Sunday, November 12, 2017

Engish as a World Language


Raquel Cunha
(Blog Post written as a final assignment for the course Writing for Teachers)


Because of globalization, the English language has become part of our everyday lives (we see it in labels, TV commercials, jobs, studies, internet, outdoors etc.). English has no longer been defined by the number of people who speak it, but how powerful and influential it is in the world. This is due, mostly, to the power that the countries that speak it have, not only economically and academically, but also in the entertainment business and culture. Now, some questions that we may ask ourselves are: “Who does the English language belong to?”  “Is there a right way to pronounce it?”, “Does every country have their own English?”, “How does Brazil fall in the world of English?”
Before we go any further, it is important to know what process took place in order for the language to become what it is today. Taking into consideration that a language is a living thing, which is born, grows, evolves and may even die, we should also understand that it influences a person’s personality, and a culture may also influence its language.

The English language came to be around the V century, developed by the Anglo –Saxons. Along its history, it incorporated elements from other languages, including Latin. Though it is a very influential language today, it wasn’t always so. For a very long time, English was restricted only to the British territory and French was the lingua franca used for trade and diplomatic deals. However, with the expansion of the British territory, English was imposed on people who lived in their colonies (HOWATT, 2004).
Today, English is considered a world language or a lingua franca, which means that it is the language of common communication between different nations. It is the language that is used on the Internet, in movies, in music, on businesses, for diplomacy, for international politics, and it is the key to a successful trade.  It has become that most taught language outside its country of origin.

Although you may say that the English language belongs to the countries that have it as their mother tongue, this statement is not entirely true. It can also be seen as a successful resource for speakers of other languages to communicate with each other. So, the English language today belongs to the world. Gimenez (2006) states that it is necessary to make a disconnection between English and specific countries because speaking and being like a native is not something necessary. There are a variety of Englishnes in the world.

The influence that the language has in some countries is so great that a study conducted by EF EPI in 2016 has shown that their people have ranked very highly in fluency. However, they have added their own accent, which can be recognized easily. Thus, it is important to remember that there is not a right accent of English. Many are accepted and people should not be embarrassed or afraid of it.

We, Brazilians, can also see the influence of the mother language in our intonation when speaking English. It influences rhythmically, musically, and also in the jokes and cultural aspects. It is something that we, Brazilians, should not worry about and, instead, we should embrace it as our trademark and a positive influence upon a language.

However, a study conducted by EF EPI shows that Brazil still ranks way behind in the fluency of English. Out of 72 countries, we rank number 40 in fluency, falling behind Argentina, which ranks number 20 (the best in all Latin America). This means that we are still not very influential and this also may restrict our economic and business relations with the rest of the world.

This low rank may be due to many factors, one of them being the precarious public school system. A high level of functional illiteracy in the country may also limit the learning of a new language. The study also showed that women in Brazil are slightly ahead of men when it comes to dedication and fluency. On the other hand, the same research showed that Brazil has started to make small and recent changes to improve this situation.

Now, here are some questions that we can reflect upon on the subject, “World English”: What are some of the patterns that you have noticed in the spoken English of the Brazilian speaker? Have you noticed the influence in any other nation’s accents (that does not have English as their official language) in entertainment, in culture or even in business? How important is it for a nation to be fluent in the international language in order to grow economically?


References:

EF Education First: http://www.ef.com.br/epi/ June 21, 2017.
Howatt, Anthony Philip Reid, and Henry George Widdowso (2004). A history of ELT. Oxford University Press.
Gimenes, Telma (2006). English in a New World Language Order. Londrina UEL

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Why we should teach the five-paragraph essay

Maurício Peixoto
(Essay written for the course Writing for Teachers)


In the course Writing for Teachers, students asked to work on writing for exams. To make this a type of meta-assignment, they were given references in favor and against the five-paragraph essay and had to to write a five-paragraph essay expressing their point of view on the topic.  Here is Maurício Peixoto's essay, which he chose as his best piece for the course. 


