A number of recent events have had this question swirling around in my head.
First and foremost, the recent ELT Blog Carnival I hosted and promoted. Not too many entries and not a lot of interest from those I emailed about it. “Too busy” everyone politely replied (and then they were off to check their social media feeds). Secondly, been noticing how few people have continued to blog in ELT. There have been a few new bloggers but the old hands are posting less and less and I notice that even new bloggers post a flurry and then they too just don’t keep at it. I’m wondering what’s up?
I know ever few years this topic rears its head. However, this year, it seems more real and may I say, lethal. Not many taking the time to read at length – I’ve noticed on this blog, a much shorter time spent on any page. Has social media killed long form? If so, is that good or bad?
I grew up what one must consider a bibliophile. I treasure my books and library like they are my children. But even myself, I find I don’t sit and read “whole” heartily like I used to. I’ll sit and read my NY Times Review of Books first page to last but that’s it. I’m busy with this task or that. Checking this feed or browsing the latest links. Keeping abreast. But I do think I’m not going anywhere and just treading water – the rat-ta-tat-tat of social media seems to keep one spinning and in one place. Every day, groundhog day. Posts, titillation, quips, funny images, cat videos, look at me I’m flying to “X” messages, eating pizza in “Y” notifications — so much self absorption and not enough absorption in the word, the mind, the thought. However, this blog remains one place, one island where I may loaf and lolligag and let my mind wander and fingers tap treasured words and ideas.
I digress but let me digress again (it is my blog!). This weekend on a long drive and well out of cell phone range, I listened to the only distraction available, the radio. Pundits were discussing Yahoo’s 30 million dollar acquisition of an app that parses articles into 400 word “Coles notes” (remember them?). David Pogue, NYT’s columnist and media panelist on CBC’s Q stated like I would, “When I’m typing, every word is a shiny diamond, every word a perfectly considered sound” and bemoaned the fact that such apps would ever be considered, saying, “This guy made money by taking what we do and turning it into red mist ….” The host asked, “Do you think it is another nail in the coffin of long form writing?” and Pogue finished brilliantly – “I’ve been watching those nails go in forever …. we just will not die. I’m the walking dead, these zombies will continue to roam among us.”
So to say it loud and clear, there may be much fewer of us left but us zombies, us bloggers and blusterers will continue to belch and bellow through blogs. We are zombies and walking dead does not equal “dead”. I’ll return and keep returning to my favorite long term bloggers that have survived, endured, triumphed through the years. Ill keep posting here and taking the hour, two, three or four that it takes to make a thoughtful blog post. My blog is my PhD, as David Truss used to say (another long form, long term zombie).
Want to read “long form” online? Try one of my fav. bloggers Ira Socol SpeED. He makes each thought and post shine. Eschew such pretenders like Seth Godin, who write a few words and dress words up as “smart” instead of at their core being smart.
Yesterday on twitter, I was pinged and asked about “Storyboards”. I offered my own collected resources, including Story Dominoes. Both fine resources with photos which students can use to either tell or write a story. A wonderful activity (and always make sure to get students to share their stories, the final part of the learning process – or should be!).
I got to thinking some more on this type of resource and shared my Writing with Pictures resources but then was reminded of the fantastic 5 card flickr website.
It is simple to play and students can either tell a story based on the photos or even write / read a story on the website. Here’s one I made and which you can use for telling in class.
Students simply select one of five photos offered. They continue to do this 5 times and will have 5 images. Then they can save the story and write it or tell it. So simple! Make sure to click the random button to get a random story!
I just finished up my school year, sending off a new group of teachers into the possibility that is teaching / education.
This year in my course, my students did some reflective journal writing using my book Zen And The Act Of Teaching. I spent many happy afternoons reading their amazing entries about their lives in the trenches (while watching sports – got to be honest!). I was truly inspired and proud of these groups of young teachers- each bringing to the profession, their own kind of reflectiveness, sincerity and thoughtfulness.
