Friday, March 1, 2013

Tasking Writing

Develop Your Students' Composition Writing Skills Using Task-Based Learning is my first book published by Lambert Academic Publishing. To view its details, please click the image below:


This book deals with a very important area of learning English as a foreign language. EFL students spend a hard time struggling with the written tasks. They always suffer from many problems when writing. That's why I selected this area to study and suggest some easy-to-follow solutions for other teachers. 

Analyzing previous literature on the composition writing, I found three major approaches to teaching writing: Product, Process and Genre. Following the product approach, teachers are mostly concerned with the final product of writing, and what that product should “look” like. Also, a good deal of attention is placed on “model” compositions that students would emulate and on how well a student’s final product measured up against a list of criteria that included content, organization, vocabulary use, grammatical use, and mechanical considerations such as spelling and punctuation (Brown, 2001). In the process approach, writing has become a process of natural generation of ideas with focus on meaning and communication that precedes concerns about form and grammar. It allowed students to manage the writing task by breaking it into phases. Students could now focus on topics they cared about and on each phase of the process: pre-writing, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing (Peregoy & Boyle: 1997). In contrast to the process approach, the genre approach views writing as a social and cultural practice. This involves not simply activities in a writing process, but also the purpose of writing, the context where the writing occurs, and the conventions of the target discourse community. In this sense, relevant genre knowledge needs to be taught explicitly in the language classroom (Gao, 2007).

These product, process, and genre approaches alike have their advantages and disadvantages. However, they are complementary rather than conflicting in nature. In the classroom, we can draw strengths from these approaches and attain a balance among them. This is what I have done to solve this problem. I adapted the task-based learning (TBL) model by Willis (1996a; 1996b). This model consists of three phases: the pre-task, task cycle, and language focus. These phases are modified putting in mind the strengths of the genre, process and product approaches. The adapted framework, thus, begins with models and analysis of the rhetorical patterns of each genre (e.g., description, narration ... etc). Through exposure to these models and samples, students can detect the specialized configurations of that genre, and they also can activate their memories of prior reading or writing experiences whenever they encounter the task of creating a new piece in a familiar genre. Student writing is then subjected to the sequence of drafts in the process approach. When students finish writing their pieces, they cooperate with their teachers in the language focus phase to notice new things about language, to write down expressions they like, new words, and phrases they have used and examples of grammar patterns.

Students loved this way of teaching writing. Their written skills extensively improved and their attitudes towards writing have become more positive. This three-steps framework is easy to follow as it is well-organized and has clear instructions.

Content of this book:
  1. Rationale for choosing the writing problem among students.
  2. Task-based learning model; definition, theoretical bases, models, ... etc.
  3. Writing composition; definition, nature, purposes, types, difficulties, skills needed, approaches and evaluation.
Resources:
  1. Brown, H. (2001). Teaching by principles: An interactive approach to language pedagogy. 2nd ed. London: Longman.
  2. Gao, J. (2007). Teaching writing in Chinese universities: Finding an eclectic approach. Asian EFL Journal, 20 (2). Retrieved Aug. 15, 2007 from http// www.Asian-efl-journal.com/may-07/pdf. 
  3. Peregoy, S., & Boyle, F. (1997). Reading, writing, & learning in ESL: A resource book for K-12 teachers. 2nd ed. New York: Longman.
  4. Willis, J. (1996a). A flexible framework for task-based learning. In J. Willis & D. Willis (Eds.), Challenge and Change in language teaching (pp. 52-63). Oxford: Heinemann.
  5. Willis, J. (1996b). A framework for task-based learning. London:
    Longman.
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