Introduction: The Art of Teaching Literacy
Teaching students the English language is one of the demands of the Australian curriculum, which is relatively hard to meet. The students should not only display keen abilities to read and write in English (Winch, 2002), but also to be able to make a conscious choice between their skills when solving a particular problem (Australian Curriculum, 2013a).
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By combining both theory and practice, teachers can help their students develop the required skills, such as the skill of communicating their ideas clearly, as demanded by the Australian Curriculum (Australian Curriculum, 2013b).
However, to integrate reading and writing, teachers will have to solve a number of issues regarding phonetics, grammar and syntax, especially when it comes to the choice of the theory (Tompkins, Campbell & Green, 2012). In the given essay, the means of enhancing literacy among students are going to be discussed. In the given paper, a brief overview of theories will be provided, followed by the methods of enhancing literacy and the optimum solution for literacy enhancement.
Why Writing Is Important and How to Teach It Efficiently
Significance of writing: learning to communicate
The significance of writing is hard to underrate; helping students train their communication skills, learn new vocabulary and get their ideas across coherently, writing is one of the keys to learning a language (Winch, 2006). To teach students writing, however, a teacher must make sure that the students already have certain background knowledge.
This knowledge ranges from the basic ability to recognize letters in the alphabet to the ability of structuring sentences correctly. Allowing students to “reinforce learning and assist retention” (Kruze, 2010, p. 32), efficient writing sessions will shape students’ concept of the language.
Choosing an appropriate model for teaching students: goals and objectives
A productive process of teaching students the basic writing skills presupposes mixing reading and writing theory and exercises. Therefore, it is necessary to pick the teaching model that advocates for the key standards and objectives (Routman, 2003). For instance, it is imperative that the students should demonstrate a great skill of differentiating between formal and informal English.
Based on the Australian Curriculum, the goals and objectives are to educate students about the English language and culture, since “English plays an important part in developing the understanding, attitudes and capabilities of those who will take responsibility for Australia’s future” (Australian Curriculum, 2013)
Reading and Writing: An Exciting Mix. Scaffolding and Other Techniques
Scaffolding: definition, significance and examples
Scaffolding is one of the most efficient strategies in terms of providing the students with an opportunity to conduct a metacognitive analysis of their writing process and transfer their newly acquired writing skills into the sphere of reading, and vice versa (Klinger, Morrison, & Eppolito, 2011). For example, scaffolding will help when a student will have to write an essay on a particular topic after reading a text on the same topic.
As Oczkus stresses, the strategies of predicting, classifying, etc. are used “in a package rather than separately” (Oczkus, 2010, p. 17). Scaffolding helps students realize that writing is important, since it provides them with necessary skills while reading is important, since it exemplifies the rules used in writing.
Looking for a Theory to Adopt: Making the Right Choice
Constructivism: cognizing the nature of learning
Learning English, students must not only be able to handle the basic reading and writing tasks, but also to use the skills acquired in the learning process for information acquisition and processing.
Once a teacher introduces the concept of metacognition to the students, it will be easier to help the students link reading and writing: “Adding components of metacognition supports students in learning how to summarize and to generalize summarization tasks from one type of text to other” (Klinger, Morrison, & Eppolito, 2011, p. 235). Reading and writing can be linked with the help of a series of exercises.
For example, after reading a text with new words and expressions, the students can be asked to use these words and expressions in a sentence of their own. Cognitivism shows students that writing is important because it helps them list the key arguments and convey a specific message, while reading is important, since it helps them acquire necessary information.
Cognitive approach: information processing
Cognitive process, which is not to be confused with metacognition, also enhances students’ ability to analyze the data and interpret it in a particular context (Jan, 2007). A cognitive approach will help teachers search for unique approaches towards every student (Knapp, & Watkins, 2005). Also known as the Flower-Hayes model, the given approach is aimed at training the students’ long-term memory.
For example, reading a certain text and analyzing its meaning, goal and target audience, students learn how to address particular types of audience. The given skill will be later on transferred into the writing process, and the students will be able to produce their own texts targeted at particular types of audience.
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Cognitive approach shows the importance of writing and reading by displaying the effects that writing and reading has on students’ communication skills.
Behaviorism: a long forgotten path
Although behaviorist theories have been mostly ousted by more up-to-date concepts, some of its postulates, including motivation of students, should be used in the process of teaching students English. According to the basic principles of behaviorism, a positive stimulus results in carrying out an action, which can lead to developing a habit (What is differentiated instruction?, n. d.).
In the classroom setting, the given process can be observed when a teacher encourages students’ writing and reading endeavors by grading their performance as good or exemplary, providing them with additional options and privileges.
Ramsay (2011) offers an interesting method of student encouragement by introducing technology in class, claiming that, after the introduction of technology into the lesson, the students could not “get enough of writing lessons supported by an array of digital tools” (Ramsay, 2011, p. 42).
In the given context, such digital tools as shared documents, as the Google Docs, which is, sadly enough, no longer in existence or Zoho Docs, its alternative, should be mentioned.
By using shared documents, students can share their experience in writing and writing techniques, exchange writing tools, critique each other’s writing and have fun while leaning to write. Behaviorism allows defining the significance of writing and reading by showing that writing and reading help improve teamwork efficacy.
Sociolinguistics: linking language and culture
The last, but definitely not the least, sociolinguistic theory is crucial for Australian teachers to educate students on English writing. Giving a background to specific cultural norms of the English language, it allows for helping the students understand how English works, therefore, introducing the principle of code-switching to the students. This makes the transition from one activity to another more natural (Ur, 1996).
For example, students will be able to switch from reading a text to doing an exercise or writing an essay on a related topic. Thus, the “conceptual relationships that exist between words” (Proctor, 2011, p. 43) will be created. From sociolinguistic point of view, writing and reading are important, because they are a part of human culture.
Balanced Approach to Literacy: Knowledge and Experience
Balanced approach definition
When developing the method that will help teach students the basics of the English language in the most efficient way, one must make sure that the principles of balanced approach are undertaken.
Defined as the approach that incorporates the use of authentic texts and various exercises and other experiences, balanced approach presupposes that students should be able to correlate writing process with that one of reading, as well as other language learning related activities. Thus, students learn to integrate their new skills in order to perform different tasks (Understanding different forms of writing, n. d.).
For example, the vocabulary that students learn when reading particular texts can be utilized in the writing process later on. For instance, Dahl (2004) mentions that the children, who were engaged in word study activity, “worked inductively on appropriate orthographic patterns” (Dahl, 2004, pp. 310–311). Balanced approach displays the importance of writing and reading by stressing their interdependence.
Conclusion: Literacy at the Beginning of the XXI Century
Because of the need to introduce not only the basic writing skills, but also the skill of integrating the acquired knowledge and applying it to the new environment and new tasks, it is imperative that teachers should combine theory and practice when planning their English writing classes.
For example, by learning to retell texts that have been read in the course of the lesson, students acquire the information regarding text organization and structure, which will be later on used in writing practice.
Once the students learn to navigate within the realm of English, they will be able to communicate efficiently, which the Australian Curriculum demands (Department of Education, 2013). A teacher must keep balance between writing and reading, as well as between theory and practice, for the students to use their skills properly (Tomlinson, 1999).
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