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Simplifying the Art of English Writing

Popularity 8Viewed 5749 times 2016-4-14 08:05 |System category:News| Simplifying, the, Art, English, Writing

 “Give a person a fish and he/she will eat a meal, teaches him/her how to fish, he/she will eat for life”

 

Few weeks ago, I began to contemplate about the above adage when my students expressed their inability to grasp the concept of English writing.

 

Their fear of failing their English writing exams aroused my curiosity and led me to venture into the task of simplifying the process of composing a stimulating and thought provoking piece of penmanship.

 

To ease their concern, I recited, and wrote on the board, the above adage. At first, it didn’t accomplish its intended objective. Actually, it turned my students into baffled and confused young individuals.

 

That prompted them to question my logic and insanity. With anger apparent in their voices and puzzled looks on their faces, they shouted “What does fishing have to do with English writing”

 

To calm them down, I requested that they should be patient and permit me the chance to elaborate. I informed them that the adage stands true for English writing. Impatiently, they asked me to explain to which I was more than delighted to oblige.

 

I explained to them that writing should be taught as a concept and not as a subject. The title of the course should be “The conceptual art of writing”. Of course, they asked me about its meaning.

 

Passionately, persistently and persuasively, I told them that it means treating all kinds of writing as a concept that would apply to any topic.

 

It leads the students to come up with a format that would allow them to easily compose a piece of writing about any issue in English or any other language.

 

The process should be done systematically according to the following steps.

    Students must reate an intriguing title, which should be neither too short nor too long

    They should make an outline for their topic of interest. The number of items in the outline indicates the number of paragraphs.

    Each item of the outline ought to be expanded into ideas. The number of ideas in the item shows the number of sentences in the paragraph.

    The paragraphs are combined bearing in mind paying attention to coherence.

    Revision must be made to create an eloquent, stimulating and thought provoking piece of writing.

 

Of course, writing for academic purposes, especially essays, compositions or research papers, should follow the format, which includes introduction, details or main and conclusion.

 

Introduction should casually mention or refer to the focus of the composition or the essay. The introduction must focus on general ideas pertinent to the topic.

 

The transition from one sentence to the next must be done smoothly, which could be accomplished using conjunctions.

 

The details or the main ought to explore the issue at hand from various perspectives including the writer’s own views.

 

The points of views must be supported by persuasive and valid arguments and examples from the writer’s own life experience and learning.

 

The conclusion could the summary of the key points of the composition or the essay, the general views regarding the topic discussed or the writer’s own opinions pertinent to the issue at hand.

 

Articles differ from academic writing. Article writers take advantage of the “Poetic license” that grants them the freedom to ignore the standard format and be flexible in composing their articles in order to be able to put their points of views across to their readers.

 

I hope that my article will be published and printed to be used by writing teachers to open forums of discussion with their students bearing in mind that final and international exams are approaching.

Helping the students to get rid of the irrational fear of writing exams is one of the most fundamental responsibilities of teachers everywhere especially the Chinese English teachers.

 

Guiding their Chinese toward acquiring optimistic attitudes pertinent to writing exams would be playing a major role in securing the future of China.

(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)


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Reply Report voice_cd 2016-4-14 08:55
Thanks for sharing here, we have highlighted your blog.
Reply Report BlondeAmber 2016-4-14 21:54
I hope you also teach them not to use 'text speak' when writing, grammatical imperfections such as 'wanna' and 'gonna', and explain the difference between written English and spoken English.

A simple task is to get them to write a paragraph and exchange with another student to correct and then read aloud.