I asked some teachers to share their reflections and share with other teachers their writings. To my surprise, many stepped out and we’re willing to share. So here it is – a slim volume of their reflective writings on many topics contained in the book. I hope you enjoy dipping into this now and then. My BIG thanks to all my former students!
Books will always be with us and like poetry, will be valued more as they become less… They are personal and secret things – therein lies their power.
I’m busy writing another one, always busy with “the word”. Today, looking at my book shelves and feeling good that I have my books together in one place. Been traveling the world for a lot of years and they sat in boxes so long.
I say this by way of introducing this wonderful video – The Diary Of A Disappointed Book. It makes for a simple but powerful lesson. Students write down the months of the year and then must note what happened to the book each month. Do this as a writing exercise or just pause the video and speak about what happened each month. Any way you look at it – this video is a gem. Especially for us bibliophiles.
One of the major skill sets of a great language teacher is the ability to “prompt” students so they will generate language. It isn’t easy and with time a teacher becomes better at replying, prompting, leaving unfinished their utterances so that students are put into a position of “having to communicate”. It is a skill that even gets more refined as the teacher adapts and scaffolds at just the right level/language. Teachers also get better at moving things along – the big challenge of pacing.
EFL Classroom 2.0 has so many online language generators that help teachers out in this regard. Generators and prompts keep the pace level high and keep students so engaged. I’ve used them and 30 minutes will go by in the wink of an eye. No boredom with them at all. I’ve put together many that can with a click of a mouse, start students talking. Also, in ppt and paper/flashcard form. Here’s a list – try them with student and I’m sure you’ll see they work like a charm. The teacher just keeps circulating as students take turns in groups, answering the prompt.
I’m really proud of some of the creative games I’ve made. One that I really think is stellar is “Transl8it”.
I’ve recently updated it and get it through a now available “Big Screen” version. It is simple as pie to play and students love it. Maybe even get them to make their own games by visiting http://www.transl8it.com and putting in their own text which students can then decode.
[I'll be highlighting EFL Classroom "hidden gems" for the next month. Keep coming back for more!]
I’ll only say thank you to my niece Gabriella, who painstakingly went over the copy and edited everything. Thank you! Here, I’ve reprinted the short forward (the print book will contain a much longer and well researched essay on the topic of “the dictionary”).
Enjoy and comments, your fav. definitions, welcomed!
About this book
This book was written over 20 years ago, over a few days. A result of my own “Foerster’s Syndrome”, a kind of lexical illness which I suffer gladly. Both an incessant need to pun and an uncontrollable reflex of seeing meaning within words. A kind of inability to see the forest (word) for the trees (the sounds / meanings).
But I’ve lived with it and learned to control it. Still, ever so often, this Jabberwooky, this moloch and primordial beast attacks and I’m back in the land of the idiot’s dictionary ……
I’ve written a lot about the power of words over the years. See my previous book – “The Unbearable Lightness of Being a Teacher” for those. I’ve studied and been influenced by all the creative writers / poets who’ve pushed the frame of reference in which language lives. Valery, Mallarme, Stein, Breton, Borges, Gass, Calvino, e.e. cummings to name just a very, very few. The Gagaism manifesto, born of the same time as the dictionary (at the end of this book) – stands as my own theory of language in the world.
I also must emphasize my own use of the word “dictionary”. This book is my belief that “We, the people” should have control of the language – not the Websters and Murdochs of the world. A dictionary is not a definitive source but rather, an interpretation. This book, my small attempt to put a dent in the prescriptive armor we wear as we walk the world, in the flesh born of “the word”.
I’ll end with this wonderful passionate appeal of McKean for a new kind of dictionary, a new participatory and living dictionary of meaning and metaphor.
It is mainly for advanced students (as an authentic material) but is an excellent activity. I came up with the idea years ago while teaching LINC (Language Instructions for Newcomers to Canada). I was a Vanity Fair fan (hated the ads but loved the quality of writing) and read the Proust Questionnaire monthly. So I went to the library and “borrowed” the back pages of the interviews for my students (yes, “stealing” is something good teachers do – see my 7 deadly sins of great teachers post!). I made two copies. On had the questions erased, the other had the answers erased. In pairs students role played the interview. Then, I would have one pair role play for the whole class and the class had to guess who the famous person might be.
