The Cognitive Aspects of Writing

Paragraphing: It is important to avoid too much eye strain. A piece of writing has to be interesting to attract the reader to new

pieces of information. A good paragraph is achieved when a topic sentence is intelligently chosen; the knowledge of choosing a good topic sentence for each paragraph helps students arrange the sequence of their information in a logical order.
Ideas: They are the soul of writing. One cannot achieve writing without ideas. The first step of writing is to choose a topic sentence which is the controlling idea. The controlling idea could be an effective beginning which attracts the attention of readers (Peha, 2003:7). The next step is to develop the controlling idea. To be explicit, ideas should logically be arranged and coherently connected to each other. Thus, readers can easily understand the presented information and get interest in it.

Grammar and spelling: They are essential for communicating correct and clear meaning. Abbot (2007:6) states that a clear thinking could not be written clearly without using words according to definite rules. Moats (2005:1) show the importance of spelling for writing and says that some writers restrict their writing to the only words that they know.

Punctuation: Betham (2011, 37) points out that “Punctuation is more important than spelling”. Punctuation marks give meaning to words as pauses and change in tone of speech do. Several studies have revealed that punctuation marks may change the meaning of words if they are incorrectly used, and they may reveal mystery when they are correctly used.

Strategies for Teaching Writing

Writing competence in a foreign language tends to be one of the most difficult skills to acquire. This is true for English as well. The key to successful writing classes is that they are pragmatic in nature targeting the skills required or desired by students.


Students need to be personally involved in order to make the learning experience of lasting value. Encouraging student participation in the exercise, while at the same time refining and expanding writing skills, requires a certain pragmatic approach.
The teacher should be clear on what skills he/she is trying to develop. Next, the teacher needs to decide on which means (or type of exercise) can facilitate learning of the target area. Once the target skill areas and means of implementation are defined, the teacher can then proceed to focus on what topic can be employed to ensure student participation. By pragmatically combing these objectives, the teacher can expect both enthusiasm and effective learning.

Overall Game Plan

  • Choose writing objective
  • Find a writing exercise that helps to focus on the specific objective
  • If possible, tie the subject matter to student needs
  • Provide feedback through correction activities that call on students to correct their own mistakes
  • Have students revise work

Choose Your Target Well

Choosing the target area depends on many factors; What level are the students?, What is the average age of the students? Why are the students learning English? Are there any specific future intentions for the writing (i.e school tests or job application letters etc.)?


Other important questions to ask oneself are: What should the students be able to produce at the end of this exercise? (a well-written letter, basic communication of ideas, etc.) What is the focus of the exercise? (structure, tense usage, creative writing). Once these factors are clear in the mind of the teacher, the teacher can begin to focus on how to involve the students in the activity thus promoting a positive, long-term learning experience.

Things to Remember

  • What will students be able to do after the exercise?
  • Keep focus on one area of English writing skills


Having decided on the target area, the teacher can focus on the means to achieve this type of learning. As in correction, the teacher must choose the most appropriate manner for the specified writing area. If formal business letter English is required, it is of little use to employ a free expression type of exercise. Likewise, when working on descriptive language writing skills, a formal letter is equally out of place.

Keeping Students Involved

With both the target area and means of production clear in the teacher’s mind, the teacher can begin to consider how to involve the students by considering what type of activities are interesting to the students. Are they preparing for something specific such as a holiday or test? Will they need any of the skills pragmatically? What has been effective in the past? A good way to approach this is by class feedback or brainstorming sessions. By choosing a topic that involves the students the teacher is providing a context within which effective learning on the target area can be undertaken.

Correction

Finally, the question of which type of correction will facilitate a useful writing exercise is of utmost importance.
Here the teacher needs to once again think about the overall target area of the exercise. If there is an immediate task at hand, such as taking a test, perhaps a teacher-guided correction is the most effective solution. However, if the task is more general (for example, developing informal letter writing skills), maybe the best approach would be to have the students work in groups thereby learning from each other. Most importantly, by choosing the correct means of correction the teacher can encourage rather discourage students.•

Education

Latest Issue

July-August 2018

In the past two decades there has been a temptation to simply try to get through formal and foreign language education unscathed, to focus on the language exams success data...

Read more
© 2017 ELT NEWS. All Rights Reserved.