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Teaching speaking through discussion

Teaching speaking through discussion




Teaching speaking through discussion



Olga Baran

a fourth year student

of the English department


Larysa Viktorivna Lemeshchuk

an assistant professor

of the English department

LVIV 2009



1. Chapter 1. Fundamental considerations in teaching writing essays

1.1 The importance of writing essays

1.2 Basic principles of teaching writing essays: writing techniques and stages

1.3.organization of the essays. Essay structure

2. Chapter 2

2.1 Types of essays. Essay samples

2.2 Punctuation. Word choice

2.3 Linking words and phrases

2.4 Plagiarism




Written communication has become extremely important for interaction in the modern world with the instant technological development. Recently writing assessments and essays have become a vital part of a formal education. Secondary students are taught to structure their compositions in order to improve their writing skills. Both in secondary and tertiary education, essays are used to judge the mastery and comprehension of material. Students are asked to explain, comment on or assess a topic of study in the form of an essay.

What is an essay? Essay is a short piece of writing on a particular subject which presents the author’s point of view. It is an organized set of ideas and reflections. This presentation of views must be done in a logical and factual manner with the use of the first person often discouraged. The leading essayist Aldous Huxley defines essay in the following way - “Like the novel, the essay is a literary device for saying almost everything about almost anything, usually on a certain topic. By tradition, almost by definition, the essay is a short piece, and it is therefore impossible to give all things full play within the limits of a single essay. But a collection of essays can cover almost as much ground, and cover it almost as thoroughly, as can a long novel”. The word "essay" originated from French word "essai" which means "effort, sketch". It reflects the essence of this notion. It is a personal attempt to give a challenging sketch on certain issues. Every attempt is different and presents versatile ideas, but people must not be afraid of writing even knowing that it is too complicated to express themselves in a proper way.

Essay should be structured in various sections that make it easy for the readers to read and follow the author’s thoughts clearly. To show your grasp of the ideas studied learners have to express them in their own words. Writing essays is not the easy task. Nevertheless, it is a good way to stimulate learning and critical thinking that makes writing a valuable part of any language course. It enables learners to display the skills and abilities which they possess and remaining an important method of assessment, helps to discriminate between students, to test their intellectual capabilities. Raimes points out “Writing helps students to learn. Firstly, it reinforces the grammatical structures, idioms, and vocabulary that teachers have been teaching their students. Secondly, when students write, they also have a chance to be adventurous with the language, to go beyond what they have just learned. Thirdly, when students write, they necessarily become very involved with the new language [14, p.58]

Professor Roy Wilkinson has identified a pyramid of skills which teachers try to test with the help of essay assignment.

Tarvers explains that “Writing is a powerful instrument of thought. In the act of composing, writers learn about themselves and their world and communicate their insights to others. Writing confers the power to grow personally and to effect change in the world" [18, p.45] Moreover, the skill of writing essays is an essential tool in achieving the desirable grade in the courses studied. The basic essay-writing skills are not that difficult to acquire. The reason why so many students fail to do this is that not enough attention has been paid to teaching them. It is inevitable that schools, colleges and universities spend most of their time teaching the core subject-matter of a course, but hardly any time in advising students how to put their ideas down on paper in the form of an essay. Hedge points out that writing has been a neglected area of English language teaching for some years [11, p.101]. However, when people write down an account of ideas for others to read, they have to explain themselves particularly carefully. The leaps made while talking are not allowed. This makes writing probably the most challenging aspect of studying. White and Amdt promote that “Writing is a form of problem-solving which involves such processes as generating ideas, discovering a voice with which to write, planning, goal-setting, monitoring and evaluating what is going to be written as well as what has been written and searching for language with which to express exact meanings” [20, p.92].

The difficulties in writing essays as well as the process of teaching writing essays show the object of this course paper. The subject lies in the set of skills and hints for teaching learners to write better compositions. This coursework comprises the following tasks:

·                   to specify the structure of the essay and stages in writing it;

·                   to clarify the skills and habits necessary for the learners to write properly, clearly and persuasively, and to present the viewpoint forcefully in writing;

·                   to show the importance of practicing writing topic and concluding sentences, organizing the paragraphs coherently, using appropriate vocabulary, transitional devices and grammar;

·                   to apply key writing structures to learners’ writing;

·                   to develop strategies for writing, revising, and editing texts that are based on audience and purpose;

·                   to make students aware of the impact of their choice of words, sentences and organizational techniques on the effectiveness of writing.

Learning solid essay writing skills while in school is the foundation for even the most basic education. Thus, many students do not have the slightest idea on how to begin a creative writing and how to express their thoughts. It is important for learners not to suppress their ideas, they should think widely, in various directions. The practical value lies in helping people to order their essays, to display their knowledge in the well-structured way due to the standards of essay writing, to provoke the learners to write and to believe in their own abilities, the originality and validity of their thoughts. In addition to this, essay writing is a part of a sequence designed to develop specific discourse skills.

