The writing connection
Writing should be an essential part of an EFL lesson
On one occasion , so as to satisfy my curiosity about language teaching, I asked a reputable English consultant if it was okay to teach EFL (English as a Foreign Language) merely concentrating on speaking and listening. She said without hesitation that foreign language teaching shouldn't undermine writing. Students who just merely depend on listening and speaking, without writing, tend to forget things learned.
I had experimented with this philosophy on my students and I am totally sold on the idea of giving a lot of writing opportunities when teaching English. That's why whenever I have speaking and listening lessons, I see to it that students engage in writing - answering exercises, spelling, taking down notes, translating, doing dictation lessons, etc.
With this idea in mind, when I returned to Thailand from the Philippines after a summer break, I brought a kilo of Manila papers. I utilized them as visual materials for my writing lessons. When I used them, I did not merely ask my students to write about the topic they wanted to study. I tapped into their experiences for I knew that students' experiences were rich sources of writing ideas. With my Grade 4, 5, and 6 students I let them write about camping and O-Net which they were experiencing then. Fruits, school, and drinks were also used as topics later. Now, how did I do it?
I posted ½ Manila paper on the board. I asked who, what, when, where, why, and how questions on the topic for the day. Students supplied the words and sentences. They also spelled the words as they were written on the Manila paper. When all the sentences were written, they read the paragraph and answered questions about it.
The activity didn't end there. We had games in looking up the meaning of words in the English-Thai dictionary, spelling important words in the paragraph, playing whispering game using the sentences, and guessing what sentence the teacher thinks. My students were so happy to do all these. Afterwards, they wrote their experiences in a mini book.
In one of my monthly observations, my inspector was happy to see my students read their illustrated mini books. The students took pride in showing their little masterpieces. I also used the paragraphs for presentation during the flag ceremony. In fact, I have derived many writing activities from this like dialogue making, journal writing, letter writing, speech writing, and essay writing.
When writing is made an integral part of a language lesson, the other language skills are reinforced and students derive full learning. Thus, writing is necessary in every lesson. One may say providing writing activities in lessons relaxes the teacher a bit, but the good result is that the students benefit more from it.
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Only a teacher with a sincere heart for teaching can do what you have been doing. Many of us could have been better English writers/communicators if our teachers were like you, Sir.
By Sensei Aijin, (4th September 2013)