Nowadays, there are some nice online resources for using the Proust Questionnaire.
I’m writing this post not just to share these resources and this great idea. I was also prompted by @proustdotcom on twitter who sent me these tweets.
Proust.com can be used in a variety of ways. Check it out and in particular the list of questions which students can respond to in writing. They can ask each other through social media and it would make for fantastic writing practice! You might even just use their cool Kinetic Typography intro (and I’m into this stuff!).
So to briefly respond to their request for ideas! (check is in the mail!)
> Make the responses audio or video based and teachers able to create a classroom for the response forum. Or even a Voicethread style site for collective responses.
> Writing. Teachers can make a Wallwisher type area where the notes are title questions. Click on a post it and you get to respond to that question in detail or read from others.
I’m a confirmed, addicted, “sharer”. Been that way for years and I’m sure its caused it share of incredulity. Many people just don’t operate on and of the same mental construct – believing as I do that knowledge is not something created nor owned. It is air and for all. But that is okay – the world is beautiful because it is made of so many who are different. There is room for all of us.
I’m a confirmed believer in “We keep what we give”, education as a vocation. Meaning, that I get so much from what I do – that I’m in no need of any returns other than to be “in the mix” and sharing.
I recently got a flurry of wonderful emails from complete strangers. Coupled with the spring warmth, it makes me feel so grateful to be able to do what I do and connect with so many from around the world. That in sharing, I keep much more than I give. I’d like to share one of the emails, from a woman in Egypt writing about an ebook I shared and specifically one entry – My Egyptian Moment.
I want to share this with you because I want to do what I do – share with you the energy of this email and how it sparkles with the new force of connection we experience when we share, never knowing who might chance upon, use, be touched by, find meaning in – what we give. And in some miraculous way, us keeping so much from this process….
At last it’s you !! As a new member of this EFL Classroom 2.0 group, I didn’t know who is the admin of this great site !!! Until I got a message from this group sent to my e-mail, with links to April newsletter , a book about flashcards and a special book called (The unbearable lightness of being a teacher) !!
As an Egyptian EFL teacher, I would like to thank u soo much for this good book, and esp for the part called (My own Egyptian moment). WOW!! It’s very special, inspiring and motivating!!
I’ve shared the book and esp. this part with my colleagues. we all appreciate it !! We are really proud of our PEACEFUL revolution !! It’s very important and nice to see it in the eyes of other friends from other places in the world specially when it comes from a great teaching expert like you !!! As we have been thinking about our mission as teachers and how to teach our students the great lessons of freedom in these days which are full of unprecedented events!!! But, you did it in a universal way. Though it’s an Egyptian moment, but ur message from it is actually universal !!!
We really hope we can keep this great victory and let it spread in all aspects of our life !!!
I have even talked about ur book and this part of it in a radio program this morning and thanked you on air!!! They have even asked me to share the book on the program’s FB page ??? They even asked when will the cover copy of the book be available ??!!! Do you mind if i shared it with them on FB??!! What if any of my colleagues wanted to share comments or thoughts with u?? (I even wish we can talk with u one day!!)
By the way, i don’t agree with what u said about being selfish writing about ur own personal experience !!! It’s very important to share even the simplest moment as u say (Live simply, simply live) and specially when it comes from someone like you !!
Sorry for this long message , but as u can see we r still affected by the spirit of freedom and enthusiasm !!!!
Waitin for ur reply !!
PS. Here is the ebook referred to. Download and share. Also, just got this email – which sort of relates to this post. “Using Flashcards and Teaching English” is being tweeted more than anything else on SlideShare right now. So we’ve put it on the homepage of SlideShare.net (in the “Hot on Twitter” section).
I’m a big fan of always exciting students with “possibility”. By that I mean, designing a lesson so that they can change and interact with the content in creative, personal ways. They can be touched by possibility – much like we are when online and using Web 2.0 tools.
