Learning to Write

Learning to Write

Learning to Write

Learning to Write

Synopsis

First published in 1982, this influential and classic text poses two questions: what is it that a child learns when he or she learns to write? What can we learn about children, society and ourselves, by looking at this process? The book is based on a close analysis of a series of written texts by primary school children and is written for student teachers with little or no knowledge of linguistics. In this new edition, Gunther Kress has made extensive revisions in the light of recent developments in linguistics and in education.The theoretical focus is now a social semiotic one, which allows a fundamental rethinking of issues such as 'preliteracy' and broad social and cultural questions around the making of texts.

Excerpt

Considering how painlessly children learn to talk, the difficulties they face in learning to write are quite pronounced. Indeed, some children never learn to write at all, and many fall far short of full proficiency in the skills of writing. It seems from this that there is more involved in the learning of writing than fairly mechanical translation skills. I became interested in the questions associated with learning to write by seeing my own children grappling with the problems, and then through working in an institution which is primarily concerned with the education of primary-school teachers. To watch children writing is to see focused energy and intelligence at work; anyone who has done so cannot dismiss the products of that work as insignificant, deficient, wrong. However, in teaching linguistics to intending and practising teachers it became quickly apparent to me that teachers found it difficult to see anything of great import in the texts, or to say much about them either to the writers or when discussing such texts in class. More than that, it was obvious that linguistics had very little to say about such materials and therefore had seemingly little relevance to the practical concerns of teachers. I therefore set about demonstrating that this was not the case.

The exculpation of linguistics, however worthy a cause, would not have led me to write the book. Rather it was the realization that the fact that nothing could be seen in or said about the early writings of children had a great potential for harm. It could lead too readily to the assumption that there was, quite simply, nothing in the texts to say anything about, and that that was due to the limited abilities of the children who wrote the texts. To show that such was not the case seemed a sufficiently good cause for writing a book.

There was also a further reason. Because there exists no mode for

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