Why does the five-paragraph essay cause so much discussion among some teachers? In fact, it is used in most standardized exams such as the TOEFL and the CPE, so students must be well prepared to take them. On the other hand, there are educators who think that this kind of essay is not effective. The point is that teachers are supposed to prepare students to succeed in writing every sort of genres, the five-paragraph essay included.

Students have to be able to take proficiency tests properly. They also need to learn how to write a 5-PE because it is a well-organized way to structure their ideas. In addition, they follow a pattern of writing without spoiling their creativity, once students are allowed and encouraged to expose their ideas about a topic. Writing this kind of essay enables students to learn the conventions of writing, which will lead them to get ready for producing other genres as well.

In contrast, students are exposed to situations that require a different approach. They will probably be asked to write a report at work or a letter of complaint to some company, for example, and a 5-PE will not be effective. Focusing on the format and structure of a 5-PE, the students might not be able to write different genres and they may have their creativity blocked. Having that in mind, teachers need to have genre awareness and provide students with it too.

It is clear that learning how to organize and structure the ideas is fundamental; however, it is also important to be able to deal with the several writing demands. Teachers should continue teaching how to write a 5-PE so students can be able to take standardized exams and succeed in them. They also have to learn how to write different genres. There is no reason to exclude the 5-PE, nor teaching this genre only. It is a matter of balance. 

In conclusion, there are arguments in favor and against teaching the 5-PE. Students must be genre aware and the five-paragraph essay is one of them. It is also a good starting point to learn the other ones. The discussion about whether to teach it or not leads to nowhere. It has to be taught due to its importance on international exams, and also because it confines students’ ideas and focuses them on the structure of writing. On the other hand, other genres have to be present in writing courses so students can succeed in all real-life situations they face. 

Friday, October 27, 2017

Belonging to a Global Tribe of Connected Educators

Last Friday, October 20, I had the pleasure to facilitate a session in the Braz-TESOL Brasília Half-Day Seminar. Fellow teacher Leonardo Sampaio partnered up with me in this session called “Become Google Certified Awesome!” The purpose of our session was to demonstrate a little bit of the impact that becoming Google Certified Educators has had in our classes. It was a hands-on session, which took some participants by surprise, for some of them might have been expecting to hear us talk about the Google certification process, hence the title of the session. But we like to surprise people, so off we went on a collaborative 45-minute journey. (Quick and intense! Phew!)


Participants worked in trios, and each trio had an Ipad. They went into a Google Classroom we created especially for the session and were asked to discuss what 21st-century is, in their view, and how digital tools may facilitate 21st-century learning in the EFL classroom. After discussing within their groups, they had to write down a summary of their thoughts in the discussion stream of the task. Groups were then invited to read what other groups wrote in the discussion (inside their Google Classroom) and respond by writing comments.


The next task enticed participants’ creativity, for they had to access a collaborative Google Slides presentation, locate their group’s slide containing a crazy and unique image, and discuss what they thought had not gone as expected in the image. They had to write down a statement in response to that question about their image. Once they were done with that, groups were invited to look at other groups’ slides and write down 3rd conditional sentences inspired by the situation statements.


We finished our 45-minute session with a great video about 21s Century Learning and the 4 C’s. We asked participants to reflect on the tasks and activities they had engaged throughout the session to identify whether the 4 C’s had come up in their experience together, to which they said “Yes!” At the end of the session, Leonardo and I shared our views on how becoming Google Certified Educators has impacted our teaching practices and the learning experiences we facilitate in our classrooms. We feel that the very process of studying the units in the Google Training Center, which were made by teachers for teachers, helped us get in touch with a million ways teachers all around the world have been applying these tools in their classrooms in order to enhance the 4 C’s.

And what’s more, for me, the most valuable thing in having become Google Certified Trainer is to become part of a community of educators who are committed to facilitating learning experiences that help our students become global collaborators and creators of knowledge. After all, it’s never about the tech, it’s about the learning. It’s never about the tool, it’s about the pedagogy and, above all, it’s ALWAYS about the people.



