Sunday, December 11, 2011

Reflecting on Teaching Writing

1. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of both the product and the process approaches to writing. If you were to teach a writing course, which approach would you adopt? Why? Explain briefly how you would develop such a course.

Painless Writing

Writing could be considered the most difficult skill for most language learners. Few people, even in their mother tongue, find writing to be an easy task. Nevertheless, teachers often ask their beginner students to venture in writing despite their anxieties and emotional barriers. After just a few semesters of English one might be asked to write a short paragraph about the most embarrassing day in his/her life, or a short biography. More often than we’d like to admit, we, teachers, become disappointed with students attempts, and students become discouraged and even afraid of writing. If I could design a course, I’d do my best to make writing a challenging, exciting learning experience. I’d try to facilitate learning and offer students all the relevant support I could. The greatest challenge in designing a writing task is to understand what makes writing so difficult and why teachers sometimes fail to give students the scaffolding they need in order to succeed. Another point to consider is the difference between product and process writing, and which one really provides students with the chance of becoming real users and producers of the language. Educators should be clear about the principles behind designing and delivering a writing class, for a well written piece can motivate and inspire changes within oneself and in the way other people perceive reality.

According to Peter Elbow, writing is a thinking process. One should not attempt to just put ideas on paper, for the essence of writing is closely linked to the concept of learning. In other words, your ideas are not what you start with, but where you get to after you finish a writing task. Using his concept, one could see writing as a learning endeavor. Nowadays, it’s important to motivate our children and students to read more so they can better base their opinions, and to be able to write and reflect upon what was read so they can make well-informed decisions. Reading and writing should be related to learning in a broader sense; these aforementioned skills should be related to learning to think differently and to making changes happen when they are necessary. An effective, updated approach to writing takes in consideration why and what for people write, and focus on the message. Our learners are capable of putting on paper ideas worth spreading.

No student will write a line if not asked to. The composing nature of Writing requires skills that are not developed on their own. It demands time and effort and There are two different ways that teachers can approach it. Product writing focuses on the final product. Students are expected to follow a model to reach given requirements in terms of what language to use and the rhetoric expected. There are advantages to this model, as students are exposed to rich texts that usually establish high guideline parameters. In addition, instructors and learners target at a clear, articulate, well- organized piece of writing. On the down side, one could argue that the product approach does not take into consideration the natural flow of writing. Rarely does anyone know exactly what to say in the beginning of the process, for writing well requires guidance and editing. If a person wants be well understood, he/she must devote time to learning the steps to the dance.

Nowadays, many educators are eager to guide students to becoming creators of language. To be able to do that, students need to be trained to follow the steps of good writers and to be given the chance to focus on the message and learn in the process not only language but, most importantly, what his/her own ideas really are. One advantage of the process approach is that it fosters students’ understanding of their own composing needs. Another advantage is that students might build writing strategies and become faster so they can even do well is a timed based writing task. Process writing gives students the chance to work on their piece for themselves, it provides students with meaningful chance to learn from their own mistakes as they follow the instructor’s feedback. But as with anything else in life, process writing must be seen in the prespective of balance, for placing too much emphasis on the process might lead teachers to overlook the product. Process writing should be seen as a means to facilitate the process, and to make students eager to learn from writing besides learning to write.

Teachers are responsible for showing students that there is a need for what they have to say, that their voices and thoughts are valuable sources of knowledge to other people. To be read and seriously taken into consideration, one has to engage in developing techniques, but should bear in mind the importance of an interesting, mind provoking, inspiring final product.

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