By Ikram Abdelhamid Benzouine
By Ikram Abdelhamid Benzouine
Morocco World News
Casablanca, December 14, 2012
Owing to the fact that writing is a basic skill that Moroccan EFL learners undeniably need to develop, I opted for watching two TESOL presentations on how to best teach writing. My objectives were as follows: (1) to equip myself with the various approaches to teaching writing, as well as (2) to amplify my knowledge on ‘peer-revision’ and its likely impact on my students’ attitude to deem writing an enjoyable process of expressing and identifying oneself vis-à-vis their peers’ production.
The presentation starts off with outlining three different methods that aim at teaching writing: Product, process approaches and post-process paradigm. Taking into account the Moroccan EFL classroom context, I believe that the initial optimal way to teaching writing to my students is ‘Process Writing’ in which my students can actually focus on the basic writing stages, such as planning, revising and rewriting. In actual fact, I implemented this approach during my practicum and I can attest that Moroccan EFL students are in dire need of being acquainted with the sequential stages of writing before we –teachers- expect the writing action to take place.
By way of illustration, when I taught my 2nd year Baccalaureate students how to write an informal letter, I firstly introduced them to its layout and the applicable lexis (i.e. informal phrases, such as: With love, short forms…etc). Only then, I had them write the first draft drawing upon focus questions so that they can be able to plan on what to write about and assess the relevance of their product against the given questions (planning).
Right after this stage, I asked my students to exchange their letters with their peers for revision before they were expected to deliver their final draft. In a word, one can never learn how to write if they are not exposed to the optimal ways to perform a fine piece if writing.
For me, the product writing can come after students master the conducted process. As for the ‘post-process paradigm’, I deem it more relevant in a higher academic level of English learning (i.e. Higher Language Education). I personally do not think that my high school students are able to view writing as a “transactional process” while they are still in the early stages of learning English. In other words, Moroccan teenage EFL learners are not cognitively ready to grasp the theoretical account of writing due its complexity. Thus, I will consume my energy to make my students practice writing in a more fun way rather than lecturing them about different theories of what a writing process is, and end up boring them.
The second presentation deals with peer-revision and its influence on students’ motivation to write. Reflecting on my own experience during the practicum, peer-revision smooths the writing process and creates a student-centered atmosphere. Going through the TESOL slides, I was able to confirm most of my assumptions I had about this technique. First, it stimulates interaction and promotes learner autonomy.
This was the case whenever I included peer-revision in my lesson plans: I managed to make my students to offer assistance to each other and to appreciate their peers’ creative arguments. I even noticed that some students were able to value their works more once they received reinforcement from their peers. What is more, my students were not using me as a crutch during that stage; they, instead, would refer to their own peers for consult. This made all of the writing courses I taught more authentic in the sense that I was not the provider of ideas to anybody.
Hence, I totally disagree with those teachers who claim -as mentioned in the presentation- that “peer-revision is time-consuming or that students do not enjoy doing it”. On the contrary, I do recommend the use of peer-revision in class, as it guarantees: More engagement, student-oriented class, less TTT, more community-like atmosphere, student autonomy.
To this end, I will continue on employing peer-revision in my writing courses. I will offer my future students with a model text and a checklist before I expect them to revise their peer’s writings. This will definitely assist me in guiding my class in a more objective and systematic way. Also I intend to encourage my students to come up with their individual compositions so that I can collect them to spot each student’s improvement or otherwise.
I will always hold writing as a significant skill to be developed. Thus, I will never “skip” or disregard it like some teachers do, for I strongly believe that the ideal place to learn about the basic stages of writing is the classroom. It starts with an extrinsic motivation, and then students begin to gradually internalize that skill. I once heard that “writing is only boring to the people who are boring themselves”. Therefore, my role as a teacher is to take my students out of their shells to speak their English-only mind, with the help of myself and more importantly of their peers.