write CORRECTLY!" I couldn't agree more with the speaker.
I'm intrigued to try the above techniques after the school holidays end. Teaching writing is the most challenging task. As for me who's new in teaching English, the headache starts from choosing the right task for students, planning the right activities that suits the level of students' proficiency right until painstakingly marking students' creative work of art.
I teach 4 classes comprising 40 students. If I use the traditional methods of teaching writing, that means the number of essays that I have to mark per month equals to 4 classes x 40 students x 2 essays = 320 essays!!!!! It's madness and it'll take forever to mark all those essays. So, I really hope that the techniques that I've gained from the workshop will help my teaching of writing jumps one step higher.
I do hope that by using these methods, I could help students feel less intimidated and raise their self-confidence in writing because as far as learning English is concern, most students would unanimously agree that writing is the most daunting task they will ever have to do.