Teaching Writing: Structure and Style Using the Teaching Writing: Structure

Using the Teaching Writing: Structure and Style Authentic Materials to Instruct Indonesian EFL Students in the Writing Genres

In 2005 while searching for a program that would allow me to more effectively teach a group of American middle schoolers how to write in stylistically interesting ways across the genres, I purchased the Teaching Writing: Structure and Style materials by Andrew Pudewa. This program delivers excellent results and fits well with the U.S. based Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory Six-Trait Analytical Writing Assessment Model. Currently, it is being used for the first time in Indonesia among ESL and EFL students.

Pudewa’s methodology is designed to be used in all grade levels and across the curriculum to teach the writing of structurally sound and stylistically interesting compositions. Suggestions for differentiating tasks are provided according to age group. The scope of the Teaching Writing structural syllabus covers all of the main genres of prose writing, including lessons on note taking, outlining and paraphrasing. The style portion of the syllabus, introduced in the second unit, is implemented by increments as students move through the structural syllabus. The stylistic writing goals for a given class will depend on the age and abilities of the students, as well as how much exposure they have had in the past to using various stylistic techniques.

Eighteen months ago I started tutoring an Indonesian friend studying for a MA in English Education. One day, while she was completing an assignment on writing the genres, I showed her Pudewa’s materials and writing samples from my American students. My friend became excited about the materials and we began to brainstorm about whether or not this method could be used with EFL and ESL students in Indonesia. With the enthusiastic support of her academic advisors, she decided to conduct her thesis research on the efficacy of using this method with EFL students. I am currently teaching a twenty-two week (88 hour) pilot study class to a group of eleven intermediate level (secondary school) EFL students, none of whom had much experience writing in English prior to entering the class.

In order to adapt Pudewa’s materials to an EFL population, I have used supplemental authentic resources. For example, grammar worksheets have been used to teach students how to write complex sentences in order to craft more stylistically interesting paragraphs. Additionally, in order to present culturally relevant material to my Indonesian students, I chose, for example, expository writing selections about orangutans and komodo dragons for the first exercises on note making, outlining and summarizing paragraphs, rather than using the American oriented examples provided in the syllabus.

By the end of the pilot course the students will have used the writing process to plan, draft, self edit (using a checklist) and revise thirteen projects between one and five paragraphs long. The assignments will have included expository, descriptive and persuasive essays as well as narratives and writing creatively from a series of pictures. The students will have successfully learned how to pre-plan assignments using lists, graphic organizers and key word outlines. They will have repeatedly practiced writing attention grabbing paragraph openers and topic sentences as well as strong concluding sentences. They will have learned how to write introductory and concluding paragraphs as well as how to structure the body of a given assignment. They will have consistently used at least ten of the twenty-eight stylistic techniques taught in the syllabus. They will have gained experience using a thesaurus to find synonyms in order to vary word choice and to use descriptive adjectives and adverbs as well as strong action verbs. Additionally, they will have gained confidence as beginning writers in English.

The feedback from the students and parents after having completed the first seventeen weeks of the course has been overwhelmingly positive. Several students reported an improvement in their English semester exam scores. One student recently won 2nd prize in an essay writing contest. The pilot study has demonstrated that with adaptations and supplementation a competent EFL teacher can successfully instruct intermediate level Indonesian EFL secondary school students to write structurally sound and stylistically interesting compositions of various genres using the Teaching Writing: Structure and Style authentic materials.

1. Pudewa, Andrew. Teaching Writing: Structure & Style Syllabus & Seminar Workbook, The Institute for Excellence in Writing, Atascadero, CA, 2000-2001. Pudewa acknowledges that these materials are based on the work of two Canadian educators including Anna Ingham (Blended Sound-Sight Program of Learning) and James B. Webster, author of Structure and Style in Composition published by Blended Sound-Sight Method of Learning, 1994.

2. Graphic organizers such as story webs, character webs, concept maps, cause and effect charts, comparison and contrast charts and venn diagrams are being recognized in their usefulness as nonlinguistic representations to help all learners, including ELLs. There are multiple sources available to help teachers use and develop these materials including: Hill, Jane D. and Kathleen M. Flynn, Classroom Instruction that works with English Language Learners, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, Alexandria VA, 2006 and Inspiration and Kidspiration Software.