Friday, October 13, 2017

Visual Literacy

Luis Francisco Dantas
(Final assignment for the course Writing for Teachers)

According to Kress & van Leeuwen (2006), expressing something verbally or visually makes a difference. Thus, in an era of multiliteracies, teaching ELLs how to read, interpret, analyze and synthesize information via visual input is imperative. Individuals use a variety of means in order to communicate.  This way, skills in the realm of visual literacy have proven to be essential.  In modern times, they may tend to be a matter of survival, especially in the workplace and academic environments. This is not different in the field of language learning.

Despite all the appeal means of communication dispense to imagery and visual design, EFL/ESL students still need to be aware that images, written language, and speech are realized differently. More and more, visual literacy is seen as an essential part of instruction for multimodal learning. Like linguistic structures, visual structures point to particular interpretations of experience and to forms of social interactions (Kress & van Leeuwen, 2006, p. 2).

It is also essential to analyze visual literacy from a neuroscientific perspective. According to Zull (2002), our brain is a "seeing" brain, so educators need to understand the power of visually-rich classes to facilitate learning through concrete examples that rely on the many different sources of imagery.

Along more than twenty years in the field of teaching English as a foreign language, I could notice that the ability to read images was something my students seemed to benefit a lot from. But where to start? How to introduce this kind of teaching into our pedagogy? Would the syllabus and the tight schedules allow me to introduce these notions into our teaching programs? I must confess these were my biggest worries at the time I started teaching English through art and visuals, along with regular course books and handouts. Confessions apart, I admit it was a tough decision, but at the same time, I must say it was also the best I have ever taken in my career. At the beginning it was mostly an attempt to explore the world of culture and the beauty of visual arts. Eventually, it became a desire to show my students that a language is much more than its written or spoken expression.

Through the use of art in the classroom, learners are taught that by reading images, they can explore different kinds of messages and their meanings. Moreover, in many occasions, pupils are free to create their own narratives regarding what they see and explore their knowledge of the world and creativity in meaningful tasks. They are encouraged to understand that art pieces are also seen as texts to be analyzed and understood.

Teaching through visuals is deeply rooted in the idea that images are also seen as complex visual signs (SANTAELLA, 2012), whose elements are initially perceived simultaneously, but that need a gradual and more detailed analysis in order to have their meanings unveiled. According to Santaella (2012), images are cognitive elaborations that need to be interpreted and read. Taking this notion of text into account, I have been working with a variety of images and exposing my students to pieces of work encompassing different fields of the arts.

We have experienced classes with the livelihood of Kandisnky’s shapes, traveled through the surrealism and dreams of Salvador Dali, the mystery of Da Vinci’s Monalisa, the appeal of Picasso’s Guernica and the piercing colors of Frida. Above all, we have done all this promoting the use of English as our main means of communication. Throughout the years I can also notice how much we can do for our students in order to make them widen their horizons in the sense of acquiring general culture, as well as expressing their own feelings and impressions more openly and confidently using the lens of art. I have also seen children shifting from boredom to impulses of joy and creativity while exposed to pieces of art such as Van Gogh’s Starry Night, being also able to create their own representation of it and share this experience with their peers.

One of the theoretical constructs in which this teaching approach is based has to do with the concept of multimodality. According to Iedema (2003), this term was introduced aiming at reaffirming the importance of taking into account the semiotic modes that go beyond written language, such as imagery, music, gestures, among others. This way, images contain a series of aspects which can be perfectly explored in a language class and that will make students learn more effectively and experience meaningful communicative situations. This has been true in all the classes in which I proposed the study of imagetic representations. Students are able to explore the colors, the various characters in the paintings, the perspective and different angles chosen by the artists to tell their stories through art works.

The concept of ressemiotization, which consists of the transference of the works of art from their original context, such as art galleries or museums, and  their consequent adaptation to teaching environments, has made the process of teaching and learning English as a foreign language more colorful, more meaningful and, consequently, more effective in terms of learning results.