One easy way to do this is to use music/song. A “change the lyrics” activity.
Basically there are 3 steps involved.
1. Teach the song in any way you see fit. It could be the typical listening cloze, Lastonestanding, karaoke or many other ways.
2. Have prepared on the board the chorus or one main part of the song. In front of the students rub out some main content words. Ask students to put in their own words for the song. Have fun!
3. Challenge students to do the same and then share.
Here are two already prepared examples. The first, very simple for the gospel classic, “This little light of mine”. The second more lengthy for “What a wonderful World”.
Whatever you do, have fun adapting a song – I know your students will!
** Not your ordinary, endless list – just what’s number 1.
I heard it through the Grapevine
Let’s face it, many times as a teacher, we are faced with having to pull a lesson “out of our hat”. Last minute, we have to teach a new class or left our lesson materials at home. Or perhaps, we are just sick and tired, hung over, run down …… What to do?
Gossip is a major motivator when it comes to language production. People listen intently and language is used purposefully. Along with narrative/stories, it really activates language learning. I’ve used this lesson hundreds of times and I’m always astounded by the level of student interest and involvement (and creativity!). And it is so super simple!
Get a full description HERE on EFL Classroom’s Lessons in a Can, but essentially, you hand out a piece of A4 to each student and they one sentence, one piece of gossip about the student on their left. Then, they pass it to their right and that student continues the “gossip story” and makes it even juicier. After, collect the papers and read the gossip about students. I prefer to collect the papers and read the next day after editing and making sure there isn’t any hurtful stuff. Be careful about that and the class you use this lesson with.
But for powerful language learning, engagement and real communication – you can’t beat “Heard it through the Grapevine”. Make sure to play the song along with the lesson!
I guess this one is pretty obvious, seeing that what you are experiencing right now IS Edublogs. However, I do expect this pick to be contentious and I do agree there are many alternatives however, I still think beyond the pale, Edublogs is the best place for a group of students to blog privately, securely. Let me tell you why. (but please, comment and suggest some alternatives!)
1. Very simple to set up. This is the biggest thing for me. Teachers don’t want anything complex nor to spend undo time getting to the good stuff – the curriculum! In a few short steps, you can have all your students online and blogging – on task!
2. It’s free. Yes, there is a little advertising but it is safe and not bothersome. See the options HERE. A Teacher’s set up is very low cost also.
3. It is an educational community. Meaning, you are supporting a group that has education first and always in their mind. They aren’t going to do anything that will effect educators as their client base. More info. here.
There is a lot more I could say. Let it suffice that I looked long and hard into whether to support Edublogs when I joined and made a public blog, some 2+ years ago. I’m happy with the choice and think most teachers will be too.
I usually stay FAR away from blogging about blogging. Not that I don’t find this kind of introspection, fun or revealing/engaging. Far from it. I just don’t feel comfortable doing it and if there is one BIG rule when it comes to blogging, it is, blog about what you are comfortable with.
There you go, I’ve started blogging about blogging. LOL.
I decided to share my own “hates” and what I find distasteful on some blogs because I’ve noticed there seems to be a lot of interest in these kind of blogging about blogging posts. Also, a little bit of venting will do any man or woman some good. So in that vein, here it goes. The top 5 turn offs for me when first arriving on a blog. (and I’ve found my share through the Random ELT Blog Generator ). Oh yeah, my apologizes in advance to the examples I’ve noted for each. Not that you aren’t probably good blokes and teachers – and I also might be wrong. But this is how I feel.
1. Selling. Big, bold, buy this pitches that confront your sensibility and make you think you’d best start browsing Amazon. (and this goes too for those blogs selling Amazon stuff). HERE”S AN EXAMPLE.
2. Selling the reader short. You know, those blog posts that just have a photo and say, “I just got back from the mall and wanted to let you know.” or they just have a link…. In case one, use twitter. In case two, use twitter. HERE”S AN EXAMPLE.
3. Youtube videos galore. Like, I want to know what YOU think, not what Youtube thinks. It’s a blog, not the cinema. Great, you know how to embed stuff, but again, what do YOU think? HERE”S AN EXAMPLE.
