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Updated on July 6, 2014

A Very Brief Survey on Writing Skills in English

Consuela POPA

Also published in a slightly modified version in a pedagogical national magazine "Info Didactica", Issue no 7 per 2009, Sitech, Craiova, Romania, ISSN 2066-2149

Hypothesis/starting point: Apart from the speaking skills, which are the most obvious aspects highlighted when checking whether English has been learnt or not by a certain class/collectivity, the writing skills are a strong multi-faceted means of assessing the level of proficiency in English, from a number of reasons which I am going to explain below, intertwining perfectly when assessing the general level of fluency in English as a foreign language.

Presentation/elicitation: The above survey or questionnaire has been carried out upon high-school students in both normal regime English teaching classes/groups, as well as in special English intensive regime classes. (3 classes 9th grade, advanced level as well as intensive and one class 10th grade, intensive regime). The students have been asked how they thought their writing skills should be improved by the teacher in order to make them more confident and bold about using their English and thus improving their overall English language knowledge, proficiency and fluency). They have given me the following suggestions regarding the ways of improving this situation:

  • Given the fact that on the whole, they have not been very keen on homework before, and given the fact that they are not always so willing to get more responsible and spend more time with autonomous and individual work at home, (the school schedule being overcrowded and other subjects being too demanding and time consuming come in the way of their supplementary involvement in English), they have agreed with me that they need to structure their activity in class in a more flexible way. This will be done by revising their grammar knowledge(and spelling, etc), through periodical graded (but not necessarily officially recorded in the marks register ) tests, in order to assess initial and further level, progress, special language abilities, reaction to pair-work/group work, class level of skills/knowledge differentiation on the whole.
  • Students really need good grammar theory and practice presentation, upon the case, from the teacher. I have revised the tenses for them, in an either more detailed manner or in a more synthetic way, (some of the pupils asked for a detailed classical presentation, whereas others preferred modern grammar activities, class work exercise in which they should recognize the structures and then they should be able to draw the general rules and traits for themselves.
  • Students need a varied set of exercise in class and at home as homework, (we have agreed that still, they have to gradually achieve a good level of work at home as well, through individual tasks provided by the teacher)(so this aspect is taken into consideration and monitored by me over a longer period of time)-all kind of exercise, multiple choice, fill in, word building, English in Use in general, Translations, Cloze sentences, sentence completion, etc..
  • Homework or individual task should not be a stressful heavy weight for them from the teacher, but something they should be educated in doing, a value for themselves, a way to render them more responsible, a way to value work.
  • Creative writing is a strong component of our strategy, whether it is for special English classes or not, syllabus should not be discriminatory (and in general it is not discriminatory, just a bit more crowded or heavy for language classes-more classes per week, extra chapters-culture and civilization, etc). The teacher should always encourage pupils to do a lot of compositions, story telling in writing, to make up a diary (a website one or their own diary), or to create their own creative writing webspace; free writing upon cultural subjects within the Culture and Civilization topics, reading and then writing essays, comments, stories, articles, research-as part of the integrated skills strategies and procedures (also we can start from listening and then move on to a writing task, etc).
  • Creative writing should be supported by a schedule of reading tasks also(eg Shakespeare hours, when they should get accustomed to plays by Shakespeare, Macbeth, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, historical plays/chronicles, ) and then we move on to various tasks upon English literature excerpts: commentaries, analysis, writing their own plays or stories, etc, acting of plays. (such projects should include visits to the theatre and witnessing these plays, etc..
  • Integrated skills tasks leading onto creative writing should improve general language proficiency and accuracy, thus improving fluency. Good writing precision also means good the level of comprehension, vocabulary precision, accuracy, it means mastering the grammar structures of the language in case. Literacy in writing means also improving speaking skills, communication and message sending being the final products.

References/informative selected bibliography:

[1] Harmer, J., The Practice of English Language Teaching, Pearson Longman, fourth edition.

[2] Constantin Cucos, “Pedagogie”, Editura Polirom, 2002, ISBN: 973-681-063-1.


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