Writing in English should not be taught as something separate from reading, speaking and listening to English. all four language components should be taught together.
Reply Report SEARU 2016-4-15 10:24
It is an interesting phenomenon that Chinese and English are different on the way to express the same idea. Sometime I become excited   when the foreign language could offer me a special angle from which I can consider a familiar thing in a fresh way!
Just write down how and what you think.
Reply Report J.E.Overington 2016-4-17 08:31
SEARU: It is an interesting phenomenon that Chinese and English are different on the way to express the same idea. Sometime I become excited   when the forei ...
We've been encouraging the students to express opinions supported with reasons and examples, however, the students so loathe to say examples as required on TOEFL, IELTS and other language proficiency tests, that they decided to learn hypothetical syllogisms instead! The students agree when process makes results, the observed process is itself persuasive, so the baseline follows the algorithms I write for robots whereas the competent jump above the baseline algorithms, adding their own creative insights. Foreign English teachers in China need to teach effectively to all three levels of the class: the creatives, the implementors and also the few struggling to achieve following simple algorithms. Of course, the entire system swerving from the holistic and emotional experiences of arts, humanities and vagueness without standards, to the perceivede rigidity of mathematics, science, technology, where, horror of horrors 2+2=4, calls for teachers being extra encouraging of students learning to produce communication to specification. Nowadays, students are disambiguating extra communication above specification from extra words below cognate skill standards and below specification taking extra time, because logic dyslexia is so confusing for so many from the arts starting to learn about science.
Reply Report teamkrejados 2016-4-17 09:49
The only problem with your lesson/advice is that our students are require to write flowery prose - the more adjectives, the better!
I too have despaired over my students' writing. To teach them,  I used the KISS approach: keep it simple, Sweetie! An economy of words is best. Curtail the use of adjectives as much as possible, and for pity's sake: don't use 3 adjectives in the same sentence! Other pertinent writing tips: punctuation and word repetition. Unless the author is going for a parallel sentence structure, words should not be repeated in the same text, let alone the same paragraph.
That gave me a way to introduce a thesaurus, and yet another way to talk them out of using youdao dictionary.
Reply Report BlondeAmber 2016-4-17 18:50
teamkrejados: The only problem with your lesson/advice is that our students are require to write flowery prose - the more adjectives, the better!
I too have despai ...
Spot on.
I could also add the inappropriate use and misuse of clichés.

No-one outside of China uses 'every coin has two sides' and this is trotted out in almost every written composition I get from Freshman uni. students.

If there are any Chinese teachers of English reading these comments please please please STOP students using regurgitated rote learnt prose in their writing.

There was a thread (that has just been removed from this forum) about rating teachers online and some teacher had obviously told their students to contribute.
The result was trite clichéd paragraphs that contained so many grammatical and vocabulary errors.

I'm 'gonna' say that I 'wanna' be ill when I read them.  
Reply Report futsanglung 2016-4-17 21:12
teamkrejados: The only problem with your lesson/advice is that our students are require to write flowery prose - the more adjectives, the better!
I too have despai ...
Well said, too much in China is simply about being taught to pass exams with little actual thought. I would like to add that students ned to write from the heart and not from a formula.
Reply Report futsanglung 2016-4-17 21:13
BlondeAmber: Spot on.
I could also add the inappropriate use and misuse of clichés.

No-one outside of China uses 'every coin has two sides' and this is trotted o ...
As said in my previous answer you comment backs up my comment that too many students are shown how to pass exams and are not shown how to be original and thoughtful.
Reply Report BlondeAmber 2016-4-17 22:18
futsanglung: As said in my previous answer you comment backs up my comment that too many students are shown how to pass exams and are not shown how to be original  ...
yes, but sometimes you have to say these things over and over again for things to sink in.
Reply Report futsanglung 2016-4-18 10:51
BlondeAmber: yes, but sometimes you have to say these things over and over again for things to sink in.
In my experience if things fit the cultural norm for a Chinese student then they do no need much repeating however if something is outside the norm it needs a lot of repeating. Too much Chinese education is "listen to teacher, do not question and learn by rote". Many Chinese students can recite passages of English perfectly but sadly their understanding of the same passage is often limited.
Reply Report BlondeAmber 2016-4-18 11:52
pimpernel2: Unfortunately, so called western English teachers use words like wanna and gonna, or African Double Dutch and Chinglish when teaching their Chinese st ...
There is a difference between spoken and written English, any qualified or experienced teacher knows this and will correct the students.
In written English, 'gonna ' and 'wanna' are incorrect.

The fault is with the schools who hire unqualified teachers if the teachers are not correcting this, but then the unqualified teachers are cheaper and less demanding about high standards in the classroom.

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