References:

Iedema, Rick. Multimodality, resemiotization: Extending the analysis of discourse as multi-semiotic practice. Visual communication, 2003

Kress, G, & Van Leeuwen, T. Reading Images: The Grammar of Visual Design. New York: Routledge, 2006

Santaella, L. Leitura de imagem. São Paulo: Melhoramentos, 2012


Zull, James E. The art of changing the brain enriching the practice of teaching by exploring the biology. Learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing, LLC ,2002.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

CONFIDENCE BUILDERS

In Hearts in Atlantis(2001), another movie adapted from a Stephen King’s novel, a kid, Bobby Garfield, has his summer adventures guided by this strange old man, Ted Brautigan, who happened to run away from some people called “low men”, who were secret service officers. This is an extract from one of their conversations:

Bobby: Ted, "my father never bought a drunk a drink". What does that mean exactly?
Ted: It means he was a good man, he was honest, and he never added to the troubles of the world. Okay?

The more I live, the closer I get to the feeling we all should try to never add to the troubles of the world. As teachers, we are in touch with lots of people; each one, a universe in himself. How can we go about doing our business in a world which is so increasingly busy? How can we ourselves handle our own personal and professional issues, and yet not add to the problems of this crazy corner of the galaxy?

In my opinion, patience is the most important tool for a teacher nowadays. Of course, it’s always been in every good professional’s toolkit. Nevertheless, more than ever, it has worked wonders to save me from potentially troublesome situations in the classroom. But patience is too abstract a concept to explain, isn’t it? It’s there when you stop and listen to your students. I mean, listen. Not pretend you do while you’re thinking of the next question. There is a difference and your students, like any human being, feel that. Also, it’s there when you are flexible in your activities. By giving people a chance to catch up, you can make them do an exercise or retake a test. In the end, it’s better for the learning process than if you just give him or her a zero. What if you’re pressed by time constraints related to bureaucratic work that needs to be done? Check if you can do what you have to and then fix the student’s score. Flexibility shows your students that you’re in tune with this overwhelming lifestyle we all share.
My students did not do homework? Zero. But, why punish them again in their participation, if they’re going to get a lower grade for not being exposed to the material taught? Why punish them now if life is going to do this in time, either in their academic or in their professional field? Why get overly stressed over this here? Tell them this. It works for me. Not immediately, though. In the end, this is education, what works out immediately in education? So, why not take time, too, in the classroom to listen to your students’ interests and build your class around what they bring up in these conversations? While preparing your classes, leave some room for pockets of conversations, in which you can tell a personal story and be the role model your students need. Relax. If you want them to feel comfortable, they have to feel you are, too. Otherwise, you’ll sound fake. And they need to trust you. They won’t trust one who doesn’t do as he says.
We are, in essence, confidence builders. Rapport is the technical word for it. If you don’t have it, learning takes place, but not so easily. Being kind is one of the ways to build rapport with your students. Be real. Tell them about your difficulties day in day out, and they will relate with them. In addition, don’t take for granted that every time a student fails, it was because they didn’t study. Everybody has their priorities, and if his choice didn’t work out, it would be better if you helped him come up with some better alternative for the next test or unit.

The heart of the matter is we all could benefit from a little humanity. All around us, it seems the world is getting crazier. By giving your students a chance of experiencing a lighter atmosphere both in the classroom and in their academic life, we can make a difference. In other words, not add to the troubles of the world. (Text written by Themer Bastos, August, 9th, 2017)

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Teaching Writing with Global Intermediate: an analysis of the features of its writing activities

Here is another coursebook recommendation report, this time written by Lucas Gontijo Silva, for the course Writing for Teachers. Do you agree with him?



1.   Introduction


Global Intermediate is the coursebook currently used in the second part of the intermediate course at Casa Thomas Jefferson, Brasília, DF. The book is filled with activities that focus on all four skills of language competence: listening, reading, speaking and writing. However, when we carefully analyse and test its use on a regular basis, we are able to confirm that some activities fall short: the ones that focus on writing.

