A letter to the teachers of English: 62Develop writing skills of your learners (1) [Archives:2004/782/Education]

October 18 2004

Dr..M.N.K.Bose ([email protected])
Associate Professor of English,
Faculty of Arts, Ibb.

Dear Fellow teachers,
I am afraid I am not writing much about the development of writing skills of our learners; this does not mean that writing skills are less important than other skills in English. In the next few letters, I will share with you some of my ideas about the development of writing skills.
Writing skills are one the most important language skills for Yemeni learners of English, next only to the reading skills, as they have more opportunities to read and write than to communicate in English orally in their life in the future, as users of English, though many of them do not realize this fact and have a craze for spoken English. In many cases, writing overtakes reading in terms of their needs; for example, in office work as employees, in business transactions as business persons, in filling up forms of various kinds as citizens, in writing notes, research papers and books as academics etc. We should, therefore, pay enough attention to the development of writing skills in our learners from the beginning.
Writing, like speaking, is one of the productive skills, as both are employed to produce messages and pass them on to others; it is also true that both are more difficult to develop than the receptive skills viz., listening and reading. In the traditional ordering of skills, writing takes the last place in the list – listening, speaking, reading and writing. This is because of two reasons: one, writing is the most difficult to develop and so it is the last to develop and two, it is delayed because it depends on the other skills and built on other skills.
Writing is a complex set of skills consisting of several sub skills, some of which are, producing the correct shape and size of the letters of the alphabet, joining the letters in the correct way to make words, writing the words with proper spaces in sentences, using the correct punctuation marks, composing the ideas into good and correct sentences and paragraphs etc. Writing involves a cognitive component as well as a motor or physical component; the former is concerned with creating good concepts or ideas for writing and the latter with the using of the motor skills such as movement of the hands while writing.
The traditional methods of teaching English suggested that we teach writing only after we have taught our learners listening, speaking and reading in that order; the order of these skills was to be followed very strictly in the class; there should be no speaking before listening, no reading before speaking and no writing before reading in English classes. Teachers following these traditional methods never allowed their learners to practice writing anything they had not read in the class several times. The new words and sentences were spoken by the teachers several times for the learners to listen to; then they were spoken by the learners several times; they were then read several times by the learners; then came the chance to write those words and sentences. There was usually a time gap between the oral use of the words and sentences and their writing. This sequencing was scrupulously followed by the teachers in their classes, viz., the legendary LSRW, as it was the main characteristic of the teaching methods they followed. The teaching materials also followed this sequencing n the presentation of new words and sentences. What they forgot was that it is against the natural use of any language, leave alone English. Let's see in our next letter how this is so.

Yours fraternally,