Teaching Writing


[Contemporary thoughts about the teaching of writing maintain that student writers need to be given opportunities to self-sponsor their writing and develop a sense of ownership of their writing . Elaborate on the preceding statement and suggest ways of helping second language writers experience a sense of ownership of their writing.]

Writing allows us to EXPRESS ourselves. Through writing we can inform others, carry out transactions, persuade, infuriate, tell how we feel, come to terms with problems, and learn to shape our thoughts, our ideas and our lives.

However, we all know that writing -- and learning to write, especially in a second language -- is not simply a matter of "writing things down"; the process is very complex, and the old saying "If you can say it, you can write it" is very simplistic. This would not be the kind of writing that students should strive to learn and teachers to teach.

Good writing involves the knowledge of the conventions of written discourse in the ESL culture as well as the abilities to (1) choose from near synonyms the precise word that conveys one’s meaning, (2) select from a variety of syntactic structures those that transmit one’s message most precisely, and (3) adopt a style that will have the most positive rhetorical effect .

How should student writers be taught in order to become competent writers?

In this paper I will try, first, to elaborate on the contemporary thoughts about the teaching of writing, and second, to suggest ways to help second language writers experience a sense of ownership of their writing so that they become competent.

Writing … Contemporary Thoughts

The teaching of writing has undergone a dramatic change in recent times. There has been a shift from the traditional Product-oriented approaches that dominated the language-teaching scene for decades and which focused on the written text, to a Process- oriented approach which views writing as a complex, nonlinear, recursive, messy, and generative process involving pre-drafting (planning & re-scanning), composing, and revising. This process approach also involves consideration of purpose and audience and consultation of the writer’s background knowledge.

Writing has become a process of natural generation of ideas with focus on meaning and communication that precedes concerns about form and grammar. Consequently, ESL writing instruction has become focused on the literacy beliefs of heuristics, experimentation and emergent fluency rather than mechanical accuracy and fidelity to form. Thus, although with caution, ESL student-writers are encouraged to manage their writing acts by proceeding somewhat independently in a Discovery mode in order to determine and solve the problem of their composing. Then we can say that the process-oriented pedagogies could improve instruction, if implemented properly (without totally neglecting the "product"), since they:

                                                                             Nada AbiSamra

Page Created on September 8th, 1998
 Last updated on April 19th,1999
   Copyright (C) 1998/1999 by Nada AbiSamra.

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