Is your writing coherent?

COMMUNICATION SKILLS

Is your writing coherent?

The  purpose of evaluation is not to merely look for mistakes of spelling, grammar or punctuation, but to look for clarity and coherence.

Writing, for many second language learners, is a difficult skill to acquire. This is because second language writing is both a linguistic and a cognitive skill. It involves not only basic elements such as the knowledge of syntax, morphology, punctuation and spelling but also higher-order skills such as the ability to generate ideas, sequence the ideas, draft a complete text and edit it. Writing is a complex process of organising information and communicating meaning in a clear and coherent manner.

There are two factors that the writer should be aware of while writing. The writer should know the purpose of the writing. Equally important is the awareness of the reader or the audience.

While teaching writing to second language learners, teachers should make them aware of the different purposes of writing such as writing to convey information (posters, notices, description of places and people), writing to persuade (advertisements, articles to raise issues), writing to maintain social relations (invitations, letters, email), writing to express one’s own feelings, thoughts and imagination (diaries, auto-biographies) and writing for pleasure (stories, poems, riddles).

Learners should also know whether they are writing for a real or imaginary audience or only for their teacher to read and assess!

Writing as a process

It is almost impossible to produce a good piece of writing at the very first attempt. Writing is a process of revising and rewriting.

It is not a linear activity but a recursive process of planning, drafting, evaluating, editing and revising.

Children can learn the different processes involved in producing a piece of writing by getting adequate practice or training in the classroom.

The following are some possible ways of giving the learners practice in each of the stages involved in the process of writing a text.

Planning

One of the most difficult steps in writing is getting started. Since writing is primarily about organising ideas and communicating meaning, planning what to write is particularly important.

At the planning stage, the writer gathers ideas by brainstorming, asking questions and making notes  from different sources such as newspapers, magazines etc. Gathering ideas is a crucial part of the writing process. Selection and rejection of ideas, and discovering the main idea also take place at the planning stage.

Drafting

Drafting involves the structuring of ideas, focusing on the main ideas, establishing a viewpoint and writing a complete text. Here, the writer tries to produce the first draft of the text by considering different ways of beginning and ending effectively, and adding relevant information.  At this stage, the writer’s attention is not on  grammatical accuracy.

Evaluation

Writing is generally given as homework in schools, and the assignments done by a student are mostly read and assessed only by a teacher.

This is not very productive in helping students critically analyse their scripts. Self-assessment is a vital element in the process of writing.

The purpose at the evaluation stage is not to only look for mistakes — mistakes of spelling, punctuation, grammar,  structure, word order and so on.

The purpose is to see how coherently the learner has presented the information and ideas in the text.  The text produced by the learner may be shown to his/ her peers and peer responses may be elicited based on the following guidelines:

*What is the best or most interesting part of the composition?

*What is the most important point the writer has made?

*What else do you want to know about the subject?

*Is it easy to follow the development of the ideas/ arguments?

*Are you satisfied with the structure of the text?

*Do you have any other comments or suggestions for improving the text?

The first draft is then revised and handed in to the teacher for feedback and suggestions. Teacher’s feedback should be specific and content-related rather than general or vague. Teachers should avoid using red pens as they can be threatening.

Reviewing & Editing

At the review stage, the writer adds, deletes or makes some changes to the draft. Revision is necessary when the main idea is not clear; when the supporting details are not adequate; or when irrelevant information appears in the text. It is also important to edit the script for grammatical perfection.

The final draft is submitted to the teacher for grading or marking. The criteria for assessment should be made clear to the learners. The final assessment should show learners where their strengths lie and indicate to teachers where remedial action is needed.

We need to shift our focus from viewing writing as a product to viewing writing as a process. Learners need guidance to understand the process of producing an original piece of writing.

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