4. Tiny print, black and white and no pictures! Especially with 3 columns. Yes, I’m getting old and yes, I need (deserve) a little color. If I wanted to read the newspaper, I’d of bought one. HERE’S AN EXAMPLE.
5. Lists. The Top “this” and The Best “that”. Why do we need lists? Can’t we just follow your train of thought? What ever happened to WRITING, it’s a blog isn’t it, not the David Letterman show! HERE”S AN EXAMPLE.
Without a doubt. It features beautiful illustrations which students choose to create a “story bird” or book. Sharable, beautiful, motivating – they really, really unleash the creativity and language of students. It is the ultimate story writing site.
I use this with my Materials Development students and with many other technology oriented courses. Always, what the students come up with amazes me. Further, the students are always inspired to the nines by their “creation”. And this is so important to mention – the notion of an end product. Language is so ephemeral and it disappears as soon as it is born. Storybooks or birds, give students tangible evidence of their learning (and also give parents that evidence!).
Lately, I’ve been learning lots about self publishing a book. For many reasons, mostly just to see what is possible and to discover if the process is accessible and profitable for teachers. I believe it is. [this is a sequel to Part 1Read the backdrop there.] Self-publishing has gotten dramatically easier and though (like with anything) there is a learning curve and hills and valleys getting to the final version – it isn’t that hard and if you love learning as I do – can be done and mastered in a few 8 hour days. Here is the process that I went through – from neophyte and book publishing imbecile to renowned publisher! ** please note – I will be discussing POD (Print On Demand) books not ebooks. POD allows the author to both produce a downloadable ebook AND a real book that can be bought and shipped. It is not paying upfront a lot of money nor just “vanity” press.
Step ONE – Content is King You have to have something that people want to buy. You can’t fluff it, no matter how you try. Readers are more and more saavy online these days. The competition fierce in self – publishing. This may seem obvious but I wanted to start here and say: Everyone has something to say! Think of your own specialty, interest. Look into what you have already written. You’ll find your diamond in the rough! Me, I had lots of poetry that nobody had read and for teaching, a series of Zen aphorisms directed at teachers that I thought would make a nice reflective teaching journal. Oh, yeah, last thought – get someone to proof read it and be meticulous!
Step TWO – decide what online POD book maker you’ll use and study up! I decided to use Lulu. Mostly because of their book marketing ability (I’ll talk about that at the end of this post). There are several other options though. WordClay, Blurb, Xlibris among others. Here’s a big list.
Step THREE – design your book to the publishers specifications. This is the hardest step. Time consuming and you’ll have to learn lots. The best way is to download a template from the bookmaker/publishing site and input all your content into that without changing it. I highly recommend this route. You can use microsoft word or pdf but most will want your final uploaded draft as a pdf file. You can easily convert your word file to pdf. DON’T use any of the online converters for this. You’ll be endlessly disappointed. Simply -1.Open the document in Word. 2. Choose File then Print. 3. Choose your document converter (Adobe PDF printer or Universal Document Converter). If you’re using Adobe PDF printer, you can just click OK, specify the filename and location for your PDF file, then Save it. If you’re using the Universal Document Converter, click Properties then choose Document to PDF, Color, Multipage in the scroll bar. Click OK then Print. (also within Adobe PDF printer you can change the page size – hit “properties” . This is very handy and might be necessary to make the book into the right size you want to publish). This is what I did for my poetry book. However, it was even easier for my reflective journal. I decided to produce it with power point! Yeah, you heard me, powerpoint. You see – I wanted a nice background and this is very difficult in a traditionally printed / made book. What I did was formatted the whole book in ppt and then uploaded to Scribd. Scribd automatically converts power point to PDF. I then downloaded the pdf, changed the page sizes and I was good to go!
