My Experience of Teaching Writing in School
I have been teaching English for a decade and a half. I started teaching English from a private English medium school in Kailali. As a novice teacher, I had an energy and ideas to teach.
Later I got a mentor; a head teacher of a reputed school in the region. She was quite inspiring for teachers. It was a turning point in my career. I found myself motivated to make changes in the classroom as I learned many things from her.
Chalk-and-talk method was the main teaching way in this part of the country in those days. It does not promote student-centred activities nor does it enhance their creativity. Many English teachers wish to improve students’ writing skills. However, it is not an easy job. Writing skill receives less attention in my context although it is well specified in our school curriculum. It has been evident that writing plays a significant role in improving overall English language proficiency.
I teach the English language to the upper primary and secondary level students. Writing is an expressive skill and it is felt one of the most challenging language skills to be taught and learnt in my context. I believe writing is not merely a transfer of ideas from one’s brain to paper; it involves organising and structuring ideas. Writing skill begins with copying the given text and ends with free writing provided that students have mastered the skill of combining letters into words and basic vocabulary. Learners have to learn vocabulary and a pattern of writing. Likewise, they need to generate ideas to be organised and a point to be developed; the theme to be explained in the piece. Many students are fluent and coherent in speech but they do not produce coherent pieces in writing of the same speech.
Students do the writing tasks both as homework and classwork. These kinds of writing tasks they do are completing exercises given in textbooks or practice books, answering comprehension questions, filling in the blanks and so on. They are also required to write short paragraphs and essays on different familiar topics.
Here is an example of a paragraph on the topic ‘library’ written by a student of upper primary level:
One of the other examples are writing is book reviews. The following is the book review on ‘The Alchemist’, an international bestseller written by one of my students:
In general, one of the objectives of teaching writing at the upper primary level is to develop skills in students’ to express their personal thoughts, insights, feelings and ideas. Teachers assign various activities depending upon the level of students and objectives of the lessons in this level. Some writing exercises aim to develop the ability of students to think independently giving them room for innovation. Students generate ideas on paper, construct paragraph and develop abilities to use grammar, vocabulary and punctuation marks properly.
Students usually answer questions, write paragraphs and essays. Most of the exercises are based on textbooks. I follow learner-centred activities to develop writing skills rather than writing on the board and making students copy it. Learners go through different stages of writing and they learn to write by doing. Furthermore, I provide maximum opportunity for them to think on the related topics, generate ideas and make notes of them. Then they are encouraged to organise those ideas.
In my experience, my students show a positive attitude towards writing. They pay attention to writing, describe the surrounding nearby them and try to get the meaning from what they write. They practise reading out what they write. They are careful of their spellings. Some of them also summarise the written texts in some instances.
However, it is not always easy for my learners to write as they lack confidence in it but I feel happy with them when they try improving the use of new vocabulary and sentence structures and make a flow of writing. My students commonly make errors in writing but for me, the errors are of great interest and usefulness. I collect the errors, study them, classify them in various ways and implement different ways to tackle them. The learners primarily commit errors in grammar, punctuation marks, contextual vocabulary and parts of speech. I have experienced that the more exposure they receive in the English language, the less error they commit. Therefore, I recommend teachers to provide maximum exposure in English and provide specific feedback to their errors rather than saying good, excellent or try again, improve your writing etc.
Students frequently write answers of short and long questions, write paragraphs and essays. Most of the exercises are text book focused. I employ learner centered activities to develop writing skills excluding write on the board and make student copy it. I attempt to provide maximum opportunity to think related ideas and make notes of them. Then they are encouraged to organize those ideas.
Ms. Shanti Upreti teaches English at upper primary and secondary level in Sainik Awasiya Mahavidyalaya, Teghari-Kailali.