Although the book provides extra writing lessons (pp 16, 28, 40, 52, 64, 76, 88, 100, 112 and 124), it still does not equip students with the necessary material to help them work on their writing skills within the regular lessons carried out in the course. The intermediate course at Casa Thomas Jefferson does not include those pages on its syllabus. As a result, the coursebook in question cannot be sufficient in order to meet the needs of a skills-based course that also has to focus on writing.

Effective and fruitful writing activities can be recognized in a coursebook that is meaningful for the students who make use of it, a coursebook that is genre-based, a coursebook that provides them with scaffolding and planning for writing, a coursebook that contains good models and authentic texts, and a coursebook that is furnished with follow-up activities.

2.   Background


The intermediate Course at Casa Thomas Jefferson is mostly an environment for young students that range from the age of 13 to the age of 17. The students at issue are characterized by having quite an amount of school load and some extracurricular activities. They usually demonstrate more facility with the passive skills, i.e. reading and listening. However, some of them also struggle with those skills, besides speaking and writing. They are also at a stage in which they are still forming social and academic competencies, such as punctuality, responsibility and respect. Because of that, teachers commonly have to deal with homework neglection and deviant behaviour.

Taking this audience into account, writing activities must be able to catch students’ interest and prove their relevance and immediate applicability to the students’ lives. As follows, I will point out specific criteria that should be considered while examining the quality of the writing activities of a coursebook and will also analyse Global Intermediate in view of it.
   

3.   Literature Review


Many things must be considered when we think of what makes a language teaching course good and effective. When it comes to teaching writing, there are mainly five aspects that should be considered in an EFL skills-based course: whether the approach is genre-based, the use of scaffolding, the use of follow-up activities, the presence and usage of good modelling and, finally, whether writing is meaningful and relevant to the students.

A.  An approach to genres in writing

A genre-based approach to teaching writing is essential in order to create language awareness in our students. As Reppen states (2002), after analysing different types of texts and their distinct characteristics, students are able to thrive as writers, assess their own pieces of writing, and engage in peer-feedback more productively. According to her (p. 323), through genre-guided activities, students manage to see different texts from different perspectives, taking the writers’ purposes and the readers’ needs into account.

B.  Scaffolding

Hyland (2007) affirms that scaffolding directly relates to interaction between peers, which enables them to grasp the activities better. As claimed by him (p. 158), as students interact and discuss the topic through scaffolding, they develop an independence from their teacher’s “direct instruction”. Widdowson (1978) also expresses the great value of scaffolding by describing it as a “gradual approximation”. Students, therefore, become better writers when they are “actively encouraged to follow through a series of preparatory steps” (Scrivener, 1994, p. 157) producing then the final piece of writing.

C.  Follow-up

Another important aspect about teaching writing is the implementation of follow-up activities, that is, those that are done after the students have produced their pieces of writing. The writing process is not finished, and the students are encouraged to evaluate each other’s texts. Seow (2002) affirms that that strategy is a means to stimulate a sense of responsibility in them.


D.  Meaningful writing

Hyland (2007) also explains that the genre approach helps teachers plan their classes around themes or like real-life activities. Writing in order to specifically do or achieve something is what raises students’ interest and makes them see a meaningful purpose in writing. As maintained by the professor, this approach helps students learn beyond mere abilities and competencies; it makes them assimilate contextual and social elements that involve one specific genre.

E.  Modelling

Finally, the use of good models and authentic material is another extremely important aspect in teaching writing. Students benefit from being exposed to real texts and from having authentic models that inspire and encourage them to engage in writing. According to Al Azri and Al-Rashdi (2014), authentic texts “expose students to real language”, “meet learners’ needs”, “affect learners’ motivation positively” and “present authentic information about culture”, amongst other reasons.

Conclusion

All the literature mentioned above concurs in regarding writing highly and seeing it as a fundamental part of a language course. The various elements that are necessary to compound high-quality teaching or determine a great coursebook can be easily identified when it comes to writing. Such elements must be avidly pursued in order to encourage and uphold a good practice of the teaching of writing.

