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Today, English has become a necessity for international communication and most of foreign language learners are obliged to be competent in using the language especially in the productive skills. Writing, as a productive skill is seen as the most challenging task for learners because of its complex nature. Some learners may struggle with the grammatical aspects needed in the task; others try hard to use the appropriate vocabulary regardless to the way of linking ideas together to have the adequate structure.
Because of the recursive characteristic of writing, different studies have been carried out to study the nature of writing and the effective ways of its teaching. This Chapter is devoted to highlight the main issues of writing in EFL classes in the first section. Also, it gives a detailed description on Mind Mapping and how it is used as effective strategy to enhance writing in the second Section.
In its simplest form, writing can be viewed as the use of graphic symbols to reproduce something that is heard or read in written form as the Cambridge Dictionary (2009) states: “The Skill or activity of producing words on a surface”.
These words are organized together in a specific formation to make sentences that are grouped together into paragraphs. (Phillis and Mary,1997). The Cambridge Dictionary gives another definition that defines writing as “the activity of creating a piece of writing work such as stories, poems or articles”. This raises the issue of complexity of writing it involves producing meaningful segments to carry meaning.
Another detailed definition is the one given by the National Center for Education Statistics (2012,p.4) which states “writing is a complex, multifaceted, and purposeful act of communication that is accomplished in a variety of environments, under various constraints of time, and with a variety of language resources and technological tools” (as cited in Denise, 2014,p.99). In other words, the act of writing does not be merely attributed to the final product; it goes beyond what is seen to include the steps and tools used in the process. Learners get engaged in writing with the influence and effect of their linguistic repertoire and the context surrounding the task like time and the media used.
The notion of interconnection of elements in the process of writing is supported by Hedges (2000) in his statement:
“Writing is the result of employing strategies to manage the composing process ·it involves a number of activities: setting goals, generating information, selecting appropriate language, making a draft, reading and reviewing it, then revising and editing. It is a complex process”. (p. 302)
According to the above mentioned definitions, writing is not a one-step activity. It is a process that includes other different processes that complete each other to non-linear activity recursive activity.
Different definitions are given to explain the process of writing. The complexity of this process rises in the choice of vocabulary, the appropriate structures and how the writer handles the basic processes of academic writing to express his ideas in an effective way.
The final product of writing goes through different stages the writers go through. Jeremy Harmer (2004) suggests that although writing is affected by the content or the type of writing or even the medium, it always has four main elements: planning, drafting, editing, and final version. Though different labelings can be attributed to the stages of writing, several researchers suggest that these sub-processes are not in order and do not follow a linear form. Dian Publishing Company (1986) states that “The writing process might be described as having several stages or phases including prewriting writing responding revising editing developing skills with the conventions of writing evaluating and post writing . he further elaborates to indicate that they are largely recursive “(p11).
Also, Clark and Ivani?’s (1991) work highlights that both novice and experienced writers go through various stages of the writing process several times and may not follow a fixed and particular order. ( as cited in Yin Ling, 2018,p10).
It is the first stage where learners think about the topic and brainstorm it. It is also known as prewriting because learners generate different ideas taking into consideration the context of the given task before they start writing. Paltridge, et al. (2009) considers planning as the first distinct sub-process in writing. In the conceptualizing stage, writers generate and select ideas that they can use in their writing, and organize the ideas in a neat way (as cited in Yin Ling, 2018,p10). Writers select the topic and narrow down the points that serve his purpose and audience. Hayes and flower (1980,1986) states ” goals are set, ideas are generated and information is retrieved from long term memory and organized into a plan for what to write “) (as cited in Harley, 2001, p. 386)
Planning is considered to be the most important and difficult part of writing. (as cited in Harley, 2001, p. 387). Some learners may fail in their writings just because they have misplanned for their task. Bereiter and Scardamalia (1987) state that A number of factors are known to distinguish good from less able writers. Better writers can manipulate the knowledge they have rather than just telling it (as cited in Harley, 2001, p. 386)
Drafting is the process of putting all the generated ideas and points in an organized form. Foreign language learners may think that writing is a one-step task where they write their planned thoughts in a final product focusing on grammar, content, and form at the same time. “At this point, no rules apply. Writers do not have to be especially careful about their word choice or strict about essentials of grammar ” (Urquhart & McIver,2001,p.16)
The first version of a piece of writing can be referred to as a draft. It is written on the assumption that it will be amended later. A number of drafts may be produced on the way to the final version as the writing process proceeds into editing. (Harmer, 2004).
