Thursday, October 06, 2005

new approach for writing with beginner students

For four-skills classes that are using textbooks, I try to make sure that the learners get a good balance of listening, speaking, reading, writing, and culture. (Ooops, that's five skills.) Yesterday was a writing day for one class, and I had a minor epiphany. Until now I have focused on three areas for development, namely content, organization, and mechanics. That worked moderately well. During the process, which I won't go into right now, I asked them to be aware of each area. That meant that they had to be aware that the content of their writing was complete, that it was constructed in a way that was accessable to the reader. Finally they had to pay attention to the boring stuff like capitalization and punctuation.

Yesterday's class was a group of true beginners. Some of them were starting with ABC's at the beginning of the year, but now they are at the sentence level or beyond. Yesterday's writing task was aimed at those students making the jump to paragraph writing. That's when I decided to use a different set of standards that they could apply to their writing. I suggested that they read through their writing, after having put something on paper, and check for the following:

letters: Are all the letters English ones?
words: Are all the words that you want spelled correctly, and do they mean what they should?
sentences: Are they all sentences? Do the begin with capital letters and end with some puntucation?
paragraph: Is it really a paragraph, or just a list of sentences?

Since they were making the jump to paragraph writing, many of their first drafts were lists of sentences. The have little or no experience writing beyond the word level, really, so it was a challenge to first get the sentences in order, and then build a paragraph.

They did wonderfully, and this checklist seemed to work well for students at this level.

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