4.   Analysis of Data


When we bear in mind a skills-based course, we cannot overlook the skill of writing. Successful writing relies on the fulfillment of certain criteria. Coursebooks must be carefully analysed and questioned according to these criteria so that we make sure that their use concerning writing is effective and productive in a language course.

A.  Meaningful material

The age group that uses the book and the interests that surround students’ lives should be taken into account when taking a close look at the coursebook. Global Intermediate has, therefore, proven to be a book directed towards an older audience. Many teachers at the school have stated that when they go through some lessons, such as Unit 3, part 2 and Unit 5, part 2, the students tend to react in the same way, with lack of enthusiasm and boredom. This is so because young teenagers do not naturally have interest in energy sources or government collocations (the central topics of the lessons mentioned above). When it comes to the writing activities, this reality aggravates the problem, since students do not have a sufficient stimulus to engage in the writing tasks. Assignments such as writing a comment on an online science magazine can be difficult and uninteresting for students at that age.

B.  Genre-based material

Another aspect that should be appraised is whether the coursebook makes use of genre-oriented tasks. Whether the activities within the lessons provide students with contextualized tasks in which they can see the purpose of writing is extremely important. When students are told to write solely to improve their writing skills, the activity has an end in itself and becomes pointless from their perspective. There has to be a purpose in writing that relates directly to students’ lives and interests, and genre-based writing lessons are those which deliver the context and the sense of reality that students need.

The writing tasks in Global Intermediate, however, do not comprehend this strategy. The lesson tasks usually involve forming questions, writing lists or a general comment or paragraph about something. That means that students are not guided on how to write authentic texts that are used in specific contexts.

C.  Scaffolding and Planning

Good writing lessons also include scaffolding and planning. In other words, the lessons have to naturally welcome students into the writing task, rather than surprise them with an assignment that they are not ready to do. The activities must be conducted in a way that the students are gradually prepared for the assignment, and that is why instructions regarding planning must also be part of the lesson.

Unfortunately, the lessons in Global Intermediate do not bring scaffolding and planning strategies before the writing tasks. The instructions just usually tell students to write a piece of writing after they have discussed something that relates to the lesson, which is not the necessary process that students have to go through so as to produce a text with quality. Good scaffolding involves guiding students with regard to the context, the purpose, the content and the form of the text, to put it briefly. Also, the students are not given any orientation concerning outlining, map-minding or other planning strategies.

D.  Modelling with authentic texts

Since the writing tasks mostly orientate students to write a comment or a paragraph, a lack of modelling with authentic texts can be spotted in Global Intermediate as well. Although students are provided with catchy images and appealing layouts in the reading activities that usually precede the ones on writing, they still do not have great models for their own pieces of writing (predominantly comments and paragraphs). After having read texts that somehow relate to the lessons, the students are not encouraged to produce something similar to the only model that has been given in the lesson.

E.  Follow-up Activities

Finally, an effective coursebook that helps students work on their writing skills must contain at least one effectual follow-up activity through which pupils can give and get valuable peer-feedback. That is so because, otherwise, the writing section of coursebooks will always end up becoming homework assignments or assessments and students will never have the chance to actually exchange knowledge and ideas with their peers. The activities that focus on writing need to be made an essential part of the course and must be regarded by teachers and students as highly as the others that emphasize different skills. The writing activities within the lessons in Global Intermediate only instruct students to read their compositions to each other and then say whether they agree with their peers. That is not enough for the aim of developing students’ writing skills and language awareness.

5.   Outcomes


Although Global Intermediate does have a section entirely dedicated to writing after each unit, it does not have writing activities within the lessons. Since the course carried out at Casa Thomas Jefferson does not include such sections, it does not provide students with effective and productive activities concerning the skill of writing. It definitely lacks high-quality scaffolding and planning exercises, as well as follow-up activities. It also does not contain meaningful and appealing writing tasks when we consider the specific audience that makes use of it. Finally, modelling and authentic texts are not always present as well, which makes the students confused and unprepared to produce the pieces of writing that are suggested through the lessons.