1. Chapter 1. Fundamental considerations in teaching writing essays


1.1 The importance of writing essays

Language learning requires mastering the four basic skills a language consists of. Thus there is not only the awareness of grammatical, lexical or syntactic rules needed but the writing process demands also mental power of the writer. Writing is an effective tool to use for different purposes from sharing ideas, corresponding to persuading others. Through writing people articulate their ideas in another way than in speaking, their written product can be much more expressive and powerful. Written works are permanent; they may have an impact much later in time. Tarvers claims that “The purposes for writing vary widely, from discovering the writer’s own feelings, to persuading others to a course of action, recreating experience imaginatively, reporting the results of observation, and more” [18, p.48]. Having such potential, learners should be taught all the necessary rules and conventions of writing as a skill to express themselves in the most appropriate way. Therefore writing deserves an equal part in the classroom of learning language skills. Nowadays more attention is paid to speaking and listening, developing writing skills seem to be a deprived area. White mentions that “For some time, under the influence of the audio-lingual approach to language teaching, it has been conventional wisdom to regard speech as being of primary importance, with writing being placed a poor second. Writing was regarded as being a somewhat inferior form of the language” [20, p.57]. It is no longer seen as simply a means to retell or recount information, but as a unique way to internalize and expand upon specific knowledge, to retain the information, integrate it into the existing knowledge. Neither a multiple choice test nor short answer quiz can provide students with the opportunities to develop the kind of critical evaluative skills a thorough writing assignment can. Robert Kellogg states " [Writing] is a vehicle for expanding and transforming one's own knowledge base. [It] not only demands thinking, it is also a means for thinking. By writing about a subject, one learns what one thinks about the subject. This property of transforming knowledge is a fundamental component of writing skill" [12, p.214]. Writing essays teaches students to research, plan, organize and structure their activities.

1.2 Basic principles of teaching writing essays: writing techniques and stages

Writing is an exercise of mind requiring the mastery of techniques anyone can learn. While one system may work better for some and worse for others; there are several general rules to stick to. There are many aspects that a student will have to keep in mind. The first important thing to do is to examine the title of the topic. It can be assigned or not. Sometimes it is easier to have the topic given by the teacher. On the other hand, it may be an advantage to take the topic you want. Both have their pros and cons because there are so many things to write about that you may get lost. When the topic has been assigned, you have some definite sphere to work on. Each topic can be seen from various viewpoints. The student, however, should choose the one which is neither too narrow (it will not have enough ideas to write about) nor too broad. Medecine is too general. You can take only one aspect to discuss - Euthanasia in medical practice. Then you must think about the purpose and the audience of the essay. The writer should understand the key words which will help to gather thoughts, to decide on the writing style and give some hints. It is a good rule always to write the title of the essay across the top of the opening page. It reminds you what you are supposed to be doing. An essay can be good in almost every other way and may be judged poor because it ignores the issues presented in the title. You are never just asked to write all you know about a subject, or simply describe something. You are set a specific problem to reflect upon in the light of what you have been studying. Everything you say in the essay should be relevant to that task. You have to convince your readers that the point has some bearing on the title.

Successful academic writing takes much more than just excellent writing skills and understanding of the topic. The whole secret lies in proper organization of an essay and following a certain writing procedures. The essay goal is to convey information, including the fact that you can write well. But it will not be achieved if the readers do not understand the first few sentences or paragraphs, and stop reading, or if they finish reading but fail to grasp the message. Learning how to be a clear and accurate writer will help to make your essay readable and understandable. There are some guidelines which show how to clarify writing. Moreover, it is important to recognize that you must commit yourself to a process. A finished paper is the result of the complex interaction of activities that include several stages of development (see Table1), but some of them can be omitted. Nevertheless, these stages are believed to reflect generally how successful writing develops.

Stages of writing

Writing process




Generating ideas, strategies, and information for a given writing task.

Prewriting activities take place before starting on the first draft of a paper. They include discussion, outlining, freewriting, journals, talk-write, metaphor etc.


Reflecting on the material produced during prewriting to develop a plan to achieve the aim of the paper.

Planning involves considering your rhetorical stance, rhetorical purpose, the principal aim of the text, how these factors are interrelated, and how they are connected to the information generated during prewriting. Planning also involves selecting support for your claim and blocking out at least a rough organizational structure.


Producing words on a computer or on paper that match (more or less) the initial plan for the work.

Drafting occurs over time. Successful writers seldom try to produce an entire text in one sitting or even in one day.


Moments when you aren’t writing but instead are reflecting on what you have produced and how well it matches your plan. Usually includes reading.