Step FOUR – Make the cover. Lulu made it easy for me. They have a handy wizard cover maker. However, for my poetry book, I used the Picasa 3 editor to make the cover and back pages. Download to your computer and import your background image. Basically, find a nice background in high resolution (at least 800px). Use this and then add your other images / title etc…. Convert this jpg into a pdf and insert/add to your other pdf document. It is the same process as that above. Open the photo, choose print and select Adobe PDF printer, click OK then Print.
Step FIVE – get someone to read and review This is like step 6 but crucial. People buy books because others recommend them. It’s a truism you can’t avoid. Send copies to people you think would do this for you or are highly respected in the book’s topic. This is the stage I’m at right now! [if you'd like to review either of my books - please contact me and I'll send you the full ebook. Then go to Lulu and write a review!]
Step SIX – marketing and getting the book “out there” This is the weakness of POD self publishing. Big publishing companies have the advantage of large, well organized and guarded networks of promotion and distribution. However, the good news is that with web 2.0 – getting the word out about your book is getting easier. Still, you have to do some leg work or should I say – “mouse work”.
Here’s what I recommend at a minimum.
1. Make a sample copy (first 15 or so pages with one page containing a link to where the book can be bought) and upload to all major online publishing platforms. I uploaded mine to slideshare, authorstream, scribd, doxtop, docstock and many others. Also upload on ebook platforms like Issuu, Yudu, and Qoop
2. Open a discussion on your social networks. Your social networks can provide great recommendations and awareness. Twitter too can really get the word out fast that a book is out there.
3. Use your PLN, “Personal Learning Network”. They know and love you and will help. Just don’t be pushy! Write a blog post or multiple posts about the book. (like I’m doing). Put it on your blog or personal page. If you don’t have one – make one! (I recommend weebly as a great place to make a quick personal page).
4. Send your book to traditional publishers. Yes, this works! Many best sellers started out as self published books. Also, get an agent if you really think your book is special and have him/her take it to book fairs. The largest and best bet is the Frankfurt Fair, held every fall.
Step SEVEN – make it Portable Reader ready Kindles, iPads and other portable readers are growing exponentially. Your book should be converted into the ePub format so it can be bought and read on these devices. This is too long and detailed a subject but I’ll report back once I’ve done this in the next few months. If interested, here’s a brief post about this.
Step EIGHT – Pour a glass of wine, enjoy, you are a published author! Don’t let it be said that only big companies can successfully publish and sell beautiful books. You can too and YOU DID! The world is getting flatter and thank god. You are participating in the greatest free flow of information ever – it has ramifications that we are only beginning to understand. For the most part, they are beautiful consequences that benefit billions. Be proud, be published!
Jeremy Harmer made a comment in defense of big publishers the other day. He said, “the cost of producing a book is horrendous these days, the investment staggeringly high.”
I took that as a challenge so within 8 hours I CREATED and PUBLISHED a book. Not some frothy, blablabla book but something substantial and which practicing teachers or teacher training programs can use. This book and wisdom came from my own experience using reflective writing in my teacher training courses.
Later this week in a detailed post, I will describe the steps I took to both publish AND market this book. I think it will be highly beneficial to all – writers or even those who might still be only thinking about it, “one day”.
Admittedly, I have a sound tech background and so could do all this quicker than the regular Joe – however, it isn’t difficult and the costs and investment AREN’T staggering – unless you want to justify your billion dollars in profits (after expenses / before taxes – Pearson’s 2009 financial statement).
whatever amount to EFL Classroom 2.0 to cover our rising costs (from Ning, another profit hungry bemoth), will get it free. The license is Creative Commons and Sharealike. Meaning, once you get it – do whatever you want with it and copy, spread around as much as you like! Teacher trainers, you can contact me on EFL Classroom or here and get the powerpoint for instructional purposes.
Blogging is something so valuable, especially for “education”. No longer are we reliant on “the expert” and the “paid”. We can hear the voices of the many “grunts” like you and us. We can hear those voices and learn, change, respond, be engaged, in a word – grow.
