Writing is a complex skill that provides communication between the people by means of graphic signs. Like speaking, it is a productive kind of activity; we record our messages to convey them to the recipient. The product of this activity is a text that is subject to reproduction. Writing as well as reading includes such factors:
(1) incentive and motivating;
(2) analytical and synthetical;
1) The first deal with a motive that arises from a necessity to take part in communication so as to convey a written message.
2) Analytical and synthetical parts deal with the utterance which is formed and realised; words are selected, subject-predicate and syntagmatic relations are analysed.
3) The third part is realised in the form of a written text.
Written speech is a process of expressing thoughts in graphic form. Writing in methods is mastering a graphic and orthographic system of a foreign language to better consolidate the speech and language material. Writing here plays an ancillary role in mastering speaking and reading because writing is closely related to them.
In learning to write the following analyzers take an active part:
1. Visual (the learner sees a graphic sign, a word, a sentence, etc.);
2. Aural (the learner co-refers the sign with the way it sounds);
3. Kinaesthetic (the learner pronounces what he sees);
4. Motor (the hand makes a movement necessary for writing the sign).
The linguistic component of writing that enables the learner to use writing as a means of instruction is of triple nature:
1) Firstly, exposure to a graphic system in its two variants (written and typed), small and capital letters present a problem to the student. A Ukrainian learning English may have some difficulty refraining from substituting d for g, s for c, m for t, since the Cyrillic representation for the Ukrainian g looks like the Roman d. The sound system of the English language is richer than the graphic one (26 letters and 44 phonemes).
2) The second component is orthography (the art or practice of spelling words correctly).
3) And finally, developing habits and skills necessary for writing a dictation or a composition.
Since writing is a complicated skill it should be developed through the formation of habits such as:
1) the habit of writing letters of the English alphabet (graphics);
2) the habit of converting speech sounds into their symbols – letters and letter combinations;
3) the habit of correct spelling of words, phrases, sentences;
4) the habit of writing various exercises.
In the formation of writing habits the following factors are of great importance:
1. Auditory perception of a sound, a word, a phrase, or a sentence, i.e. proper hearing of such.
2. Articulation of a sound and pronunciation of a word, a phrase, a sentence by the pupil who writes.
3. Visual perception of letters or letter combinations that stand for speech sounds.
4. The movement of muscles of the hand in writing.
As we have mentioned above writing involves:
1) the ability to shape the letters of the alphabet (graphics);
2) knowledge of the right combinations of letters (spelling);
3) skill in expressing oneself through the written word (dictation or composition)
Let us examine to what extent the methods being examined exercise these three integrated skills.
Methods intended for persons whose native language uses the same alphabet have little need to include handwriting as part of the writing course. Methods likely to be used by persons with a different script must begin the writing course with some sort of introduction to the new script. Some of the same principles applied to the teaching of reading apply equally to the teaching of writing. It is not necessary to teach the whole alphabet at once: a few letters at a time are sufficient.
There is a number of different ways to teach the beginnings of writing. Two of the best known are:
- the phonic method;
- the whole or sentence method;
The phonic method goes from letter to word, establishing a link between a speech sound and a letter. For languages with consistent and phonological systems of spelling this may be considered an advantage. But for languages with non-consistent (one-to-one) correspondence between a letter and a sound, the sentence (top-down) method, going from sentence to word and to letter, is sometimes used. It has been combined with a slow letter-intake, so that the whole word is recognised, the recognition of its letters comes shortly after. New letters are very few in number; and the ones which look alike, d and b, g and d, c and s, u and v, for example, are spaced as far apart as possible.
The sentence method starts with the sentence and breaks it down into words and letters. The phonic method starts with the letter, builds letters into words and words into sentences.
If the learner sees too many different letters at once, it will be hard for him to recognise all of them; just as if he goes to the party and meets 26 different people, he recognises fewer the next day than if he had met only four or five. On this principle, one text starts by presenting sentences containing only seven different letters, e.g., m, h, n, s, t, i, a.
These letters form such sentences as:
This is a man.
That is a hat.
It is his hat., etc.
After a number of such sentences, one or two new letters are added; these are combined with known letters to form new words and new sentences. Letters that may be taken for each other are not presented close together, they are letters like d and b, p and b, c and s. The learner is allowed to become completely familiar with one before being shown its upside-down or mirror-image equivalent. The sentences and words are illustrated and presented in a specific pre-primer text with accompanying videos, both the primer and the videos present the meaning of each picture.
The phonic method, on the other hand, starts with isolated letters, each of which is associated with a certain sound. The two- or three-letter words made of these sounds are given to the learner to read aloud – words like cat, rat, mat, hat. The material is presented in an illustrated pre-primer accompanied by a series of flash-cards showing pictures of an object or animal over the word it represents.
Even for learners using the same script, training in the recognition of words is an essential part of learning to read and write language. If the spoken language is taught first, the pupil will have to learn what the words he utters look like when written. If he understands the spoken before the written language, he may have to learn that some words that strike his ear as different may in fact be written alike: e.g. does, toes, shoes; “danger” and “anger” look alike but sound different, as do “low” and “how“, “word” and “lord“, “dull” and “bull“, “golf” and “wolf“, “singer“, “finger“, “ginger” and many others.
One of the reasons why English spelling is not exact lies in the fact that there are not enough letters to represent all the sounds. For instance, there are only five letters for the vowels, and these have to represent twenty spoken phonemes and diphthongs. But this is a difficulty that could be overcome. The main difficulty is the haphazard and unsystematic way the letters are combined. The same combination of letters is used for entirely different sounds. The letter “a”, for example represents entirely different sounds in each of the following words: that, palm, fall, came, about, any. And the same sound is represented by different combinations of letters: receive, machine, believe, be, people, see and sea, though spelled differently, are all pronounced with the phoneme [i:].