Therefore, looking only and closely at its writing activities, I recommend the discontinuation of Global Intermediate as the coursebook for the intermediate course at Casa Thomas Jefferson.

References


Al Azri, R. and Al-Rashdi, M. (2014). The Effect of Using Authentic Materials in Teaching. International Journal of Science and Technology Research, 3(10), pp. 249-254.

Hyland, Ken. (2007) Genre pedagogy: Language, literacy and L2 writing instruction. Journal of Second Language Writing, 16, 148–164

Reppen, R. (2002). A Genre-Based Approach to Content Writing Instruction. In J. Richards & W. Renandya (Eds.). Methodology in Language Teaching: An Anthology of Current Practice (pp. 321-327). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Scrivener, Jim. (1994). Learning Teaching. The Teacher Development Series Editor: Adrian Underhill. Oxford, UK: Heinemann.

Seow, A. (2002). The writing process and process writing. In J. C. Richards & W. A. Renandya (Eds.). Methodology in language teaching: An anthology of current practice (pp. 315-320). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Widdowson, H. (1978). Teaching language as communication. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Recommendation Report

In the course Writing for Teachers, participants had to write a report recommending the continuation or discontinuation of a course book based on its writing curriculum. They had to base their recommendation on theoretical references. Here is what Leandro Camargo wrote about the course book Time Zones, used in our Teens Course.  


Introduction

Like many other EFL schools in Brazil, Casa Thomas Jefferson’s academic staff seeks updated books. In the Teens course, we have Time Zones course books and, to avoid problems with student’s engagement in writing activities, a revision should be done. When asked for feedback, some teachers mentioned that many adaptations were needed in order to make writing assignments more attractive to students. This issue has to be addressed so that students can have a better experience in writing exercises and eventually improve their skills.

Currently, as mentioned by the teachers, a low percentage of the students enjoy the writing activities. This needs to change so teachers can achieve their goals of making writing assignments enjoyable for both. Strategies could be implemented to increase enjoyment of writing activities, since they are just as important as the others.

Writing is an important part of any English course and poor writing can cause academic consequences. Students who don’t have good writing skills or don’t enjoy doing writing usually end the course with lack of writing ability. Consequently, these students will miss out very important opportunities in their academic lives. Changes in the writing program for the Teens course at Casa Thomas Jefferson are needed, and the following report is intended to propose ideas for improvement and continuity of the writing program.


Literature Review

Learning how to write in a second language has always been difficult and challenging for students. Planning, revising, rearranging and deleting, producing multiple drafts are just some of the tools for the writing exercise. “Over the years, different approaches have been introduced in the language classroom, yet it is the process approach that became known in the 1970s that has had the most favorable influence” (Macarthur, Graham and Fitzgerald, in Alves, 2011; 2). This approach considers all writings as a creative act that requires positive feedback with the intervention of the teacher to be well done.

Process writing is a common technique to teach writing that gives emphasis to creativity, and which pays attention to the development of writing practices instead of imitation (Tribble in Alves, 2011; 3). In this process, the teacher moves away from being someone who sets students a writing topic and corrects a finished product without any intervention. Teaching and learning happens during the whole process.

A writer must know how to organize his/her thoughts and messages in an appropriate way. Most students don´t know what they want to write and many ideas are only revealed when they start writing. Revision, changes of words and structure are made until writers are satisfied with the result. Since writing is a process of ‘generating, formulating and revising ideas’ (Zame in Alves, 2008; 6), attention and adequate time have to be provided for revision and re-writing, while teachers help throughout the process.

 Process writing can be divided into three main stages: pre-writing, focusing ideas and evaluating, structuring, and editing. Pre-writing is the stage in which the teacher needs to stimulate student’s creativity through well scaffolded activities, to get them thinking how to approach a writing topic. The flow of ideas is more important than the production of any written work. Among others, a good example of pre-writing activity is the use of brainstorming, considering the complexity of writing and how generating ideas is an essential stage (White and Arndt in Alves, 2008; 7).

