This paper is concerned with teaching the productive skill of writing for students of non-native English speaking countries. This is an area that has all but been ignored in the past and somewhat over looked in the field of TESOL, as administrators, teachers and students seem to be more concerned and more focused on the speaking side of the productive skills.
As more and more ESL students are seeking writing help at the college and university levels, the need becomes clear for better writing instruction in the ESL classroom. The ability to write well is not a naturally acquired skill, nor is it a linear process easily fit into some pre-taught format. Writing must be taught as a set of practices in a formal instructional setting and must be practiced. Good writing involves composing and developing information with the clear ability to either tell or retell that information in the form of narratives or descriptions.
One of the basic problems that exits today is the method that English is being taught in non-native speaking countries. In most secondary schools they put a total emphasis on grammar and translation practice from their native language to English. Students are not being taught the differences between their native language method of organization and that of the English language method of organization, which is often very different. As a result, their writing reflects the way they think and write in their native language. These students are unable to use English writing as a form of self expression and creativity. College students, therefore find it difficult to produce appropriate quality of descriptive and opinion written works.
One method being used to teach writing is to have students write daily with different goals in mind for their writing. Two journals are kept for daily writing. One being used as a fluency journal, which is about their everyday life where they can write freely without any need to worry about errors. The second journal would be for developing analytical skills and to express opinions. This second would be based on reading English newspaper articles and editorials. Two more forms of writing would also be included, free and controlled expository writing. The former would be based on improving organizational skills focusing on the topic, setting or particular scene by doing background research and personal reflection before writing. The later would be used to develop organizational skills and the ability to use rhetorical patterns by writing based on an assigned topic by the teacher.
Having the students share their works with their classmates also proves to be very helpful for this entire process. Students develop organizational and analytical skills by reading and examining other classmates papers. They can be given a checklist to critic each other&acute;s papers. For example; Is the essay well-organized? Is the orientation clear? Are problems clearly described? Are reasons for the problems analyzed? Are solutions offered? Are the paragraphs cohesively developed? They can then help each other&acute;s revise their drafts for the final version.
Writing can also be taught as a process approach within the ESL classroom, presenting it as a social rather than a solitary act. Whole class or small group collaborative writing activities and assignments are given where pre-writing is shared with classmates as part of most ESL writing class. Students sharing ideas, reviewing and commenting on each other&acute;s writing, and providing each other with authentic feedback as part of the collaborative approach. The teacher&acute;s role in this process is to conference with the students regularly between drafts on what areas they need to work on so that students learn while they are creating.
In conclusion, the field of teaching writing to the ESL student is an area lagging behind the rest and needs to be addressed. With the growing number of new English speakers that will need to be able to express themselves through effective writing, this field is wide open for new and exciting methods to be discovered. We as TESOL teachers need to help students develop more creative, organizational and analytical skills to become clearer, more convincing English writers. Learners&acute; motivations, background experiences, and goals can explain why some ESL writers perform better than others, so it is instrumental that TESOL teachers understand this to develop effective methods and lessons to teach these students. Feedback is vital to this process. Without sufficient feedback on their work, student improvement in writing will not take place.
Simple Steps to Successful Revision in L2 Writing, Catherine Coleman, California State University, Long Beach, California, USA
Second Language Writing and Research: The Writing Process and Error Analysis in Student Texts, Johanne Myles, Queen&acute;s University
How to be an Effective EFL Writing Teacher by David Martin
Tips for ESL Students on Reviewing and Improving Written Work, Kristofer Bayne, International Christian University, Tokyo, Japan
Writing to Improve Analytical and Organizational Skills, Hirayanagi Yukio, Kwansei Gakuin University
Meeting In The Writing Center: The Field Of ESL, Lynne Ronesi, University of Rhode Island
Preparing ESL Students for College Writing: Two Case Studies, Laureen A. Fregeau, University of South Alabama
Author: Michael Zimmer
Date of post: 2006-11-20