Pausing occurs among successful and unsuccessful writers, but they use it in different ways. Successful writers consider “global" factors: how well the text matches the plan, how well it is meeting audience needs, and overall organization.


Moments during pausing when you read what you’ve written and compare it to your plan.

Reading and writing are interrelated activities. Good readers are good writers and vice versa. The reading that takes place during writing is crucial to the reflection process during pausing.


Literally “re-seeing” the text with the goal of making large-scale changes so that text and plan match.

Revising occurs after you have finished your first draft. It involves making changes that enhance the match between plan

and text. Factors to consider usually are the same as those you considered during planning: rhetorical stance, rhetorical purpose, and so on. Serious revising almost always includes getting suggestions from friends or colleagues on how to improve the writing.


Focusing on sentence-level concerns, such as punctuation, sentence length, spelling, agreement of subjects and predicates, and style.

Editing occurs after revising. The goal is to give your paper a professional appearance.


Sharing your finished text with its intended audience.

Publishing isn’t limited to getting a text printed in a journal. It includes turning a paper in to a teacher, a boss, or an agency.

(Table 1. Preparing To Teach Writing by James D. Williams)

Prewriting is the first step in creating a successful essay. You need time to focus and shape your thoughts which will result in a better final product. There are some prewriting strategies that may be used both to generate new ideas and to clarify those you already have. They can also be used effectively when you are faced with a number of possible essay topics and must determine which vehicle is the best to express your unique thoughts and experiences.

The following prewriting techniques can be listed:

1.           Freewriting

2.           Brainstorming or listing

3.           Concept mapping/webbing                by Lauren Starkey

4.           Taking stock with the 5Ws                (How To Write Great Essays)

5.           Reading good writing

6.           Discussion

7.           Outlining                                           by James D. Williams

8.           Talk-write                                         (Preparing To Teach Writing)

9.           Metaphor

Depending on your topic some invention techniques may work better than others. The overall goal when using any method is to discover unique ideas.

Freewriting presupposes spending a predetermined period of time writing nonstop for 5, 10, or 15 minutes, focusing on a specific topic. It works best when you write in full sentences, but phrases are also effective. The key is to keep writing without regard for grammar, spelling, or worthiness of ideas. During this period, students keep generating words, even if they cannot think of anything meaningful to say. Sometimes freewriting is combined with an activity called looping, in which students stop freewriting after 5 minutes and reread what they have produced. If they find a good idea on the page, they use it as the basis for another freewriting period.

Brainstorming means jotting down concepts, individual thoughts or ideas that come into your head associated with the given topic, in note form and in random order. It involves creating a list. It will be especially helpful when you have to establish a point of view on a topic and support your position.

Mapping and webbing are visual organizers that allow you to see easily the relationships between a number of diverse ideas and are best used for exploring topics that are not complex. Put your central idea or subject in the middle, and add subtopics or related ideas around it in any order. Or draw a box with your subject written in it, and continue adding boxes, connected to each other by lines, showing the development of your idea.

Taking stock with the 5Ws technique is particularly useful for choosing an essay topic and for focusing on it. Unlike some of the other prewriting techniques, taking stock should be done deliberately, with great thought given to each question. Take a moment to give the best answer you can for each question. Concentrate on the standard W’s: Who, What, Where, When and Why. These questions will help you to quickly develop a great deal of information about your subject.

Reading good writing can make a difference with your own. Reading mediocre writing won’t help your essay, but if you consistently read great writing, syntax, structure, and style can improve under the influence of writers who are masters at their craft.

Discussion provides multiple points of view on a given topic. Teachers usually initiate it by asking the class questions regarding how to proceed. Discussions tend to be most helpful when they occur a day or so after students receive an assignment. The time in between allows students to begin formulating a plan that they can modify and enrich through the discussion.

Outlines can be a very beneficial invention device if used properly. However, the focus is very often on the structural details. First, group related ideas together, looking for major topics (which can be headings) and minor ones (which can be subheadings, examples or details). Outlines start with general points and shift to specific ones. Define your major points, and rearrange them until they make sense and follow a logical progression. You will be able to see the relationships between your ideas and determine their importance. If you need more supporting details or facts-subcategories-you can add them now. The outline of the possible topic is suggested below:

Talk-write technique is based on the perception that speaking, listening, reading, writing and thinking are intimately related and mutually reinforcing. It involves asking students to construct a plan mentally and to deliver an oral composition to the class. Classmates provide suggestions and comments designed to help improve and elaborate the plan. The next step is to begin writing. It is usually easier as a result and tends to be more successful because a person has to understand a topic to explain it to others. A valuable benefit is that making such oral presentations is likely to increase one’s self-confidence about speaking in public [] Zoellner

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