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This “describe a place” writing lesson utilizes a reproduction, semi-production and production technique

Subject:

Language Arts  

Grades:

9, 10, 11, 12  

Title – A Process for Writing
By – Abdelillah Ouarest
Primary Subject – Language Arts
Grade Level – 9-12


The Writing Process

Writing Difficulties:

    Not only do learners face difficulties when writing, but it is a thorny crux for Algerian teachers as well. This is ascribed to:
    1. Absence of an efficient process, though techniques exist. Very often learners are given a very limited choice between a free or so-called guided composition (notes expansion has proven inefficient).
    2. The text (input) is not well exploited:
      • The exploitation is generally limited to a number of comprehension questions and then the teacher shifts abruptly to activities bearing on different topics.
      • This procedure disorients learners who lose references.
    3. The fact that the correction of the learners’ written production is questionable on a number of grounds:
      • The correction, despite its importance, is not a priority and because of time constraint, very often shortcuts are taken at the expense of effective remedial work.
      • The correction is limited to supplying correct answers without going to the bottom. This is just the tip of the iceberg. This way of dealing with writing is like filling Danaides Barrels. True practitioners are not expected to do Hercules labours, but they have to rethink their methods with a view to improving learners’ written production and boosting their motivation.

Hints Towards Overcoming Writing Difficulties:

      The following hints may help teachers and particularly learners overcome the difficulties they encounter in writing:

      1. There is no escape from reading, be it intensive or/and extensive.
      2. Clear input (generally a text) leads to clear and comprehensible output (written task).
      3. Consider writing as a process and an end product at the same time.
      4. The various phases of the said process must be logically linked and well sequenced and graded. Besides, the transition from one phase/activity to another should be smooth.
      5. Activities should be in accordance with the final objective, say, all of them should converge upon the end product.
      6. Teachers and learners should bear in mind that a text comprises:
        • a message (the hang/gist),
        • salient ideas and
        • the conveyor (of the message) that is very often omitted by teachers.

        Teachers always help students grasp the hang of the text, yet hardly do they, if not never, speak about the conveyor (skeleton/structure of the text). The latter provides learners with landmarks that help them organize their writing.

    In short, the reading text should provide students with ideas and a model.

Reproduction, Semi-production, Production Writing Process Technique:

      The technique I suggest includes three phases:
      1. Reproduction of the reading passage
      2. Semi-production (students reproduce the reading passage and produce a little piece of writing e.g., retrace the event [reproduction] and imagine another end [production]).
      3. Production of a new piece of writing that is thematically linked to the initial text, but the students are freer and not controlled.

      Resorting to reproduction and semi-production paves the way for free production.
      1. Short-term measure: reproduction
      2. Mid-term measure : semi-production
      3. Long-term measure: production

      The last measure cannot be attained only if the preceding two measures are conducted effectively.
      Let’s see the three measures practically:

    1. Reproduction:
        Teachers can resort to paraphrasing, text reconstruction, or summary. At this stage, teachers should not expect too much from their students; a short version of the initial text, even if it is verbatim should be accepted.
    2. Semi-production:
          Reproducing one part (text) and producing another part related to the text.
        Example:
        1. The initial text is a piece of narrating which is supposedly structured as follows:
          • The beginning (setting)
          • The body (main event) structure/skeleton/conveyor of the message
          • The end

          Pupils have to refer to the frame (above) and retrace the event, keeping the essence of the text (reproduction). Then they imagine a different end or simply an end if the teacher removes the denouement of the event (production).

        2. The initial text is argumentative whose structure is as follows:
          • statement of the problem/issue
          • for (pros)
          • against (cons) structure/conveyor/skeleton of the text
          • writer’s opinion

          Students rewrite a short version of the text (reproduction), then give their own opinions (production).

    3. Production:
          When making sure that real improvement has occurred and learners have attained autonomy, the teacher could suggest free writing e.g., learners may be asked to write about various topics appealing to their personal experience and knowledge of the world. True enough, this may take a long time or may appear as time consuming, but it is gradual and effective; it starts from really guided to free via less controlled written production.
        1. Encourage group work and pair work:
              As teachers have mixed ability/multi-level classes:

              • group and pair work should be encouraged
              • groups should be well-balanced, comprising advanced, average, and less gifted learners. Dividing the class into groups should not be done arbitrarily.

              Every member should be of use to the group and feel responsible. Slow learners will be given opportunities to express themselves and interact horizontally (with their classmates) before they do the same with the teacher (vertically). In groups, students are given real opportunities to express all that is entrenched in them.
            To boost motivation and participation, it is advisable for the teacher to grade all the members’ work equally (the members of the group should have the same mark). This way of proceeding has more than one benefit; on the one hand, it gives opportunities to many learners to ‘appear’ and on the other hand, it reduces the number of copies to be corrected particularly in large classes. Maybe the advanced learners feel frustrated because they are having the same mark as the others. This is true, but they will have opportunities to stay in the lead when they take individual tests (summative assessment).
        2. Correction of the written production must be conducted carefully, because it is at this stage that a teacher can measure to what extent his teaching and his students learning have been effective. Real and efficient remedial work should be devised by the teacher.