After writing their draft, learners reread their products for the aim of revising their writing and editing what they think is not serving their planning. Some of the points that learners work hard to revise are what Harmer (2004) states “perhaps the order of the information is not clear. Perhaps the way something is written is ambiguous or confusing. ” (p.5). Revision is not done just once; it often involves circling back and forth between drafting. Diane Publishing Company, 1986) defines revising as :
For many teachers and students, the word revise means “proofread”, edit and copy it over in ink. a true revision, however, involves a process of during which a writer “resees” and rethinks a piece of his or her writing many times while writing and rereading it, with special emphasis on how effectively the written material communicates his or her intent to the audience” (p.16)
Revising differs from editing and proofreading because it requires the writer to look at large-scale or global matters in his writing. MacArthur, Graham, and Schwartz (1991) state that the distinction between revising and editing is an important one. Students often confuse the two and easily mistake making corrections in punctuation for revision”( as cited in Urquhart & McIver,2001, p.18). Revising happens at the macro level where learners may reshape their writing or even reconstruct it whereas editing deals with the points on the surface like capital letters or spelling. “When writers revise, they are attending to language quality and message cohesion. But when writers edit, they often concentrate on mechanics. And while editing frequently occurs simultaneously during revision, it is also distinct” (Urquhart & McIver,2001, p.21)
After planning, drafting, revising and editing, learners are expected to have their final draft though it remains always a ready for revision since writing is a never-ending process. Jeremy Harmer (2004) differentiates the final version from both the original plan and the first draft because of the editing process.
According to Donohue (2009) :« the final stage of the writing process includes sharing, reflection, and assessment of the student’s writing.” (p.14)The final draft is expected to be accomplished when the learner thinks it looks the way it should be for the audience. Learners may reflect on their writing, or share them with either teachers or colleagues.
A General Overview of Approaches to Writing Teaching
Over the last years, several approaches have evolved and made great efforts to provide the appropriate way for learning how to write. Each approach has highlighted a different aspect or perspective of writing. In teaching writing, the focus can be given to the final version accomplished or to the process itself. When concentrating on the product we are only interested in the aim of the task and in the product. King & Flitterman-king (1986) states: “Currently in the professional literature there is a philosophical debate between advocates of the process versus product approaches to teaching writing ” ( as cited in Wood,1994, p.74)
When approaches of writing are investigated, it should be hinted that it is not necessary to give any right or best way to teach writing skills. The best practice in any situation depends always on the situation and types of students.
The product approach is based on task-based learning. It is a traditional approach that is based on presenting and analyzing a model text. This model text involves all the language points that the teacher wants to tackle in his teaching of the task. For instance, if learners are asked to write a speech, they start first by the analysis of a given speech. They start by reading the text and doing the exercises that turn around the grammatical points of the text. The teacher highlights the features and the style of the speech to be used later in writing in a form of separate activities. The end result of this approach is the synthesis of all structures and vocabulary acquired to be used in writing the same genre that has been studied and analyzed.
In short, advocates of the product approach believe that providing learners with direct instructions in the mechanics of writing (grammar, punctuation, syntax and spelling) , the quality of their writing will improve.( Wood, 1994)
Giving models to students make them feel more secure and confident. They can focus on some specific points rather than letting them free with no guidance. However, the product approach is criticized for the lack of creativity and innovation. It chains students and prevents them from being autonomous in their writing.
Proponents of the process approach, on the other hand, encourages peer interaction and collaboration during the writing time. They allow for a prewriting period where initial thoughts and ideas are written down in preparation for the actual composition. Also, students are taught to write and revise more than one draft by sharing and editing each other’s papers. The belief in this approach is that a polished essay requires much thought, revision and peer input. ( Wood, 1994)
In this approach, teachers focus on the steps learners go through rather than on the knowledge they should have. They are interested in the varied classroom activities which enhance the use of language. Learners start by generating ideas by brainstorming and discussion to take notes and ideas. Then, they organize their ideas in a mind map or an outline to make the link between ideas clear and easy. Teachers do not play the only source of knowledge and feedback. Learners can interact together to evaluate and assess their drafts. Writing can be accomplished according to this approach only when drafts are exchanged or read and then returned to be submitted.
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