Teaching Composition Skills [Archives:2004/732/Education]

April 26 2004

Dr. Bushra Al-Nouri
Associate Professor and Head
Department of English
Faculty of Education, Mahweet

In this age of labor-saving devices it is perhaps unfortunate that no one has yet come up with a labor-saving composition course. The ability to write English freely and accurately can only be acquired after months, if not years, of real hard work on the part of both the teacher and the student.
The teacher's first task is to so awaken the student's interest that they will be eager to write, for if they really want to write there is a good chance that they will write reasonably well. In the early stages at least, all written work should be preceded by thorough oral preparation, not only to ensure that all the students have enough ideas on the subject, the necessary vocabulary, useful structures, and so on, but also, by encouraging class discussion, to get the students interested in the subject. With a view to actively encouraging the students, the teacher should make sure that he does nothing which will discourage them for this reason it is advisable, when correcting compositions, to concentrate on major weaknesses and to resist the temptation to mark every single error.
The aim of the composition course is to train the student, to write English freely and accurately, an aim which can only be reached if they are given plenty of practice.
Teachers faced with classes of between seventy and eighty students cannot possibly be expected to give each student much by way of individual attention. This does not mean, however, that the students are to be denied the practice they need if they are ever to learn to write good English. It is a good idea to divide the class into groups, the members of each group working together to produce one composition. The teacher will then have only a handful of composition to mark, and these compositions, because they have been checked by several students, will contain comparatively few errors.
When the compositions have been marked the students can copy their own group's composition into their exercise book; so by the end of the terms, they will have a good selection of model compositions.
The teacher-student relationship is of the utmost importance in the composition class, and no book can take the place, or do all the work, of the teacher.