Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Mastering writing skills

This article is taken from thestar.com.my

ASK an average student these days to write in English, let it be at school or university and he will find it an uphill task despite having learnt the language for many years.

Sad to say, “cut and paste” is becoming the norm in academic work these day and this can even be found in students’ written work at the higher level.

That the summary question had to be dropped from the MUET paper, I suppose, was not that students were not analytical enough to write summaries but they found it just impossible to summarise passages in their own words.

They end up producing the same sentences found in the reading passages despite being instructed not to do so.

Without writing skills, students would not be able to even paraphrase a simple paragraph in their own words, let alone write an original piece of work.

Proper coaching on how to write well in English should start at school. Students should be advised not to be nonchalant about acquiring skills for writing, especially when they are in the academic set-up.

Students should realise that what is indispensable in writing is for both the thinking and writing processes to be interlaced to produce something meaningful.

Thinking is an activity of the mind that generates and develops ideas, and therefore it should precede writing.

The teaching of writing to students should also be approached as a problem-solving activity.

Students who write better are more flexible in that they do not operate within the limits of rigid rules but rather concern themselves with the rhetorical situation – the audience, the circumstances that elicit the discourse and the constraints.

Studies have shown that students who have been exposed to a lot of reading find it less of a burden when it comes to writing, as they function in writing without being conscious of the grammar process.

The poor students have been found to be more concerned with the surface features – interrupting their thinking by editing their writing prematurely.

When they write, they write in an inter-language – they think in their native language and the English structures follow that of their native language. Most of our weak students have not overcome this problem.

For those students who are strung-up when asked to write, it would help if they conform to some explicit safe rules that have been proven effective in writing.

Teach them to write non-stop with no self-censorship, stop, read, reflect and sum up what they have written.

They need to be taught to invent, take risks and write down their ideas quickly in raw form without concern for grammar yet.

They should not limit themselves to the confines of style or form.

Though they may lack the right words to express, teach them to develop different points of view to the task and ensure that they understand the concept first.

Students need to be taught to build up their confidence before they can start to write well.

Universiti Tenaga Nasional
Bandar Muadzam Shah, Pahang.

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