What is writing?

Writing is a natural progression from reading and appreciating a poem, which brings me to talk about why we should write in class and what we should write.  I do not claim to be the best of writers.  I can be a good writer when I sit down and compose something with thought and drafting.  This blog, however, is my stream of consciousness.  What I like about having a blog is I can write everyday, simply for the practice of writing.  Just because I am a native speaker does not mean that I don’t have to practise my writing skills, too.  As a speaker of different languages, it’s fair to say that I often forget certain words in English, and so reading and writing in English is as important for me as it is for my students.  Sometimes I wish I would forget English a bit more and remember more Spanish, but that’s another story.

So, back to writing.  Using a poem, you can learn more exciting vocabulary to use in writing compositions or poems or whatever.  Just because you might not use the word “twilight” so much in English conversation (apart from the fact that my kids are very into the series of films at the moment!), there’s no reason why the students shouldn’t discover it and use it somehow.

Where I work, there is a huge emphasis on communication, pronunciation and listening skills.  I completely agree that this is important for using English.  Nevertheless, writing should not be relegated to the least important of skills to cover in class.  Perhaps it needn’t be about writing an email or writing an article about stress or language-learning or a summary on a news piece.  What are we teaching students to do?  To use English to survive in the English-speaking world.  How many of us in the English-speaking world write news articles or reports or even letters?  What do most of us write on a daily basis?

Facebook statuses

MSN conversations (I like this as it’s writing in real-time, almost as spontaneous as speaking.)

Text messages

Work emails

A note for the milkman to tell him not to leave any milk this weekend (ahhhh, reminds me of home!)

Do we need these to survive?  Some, but not all.  Do we enjoy writing them?  MSN and Facebook, definitely.  Is writing an article enjoyable?  Absolutely not.  Not for native speakers and especially not for learners.  I understand that these more sophisticated skills need to be addressed, too, especially those participating in Cambridge exams  or those wanting to study or work in an academic environment (and I don’t mean to come across as ignorant, but this is my blog, so if I am, bare in mind I’m just thinking outload, as it were, and not many people actually read or are interested in what I have to say.), but writing needn’t be something we dread or something akin to drawing blood out of ourselves.  People love to commnunicate with each other.  This is genuine use of a language where the focus is taken away from the need to practise our writing skills and shifted towards communication.

I, therefore, believe we can promote reading and writing in a more authentic environment, using or imitating media such as blogs, MSN, social-networking sites etc.  I am going to reflect on this, as I have ideas all the time, but don’t always write them down.

Some of my ideas include taking a piece of paper, writing a status, (how you are feeling right now or what you are thinking about) then passing the papers round the class for people to write comments.  This is a little bit like the consequences game, only not in story form.  Lovely grammar clarifation could result from this activity if you have time.

Another idea is to teach text abbreviations to encourage use of written language in the students’ free time.  In fact, a lesson on the mobile phone can grow out of this, with a lead-in introducing the phone.  You could ask Ss to change their language settings on their phone to English.  Then, look at the message section of the phone.  The students can work out words like inbox and drafts, etc, depending on the level.  Then, give out a sheet with text abbreviations and ask them to guess.  You can use cards if that’s your thinkg (admittedly, I HATE cutting out, but it can be fun).  Then show a few messages (on paper, not on my phone, HELL no!)  and ask them to translate the message into normal English.  Then, they have to write a text message to someone else in the class.  Then, you could play Guess Who with the messages to decide who it’s intended for.  Or do something more serious like e-mail writing after that.  Or teach them Scouse? :p

Anyway, this is my stream of consciousness and not to be taken to serious.

Hope you’ve enjoyed!


One Response to “What is writing?”

  1. Pablo Says:

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