Academic journal article IUP Journal of English Studies

Techniques in Teaching Writing Skills

Academic journal article IUP Journal of English Studies

Techniques in Teaching Writing Skills

Article excerpt

Introduction

The skill of writing is often regarded as the last of the four language skills: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Listening and speaking skills are considered "fundamental" skills and reading and writing are "secondary" skills (Bloomfield, quoted in Crystal 2011, 186). However, as Crystal (2011, 187) observes, "Writing and speech are now seen as alternative, 'equal' systems of linguistic expression." Since Indian universities prescribe English language and literature courses which require the students to pass the "written" examination, it is imperative that the writing skills are exclusively emphasized vis-à-vis other skills. Writing skills are the demand of the curriculum. Undergraduate students are required to write short answers and also long essays in the examinations to "pass" in the course/s. However, the reality is that the skill of writing is not systematically taught from the school level to the college level. According to a survey (Kirpal 2011, 62), not more than 10 percent students are good at writing. The fact that 90 percent of undergraduate students are weak in written English is a disturbing fact, which the teachers of English need to address. A cursory glance at their examination answer scripts reveals poor spelling, badly or wrongly constructed sentences, inappropriate or insufficient vocabulary, and lack of organization of paragraphs and long essays. A majority of the students, therefore, lack written language skills when they enter the job market, thus seriously affecting their career opportunities.

This paper deals with the problem of teaching written English to undergraduate students, and it focuses on the features of "good writing," since they need to perform well in the written examinations. Some of the characteristic features of good writing are well-organized structure, accuracy and precision of ideas, correctness of language, coherence and consistency, appropriate vocabulary, and not the least, graceful style. Teaching these things to the students is truly a challenging task for the teachers. Teaching writing skills systematically to undergraduate students consists of teaching paragraph writing and extended writing.

Paragraph Writing

Undergraduate students should be taught first how to write a paragraph effectively since a paragraph is the most basic unit of continuous writing. The teacher needs to explain to them that even a short paragraph must have a "structure." She needs to further specify what constitutes the structure of a paragraph-a beginning, a middle, and an end. The beginning is a sort of introduction, the middle may be what the student wishes to say about the topic, and the last sentence must be conclusion. The teacher may explain the role of structure in a paragraph. The structure helps hold the ideas cohesively together. For instance, the teacher can illustrate the concept of structure on the basis of an easy and familiar topic such as "I Love Bangalore." Initially, it may be a short paragraph of five sentences. She can first initiate discussion on the topic by eliciting suggestions from the students by asking them to complete the statements such as "I love Bangalore because . . . (of its climate) . . . (It is a garden city) . . . (It affords many career opportunities)." Based on the students' response, she may compose the paragraph as follows: Bangalore is the city which I love the most for various reasons. I love the city's climate. The city has beautiful gardens. It also provides many career opportunities for youngsters. Thus, you can see, Bangalore has a number of aspects that make it an attractive city to live in.

The teacher may explain how the first sentence introduces the topic, the sentences that follow elaborate the point, and the last sentence concludes the paragraph. She can explain the concept of a paragraph as a piece of writing that develops a single idea. The sentence that contains the main idea is called "topic sentence. …

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