Karenne on Kalinago English recently blogged about blogging. Through reading her several posts, I got to thinking about “why” a person starts to blog. Not those vague and general things like:
“I want to share what I know”
“I just needed an outlet”
“I wanted to create something”
No, no, no. You see, I really espouse the notion that it is the small and proximate things which matter. Actions are always of the moment, contingent. Usually there is some thing, a definite act that “sets you off”. A spark that begins the fire. I’d like to know what your spark was, what set you off and tipped the balance and made you become a blogger?
Here’s what set me on fire. A note in an essay from a former professor.
I had the honor once upon a time, to take a post graduate course “The Philosophy of Education”. It was taught by Gerald Gutek, distinuguished scholar at Loyola University. We used his own book as the course text, “Philosophical and Ideological Voices in Education”. I enjoyed the course and more so “the man” who really allowed us to voice our own beliefs and values. At the end of the course, I wrote my final essay and waited for my mark.
However, I got a nice email about my essay and at the end of his comments he just left a bolded, “Have you ever thought about trying to do some educational writing?” That was my spark – just a few words. Bolded. Probably without that note, I wouldn’t have made my own 160 posts this year or last….. Thank you Dr. Gutek.
I’m proud of this blog because of its depth. When I post, I post. Use the search and find so many gems. Let me know that you read them – that’s the wood that keeps the initial spark alight.
And to end, I ask again – What set you off and on fire, as a blogger?
I’ve always loved Charles Bukowski. Though much of his writing is “off” when he hits it – he’s dead on. God like.
I was reading today, thinking about the writing process and Bukowski’s wonderful poem, “IF I Taught Creative Writing” came rushing back to me. So here it is below. Along with a recent Bukowski video I made of his immortal “Broken Shoelace”. — He always gives good advice. Get other videos I’ve made HERE and HERE – if you like this one.
During my own teacher training and in my professional development throughout the years, whenever “writing” as a skill comes up — inevitably all the talk is about “The Writing Process”.
While I do believe in some ESL settings and in many L1 classrooms, the writing process is a great, whole language approach towards building student writing ability — I find it oversold and not that effective in the EFL environment. My experience in the classroom has taught me that what students really need most is “The Writing Product”.
Find below a powerpoint outlining the Writing process – basically, the steps a teacher takes the students through to produce a final product. Prewriting / Drafting / Editing / Publishing.
However, I insist that there are many inherent weaknesses to this “one size fits all model” and that to increase student writing ability, we don’t necessarily have to jump through all these hoops and sawhorses. What we do need to do is get students writing TO someone/somebody. Real writing with a purpose that includes a final product (but not necessarily like the Writing Process, a finished product – as Valery quipped regarding poetry but which is an apt caution for all writing – “a poem is never finished, merely abandoned.”).
Don’t fall into the writing process rut! Get your students writing – in any way, any form (but English of course!) so long as it is writing that is directed towards creating a product that will communicate something to someone else. I outline in the presentation many of the weaknesses of the Writing Process approach for EFL and here they are in brief.
1) Time — EFL instructors don’t see their students that often usually. There isn’t the time (or space in many cases) for this approach.
2)Loss of student interest – this follows from point #1 but also when working with young learners, they just don’t have the patience in many cases to keep “pondering” a piece of writing.
3)Not Suited to some personalities – this follows from point #2. Some students aren’t “reflective” types. They aren’t going to be creative writers or professional writers of any sort in even their L1.
4)Students need to be taught it. Yes, that’s right. We have to teach them the stages, model and spend time overtly drilling them on these steps when the time could be better used doing what we are in the classroom for – yes, you guessed it , WRITING.
5)It restricts spontaneity and the range of writing activities. There are a whole range of writing activities that get left aside when we focus on only those writing forms that ideally suit the Writing Process approach. Why can’t you spend time on having students write notes or emails to each other? What about shopping lists and graffiti?
That said, I’m not calling for teachers to stop using this approach. I’m just being pragamatic and asking that it not be something we always reach for or that administrators ask for (I know I always was – that’s the first thing they look for when looking over your long range plans). Hopefully, I’ll get the time and pursue this topic further with a full article but just wanted to get teachers thinking about PRODUCT and PRIDE and not getting bogged down in just the PROCESS.