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Teaching Writing

Discussion in 'English' started by spatel, Dec 6, 2011.

  1. Sometime ago I read something somewhere about a teacher who makes pupils write non- stop and if students are 'stuck' are told to write a (set) phrase and continue... It seemed like a wonderful idea at the time- except I've forgotten what the 'set phrase' was!
    Can anyone help/ point me in the right direction please?
  2. Sometime ago I read something somewhere about a teacher who makes pupils write non- stop and if students are 'stuck' are told to write a (set) phrase and continue... It seemed like a wonderful idea at the time- except I've forgotten what the 'set phrase' was!
    Can anyone help/ point me in the right direction please?
  3. It's more a creative writing class technique than one for use in English lessons. Writers often get "writer's block", and so the idea is that by keeping the physical act of writing going, you overcome this. In English lessons, as opposed to creative writing lessons, you're not really looking for good stories, you're looking for technically accurate prose. A repeated phrase in an English examination is unlikely to be acceptable.
    However the line between English and creative writing isn't a firm one. I don't think it really matters what phrase you choose.

  4. I do hope we're encouraging pupils to write interestingly as well as accurately!
    I tell my kids, if they are blocked beginning a writing task, (once the set up has been done, task given, ideas discussed etc.) just write anything to get you started even if it's not brilliant. The very act of writing will help get ideas flowing and often by the second or third sentence, they might be more in the zone and be writing what they intended. The poorer opening can then be scored out.
    I also insist that my kids write in silence for designated blocks of time. They can see I can't talk and write at the same time on the whiteboard so I don't see how kids can chat and concentrate on writing simultaneously. I even advise them not to stop work to check spelling (just underline words to be checked later) as that can interrupt the creative flow. No Tippex for the same reason.
    Once chat ceases and kids get going in writing, it can be wonderful to see them 'in the zone' and scribbling away singlemindedly.
  5. You really do like to show off your ignorance, don't you?
  6. Thank you for the responses... love the non stop (not even for spelling) writing. Can see this working with some groups.
    bgy1mm Not sure if English and creative writing lessons are discrete- am I missing something? [​IMG]
  7. Most people who enroll in creative writing courses hope to write published work, for the marketplace. Only a few children in English lessons have any serious ambition to become published writers, and we don't normally measure the success of English lessons by the number who do manage to publish work.
    However the two things aren't completely different from each other, of course. If you do happen to have a child who goes on to become a published author, you'll be legitimately proud.

  8. Hi

    Many years ago I worked as a gigging musician and helped quite a few novice musicians to learn to improvise ad-hoc in Jazz. It seems to me that this is somewhat similar to producing creative writing. We learn phrases and genres by exposure to other people's work. In music by listening to CDs or performances and then imitating. In textual work by reading and analysing existing texts and then by copying or adapting the phrases we read.

    Why not get them to look at existing texts and underline useful constructs? I use this framework:

    Participants : - The people, things and even ideas taking part in the action. e.g. "a small black dog", "the dis-heartened public sector workers", "easy baking of cakes", etc...... Basically word groups in which the nouns play the major role. We underline noun groups in red.

    Processes: - The doing and being - "went", "started to rain", "slowly got up", "must have been"....etc Basically word groups where the verb(s), adverbs play the major role. We underline verb groups in green.

    Circumstances: - The descriptions which define 'when', 'where' and 'how'. e.g. "under the blossoming apple trees", "by the lake", "by intercity commuter train", "as late as autumn"...etc Basically word groups where adjectives play the major role. We underline in adjectival groups blue.
    With time this equips the learners with a sort of toolkit for text construction. This kind of analysis comes naturally to those of us who are experienced and literate, but not necessarily for everyone. See http://manxman.ch/moodle2/course/view.php?id=4 if interested.

  9. Ok, it's not high prose.
    But how do you apply the analysis to that sort of text?

  10. Hi

    Analysis as pdf attached. I haven't underlined simple verb groups to avoid clutter.
    This example was not so difficult. Unless you are a high academic using SFL transistivity in which case there can often be much to debate about.
    The basic system works well but a multi-level dynamic can be encountered. This is also not too much of a problem and assists mental writing processes too.
    Bridget said, "I see the Chinese are set to inject 50 mill into Barclays". In this case the quote is a Participant (or "projected clause" to be more accurate). It can be broken down separately but marked as whole within the sentence structure.
    Good for practising complicated sentences.
  11. Sorry the pdf attachment didn't work. It's here http://manxman.ch/sandbox/surbiton.pdf with coloured underlining.
    The underlining can be done with the freeware 'Foxit' pdf annotator. http://foxitsoftware.com/Secure_PDF_Reader/
  12. That was what I was after. Clearly, in the example. "A small black dog slowly got up under the blossoming apple trees" we have two noun phrases and one verb phrase. However the whole sentence is really an adjectival-type construct, in terms of the whole paragraph - it sets the scene, but doesn't really contribute to the action.

  13. Yes, although this system of underlining is called 'functional grammar', it should not be too closely connected to traditional grammar. Functional Grammar is all about meaning and genre. For example, quoting the newspaper headline in your example introduces the accepted form of such constructs.
    e.g. "Edmundson off to the Antarctic" , which is not a complete sentence. Of course many writers can accomodate all this unconsciously and without too much thought. Again others, (my SEN for e.g.) often fail miserably without this kind of contextual support.
    See Mary Schleppegrel Video (Prof Linguistics Uni Michigan)

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