What is writing and why do we need to learn to write? These are two questions that many ESL learners usually ask whenever an instructor tells them, they will write. According to the Writing Center at the University of North Carolina “Writing is an interesting and challenging act—one that is rich, complex, and valuable.” Writing also implies one’s ability to print written messages in more than style and purpose. Also, it means expressing a writer’s point of view and reactions to his or her environment through written language.
Motivating students into writing is one concern ESL writing instructors have. Finding meaningful tasks that engage students to write, selecting material that gives learners language input they can use to write, and following a writing approach, seem to challenge most ESL writing instructors nowadays. To motivate others, first, enjoy it yourself first. Otherwise, writing becomes a must, an imposition to both the student writer and the writing instructor. To engage the writer that nests in our fingers, we need to reflect on what makes good writing rather than pursuing Good Writing and Good Writers.
Writing like reading is purposeful. Therefore, let’s consider some writing features that may affect the writer’s’ choice and mood toward writing. First of all, writing is a response. That is reacting to someone or something. Writing is “a social act” (Writing Center, UNC) It considers the context in which writing occurs. The medium the writer will use; and the expectations of the readers, the audience. Second, writing is always work in progress. Writing neither is linear nor is static. Writers present and write ideas that express their thoughts; nevertheless, considerations such as the audience, the tone, and style will always take the writer into an intricate set of possibilities and what if’s. Third, Braddock highlights that challenging writing makes students wonder about “where to start, what to write and how to write it.” (The British Council, 2016) Therefore, writing must follow a comprehensive process. For example, Braddock (2016) suggests teachers could start writing tasks by doing pre-writing and giving students a “structure for writing with writing models and frames.”
Writing is an interesting and challenging act—one that is rich, complex, and valuable.
In real life, writers follow own sets of writing strategies. However, no matter the writer he or she will typically start by choosing a topic and thinking about the writing piece to create. As a result of this selection, several drafts may appear before reaching the final product. Then, the writers decide how to group each vocabulary and language piece. A process that some describe as “a messy, fascinating, perplexing experience.” (The Writing Center) However, writing in an ESL environment becomes engaging when students work together and actively participate in the process. One sound approach to ESL writing suggests using task-based activities that mimic life-like situations that resemble contexts in which writing occurs. Braddock (2016) brings up the need for staging a writing task to lead writers to the creating of a final piece. Braddock points out practicing key stages so learners can “experience relevant functional language while interacting with” before producing a complete text. (2016)
Consequently, when writing becomes collaborative, interaction is more evident. Negotiation occurs more often, and students learn to respect each other’s words. Furthermore, when the writing teacher stations the writing task, the students have the opportunity to experience varied perspectives, ideas, approaches, and judgment. Because the writing assignment caters to different learners and learning styles and preferences, the primary focus becomes the process rather than the end product. The class socializes more, communicates freely while fulfilling each stage or station in the process. In short, while on task, learners use words to discover, express, create, recreate, construct and bridge ideas and use those ideas as the medium of expression and collaboration. Indeed, through writing a writer makes come true the well-known adage “I don’t know what I think until I read what I’ve said.”
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