          This will be dealt with in another abstract.

Summary:

Group work——–> GW/pair work—–> Individual work
Reproduction——> Semi-production—> Production
Short-term measure Mid-term measure Long-term measure

Sample Reading Passage:
The British Isles

If you look at a map of Europe, you see two, large islands to the northwest of France. These two islands, and the smaller ones round them, are called the British Isles. The larger of the two is called Great Britain; the smaller one, to the west, is Ireland. Between them is the Isle of Man.

There are three countries in Great Britain: Scotland in the north; England in the south, and Wales in the west. Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland; and the people are Scots. The people living in Wales are Welsh, and their capital is Cardiff. The capital of England, London, is also the capital of the whole United Kingdom. Ireland has two parts: in the south, there is the Irish Republic, or Eire, with its capital Dublin. The North of Ireland or Ulster, has its own capital, Belfast. People in both islands speak English, but some Irish speak the Irish language, some Scots speak Gaelic and many Welshmen speak Welsh.

Although the British Isles are no bigger than Italy, there is a great variety of scenery. The north of Scotland and parts of Wales have beautiful mountains and valleys; the south of England has rich farmland and even palm-trees in the southwest. People love walking on the hills or camping by the lakes, and they do not have to travel very far if they want to see the countryside or the sea.

The British often complain about the weather, but it is rarely extreme. It is never extremely hot like the Sahara, nor extremely cold like central Russia. It is an excellent climate for agriculture, but not always good for holidays (vacations).


Describing a Place Writing Lesson
Objective:

    By the end of this unit, pupils should be able to:

    • Write a short version of a given text keeping the essential information and the gist.
    • Describe their country using the sample provided (description of the U.K.).

Language forms:

    Simple present-comparative-superlative and other language forms that will be dealt with when the teacher devises the remedial work to treat the areas of weaknesses.

Material needed:

    Enlarged map or pupils duplicate the textbook map.

Procedure:

  1. Listening Phase:
    1. Teacher talks about countries where English is spoken. Pupils will mention various countries among them England/U.K./G.B. Teacher and her/his pupils discriminate between U.K. and England.
    2. Direction: “Listen to the teacher and label the countries on the map.”
    3. Teacher reads sample passage; pupils listen and label.
    4. Correction: during this phase, the teacher has to encourage his/her pupils to comment on their mates answers by asking questions such as: “Do you agree/disagree?” Teacher should not say this is wrong/right, he accepts all answers even the litigious ones. The reason is that the pupils are going to deal with reading and they will be asked to read and justify answers (L.C.) supplying the evidences. Thus, the transition from the listening to the reading is smooth. In this way, a good reason for reading is provided.
  2. Reading Phase:
    1. Direction: Read the text and justify the answers given in the previous activity (L.C). Pupils may use words, phases, or sentences.
    2. Direction: “Read the 2nd paragraph and match the country with its capital and the language spoken.”
      Country
      Capital
      Language
      Scotland London Irish
      England Cardiff Gaelic
      Wales Dublin Welsh
      Eire Belfast  
      Ulster Edinburgh  
    3. Direction: “Read the 3rd paragraph and match items form column A with the ones in column B.”
      A – Country/region
      B – Landscape
      Scotland Palm trees
      South Beautiful mountains
      Southwest Farm land
    4. Direction: “Read the 4th paragraph and choose the correct completion.”
      • The weather is a) too hot b) very hot c) very cold d) not extreme
      • The weather is good for a) fishing b) agriculture c) sailing d) holidays
  3. Structure Practice:
    • The teacher helps students elicit the target rules or supplies the latter.
      • Simple present: Teacher may ask about the tense used by the writer. Students find examples in the text. Then the teacher devises contextualized tasks.
      • Comparatives (same procedure).
      • Teacher provides students with a list of countries and nationalities.
  4. Writing:
    1. Using the notes and the information from the reading phase, students will write a short version of the reading text.
    2. Using the same model above, write a composition about Algeria (geographical situation, population, languages spoken, regions…).
    3. Compare Algeria and the UK. State the differences and the similarities.
  5. Post writing:
    • The correction of the composition should be conducted effectively.
      • If the teacher decides to correct the students copies, s/he will first indicate, with correcting symbols, the mistakes and then students correct the said mistakes by themselves. The teacher should make encouraging comments to hone students’ motivation.
      • If the students are asked to read their composition aloud, the teacher will encourage peer correction (i.e., while a student is reading their composition, their classmates will listen and comment on the said composition).
      • Finally, the whole class will take part in writing a collective composition on the chalkboard.

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