Learning to Teach English in the Secondary School: A Companion to School Experience

By Jon Davison; Jane Dowson | Go to book overview
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7

Writing

John Moss


INTRODUCTION

Some people may tell you that teaching writing is a simple business. They may tell you that when they were at school all pupils were given a title and did one piece of writing each week in their exercise books for their English teacher. They may add that the teacher corrected all the mistakes, which the pupils then wrote out three times. They may reassure themselves that this practice led to effective learning by pointing to all the evidence of hard work which accumulated in those exercise books. However, there are numerous false and dangerous assumptions in these apparently straightforward suggestions.

The assumptions include the ideas that: writing can be usefully isolated from the rest of the English curriculum; producing a large quantity of writing necessarily improves quality; finished pieces of writing can be produced with little preparation; the products of writing tasks are more important than the processes used to create them; school writing consists of exercises, and so presentation and layout can be standardised; the teacher is the audience for school writing; the teacher's main function in assessment is to check technical accuracy; pupils can improve their technical accuracy by mimicking correct forms introduced to them by teachers adopting this copyediting role.

In this chapter, you will be challenged to question all these assumptions by thinking about: the relationship between writing and other language processes; the development stages which many successful pieces of writing pass through; the ways in which writing makes use of the possibilities and conventions of different genres; the influence of a writer's perception of a real or imagined audience on all aspects of his or her writing, including technical accuracy. A central tenet of the chapter is that, when teaching writing, you will need to support pupils both by providing time, opportunities and experiences which allow them to work through a creative, interactive and evaluative process building on their initial ideas, and by making them aware of the possibilities of the different genres they may choose to adopt and adapt for particular purposes. In other

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