After the pre-writing stage, students write the first draft without much attention to the accuracy of their work. White and Arndt, and Hedge (in Alves, 2008; 10) suggest the technique of fast-writing. In this stage, the most important feature is meaning: Is it good? Is there anything missing? Should I add anything else?

Editing is one of the most important stages in the writing process because it´s   where a lot of learning happens. This stage also helps students in future writings, once they have the opportunity to receive feedback. Revising, besides being an important source of learning, is part of the writing process that involves assessing what has already been produced (Hedge in Alves, 2008; 11).

Writing isn't an easy task, and so it is only fair that anybody´s writing is responded to suitability. It is important to give positive feedback to help build student confidence and create good feelings for the next writing.

Since writing is a difficult exercise, students need to write over and over to become good writers. They need the opportunity to practice various types and functions of writing to develop skills, and build competence, confidence and progress toward independence.

All the stages in process writing will encourage students to try. Students will not be judged or exposed because they will have an opportunity to revise and improve before being evaluated. Practice, well planned stages, and well scaffolded pre-writing activities may change students’ lack of enjoyment towards the writing exercise.


 Methodology

For this report, I shared practical knowledge with teachers at Casa to get an idea of what they have been experiencing and doing to increase their student’s enjoyment of writing assignments. I also researched relevant articles on the process writing approach. These articles outline several features to teach better writing lessons in the language classroom.


Causes of low enjoyment of writing lessons

Teachers in general agree that writing is an all too common problem for an English as a Foreign or Second Language school. This can be so due to many causes; from unsupportive schools and teachers to the lack of skill of the students. Also, the absence of interest from the students due to poor pre-writing and not well scaffolded activities are listed as top reasons for the boredom in the writing classes.

Some teachers also agree that if a student is not being successful in his/her writings, then they are less likely to want to hand in the assignments. In short, all of the teachers agree that low quality models of writing and lack of genre awareness are major reasons for students not to do well in writing lessons, especially younger students, once they have special needs.


Effective writing lessons

As the main goal is a better writing program and ideas for increasing student enjoyment, one of the two most frequently mentioned things by teachers are teaching students basic writing patterns and having effective and meaningful pre-writing lessons.

An effective pre-writing class consists of generating ideas and planning. Great tools for that are, for instance, the use of well scaffolded activities including videos, writing samples and mind maps. The writing activities in the Teens course books used at The Casa Thomas Jefferson have just a few of the features suggested. When students are asked to write something, they have no idea how to do it. Activities like these are not only feasible, but also essential for students to become familiar with in order to select the appropriate kind of writing, using them in specific situations, along with the appropriate vocabulary, research, process and purpose.

In addition to improving pre-writing lessons, it is the responsibility of the teachers to motivate students to write and make them aware of the importance of producing good compositions. Creating effective activities that are reviewed and renewed regularly and establishing a writing routine with students are very important stepping stones for improving the Teens course writing program. All in all, as Time Zones is a good book, I recommend its continuation provided that changes are made in the writing activities.  


Conclusion

In conclusion, the findings based on teachers’ experience come to an agreement that the book should still be used for the Teens course due to its other features. Effective writing activities and lessons are very important to help students develop their abilities. Once the book being used at the moment doesn’t present well planned pre-writing exercises, it now becomes the teacher's responsibility to plan and share activities with other teachers.  The following topics are important factors in increasing students’ enjoyment of writing lessons: effective and meaningful writing lessons and the role of teachers as facilitators and motivators, so students can learn and enjoy this activity.


References

Kroll, B. (1990) Second Language Writing: Research insights for the classroom Cambridge University Press.

H. Douglas Brown. (1994) Teaching by Principles: An Interactive Approach to Language Pedagogy. Paramount Communications Company.


Alves, Reis Ana. Process writing. University of Birmingham: 2008. (Masters degree assignment) Available at: http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/Documents/college-artslaw/cels/essays/languageteaching/AReisAlvesProcessWritingLTM.pdf. Accessed on July 3, 2017.