The spelling drills of a course may include oral and written exercises in:
1) completion (one or two letters are omitted) and the learner fills in the blanks to form a correctly spelled word;
Crossword puzzles seem to be an untiring source of interest, as is attested by their continued appearance in newspapers and magazines.
The Magician’s Game
The learner is given the problem of changing one word into
another by changing only one letter at a time. Each change must itself
constitute a word. For example: change -”dog” into ” cat”
or “hat” into “dot”
This type of game is suitable for young learners [108, p. 451].
The difficulties in writing are stipulated by:
1) Historical or conservative principle when spelling reflects the pronunciation of earlier periods in the history of the language (XV c.), e.g.: busy, brought, daughter.
2) Morphological principle. In writing a word the morphemic composition of the word is taken into account.
e.g. ask-ed (-ed is an affixal morpheme)
3) Phonetic principle, where spelling reflects the pronunciation, e.g. leg, bed, pot, task.
The practice of spelling words (orthography) has revealed five main groups that must be mastered by learners:
1. The first group covers the words that are governed by phonetic principle of writing. For example: not, sit, get.
2. The second group includes words of open or conditionally open syllable. For example: nine, lake, rose
3. The third group consists of words in which a letter combination conveys one speech sound. For example: first, bird, birth, girl, sir, dirt, turn, serve, nurse, curl.
4. This group consists of typical letter combinations of vowels, consonants, vowels and consonants: ee, ea, oy, ou, ay, ei, ai, wh, aw, ow, ew, al. For example: clean, break, head, main, eight, may, grey, out, house, mouse, blouse, team, etc.
5. The fifth group of the analysed lexical minimum for schools includes the so-called difficult group of words; their orthography is governed by the historical principle of writing. For example: one, two, daughter, busy, etc.
Checking and Marking
Teachers of English as a foreign language make extensive use of control in the aural-oral aspects of language learning. The claim is being made that there is too much use of control. But this claim does not extend to the writing aspect, simply because control has been minimal in this area [19, p 170].
In teaching written English, the concept of control has taken longer to become established. In the text, the control is regularly of the kind that employs several composition exercises to cover one grammatical feature. Another composition will cover some other grammatical feature and so on. A peculiar grammar feature is rigidly controlled in the composition while the rest is almost free writing [19, p.170]. In this type of control there is a constant change in the rigidity of the language control.
A programme has been elaborated which will hopefully be a solution to some of the ills that befall the composition class for English language students.
The following assumptions can be recommended in composition teaching:
1. Classroom teachers are not proof readers and should not be .
2. To mark all the mistakes in a student composition is a mistake in itself.
3. The correction of grammatical errors is only a subsidiary aim in teaching composition.
4. To give a composition a grade is unnecessary and undesirable.
5. Writing consists of language in context not isolated sentences.
The check-list of composition correction tries for efficiency in the following ways:
1. It eliminates proof-reading in favour of marking only those items that have teaching significance.
2. It provides for sufficient teaching and drill of the points to be learnt so that they are not just introduced or acknowledged.
3. It means that even grammar points and punctuation can be taught when the teacher is ready to do it, and in the clearest, most favourable contexts.
4. It is structured to reinforce what the pupils want to remember and practice – their successes – instead of trying to force them to remember and learn from their failures. The pupils usually learn little from them and eventually give up the attempt entirely.
5. It makes basic composition into a course with knowable, achievable goals.
6. It offers both the pupil and the teacher specific evidence that progress is being made – and how much.
7. It lets the student feel he is being judged on his present achievement, not on his misspent past.
8. It eliminates the need for grading, and in its stead gives more precise evaluation of achievement in the separate composition skills.
9. It changes the teacher’s correction attitude from one looking for errors and failures to one of looking for successes – and the pupils feel it. Composition check-lists could be revised and tailored to the learner’s particular needs (cf. 19, p. 186-187).
1. Rough draft (which shows examples of thoughtful editing).
2. Final draft.
The following mechanics give a clean, orderly impression of a composition written with a thought to it:
1) The title is correctly capitalised;
2) Shows imagination in phrasing;
3) Indicates the subject clearly;
a) Adequate margins – sides, top, bottom;
b) Clear indentation for paragraphs;
c) Clear, easy-to-read handwriting;
d) Logical development of one idea in a paragraph;
e) A topic sentence that gives the idea of the paragraph;
f) Supporting statements that focus on the controlling idea;
g) Clear relationship or transition between sentences.
Imaginative, precise use of language while writing a composition includes the following:
1. Connectives used with precision to show relationship;
2. Careful, correct use of expanded vocabulary;
3. Examples of artful phrasing;
4. Correct spelling and hyphenating;
5. Correct punctuation to develop the meaning of sentences;
6. Good use of parallel structures;
7. Good use of phrases or clauses to modify or to tighten the expression of an idea;
8. Good selection of detail to suggest larger meaning;
9. A good conclusion that draws the paragraph together.
Good idea content
1. A clearly expressed idea, easy for the reader to understand.
2. An interesting idea worthy of communication.
3. Challenging, original thinking.
Thus, by the application of graded and structured language materials, the pupils’ compositions that are fully controlled gradually become free compositions with steadily diminishing controls. The programme allows enforcement of correct writing procedures; it gives the pupils a sense of progress and improvement which builds confidence in their own ability to write, motivates them to improve their writing skills.
Близнюк М.І. Курс лекцій з методики викладання англійської мови. – Чернівці: ЧДУ, 1999 – с.