Discourse in Writing
by Emma Worrall
- lesson plan - preliminary information 1
Time: 60 mins
Level: First Certificate
1) To encourage students to use their existing knowledge of
sequencing devices and cohesion to order a text. (see stages
2 and 3).
2) To analyse meaning and use of the following discourse markers
on the whole, but, unfortunately, except for, however, although,
besides, in conclusion, also, as I see it, for example, despite,
taking everything into consideration, another point in favour,
a further disadvantage
1) To produce a cohesive written text using
some of the above discourse markers (stage 6).
2) The students will work collaboratively to produce their
work. (see stage 6)
3) The students will be able to peer correct their completed
work after regrouping to form their completed essays. (see
Writing is an integral part of the First Certificate Exam
course and students must learn to write in a very specific
way and fulfil certain requirements. This is often very challenging
for students as general English courses (which most of the
students at Hyland Language Centre are generally used to)
do not expect such requirements (for example, formal letter
writing) .In Paper 2, Part 2 the students have a choice of
compositions questions of which they must answer one question.
A discursive essay is part of those choices. We have recently
been practising other writing activities and we have already
looked at some of the linking devices used in informal letter
writing The FCE Gold course book looks at the discursive essay
in unit 12, but I wanted to contrast informal letter writing
with a composition of a more formal style for this class.
The students have also been introduced to the various requirements
that they should fulfil in their compositions, such as content,
style and register, and target reader and they have seen examples
of past papers (in the FCE Examiner's booklet) with examples
of students' work which passed or failed and the bands (grades)
which they were given.
Looking back on my first year of teaching the FCE (last
year) I should have perhaps started focussing on the writing
part of the exam a lot earlier in the course. So, this year
I have decided to place more emphasis on writing from the
beginning, hoping to develop 'good habits' from the start,
by encouraging the students to follow a rigid procedure when
tackling any writing exercise (for example, writing a plan,
checking the style and register required and using linking
devices to ensure cohesion and logic to their work). As I
usually gave written compositions for homework on last year's
course, I decided to give students the chance to work collaboratively
in this class and use their own interlanguage to create a
text which will involve the students making decisions on "word
order, cohesion and sequences of tenses in discourse"
(McCarthy 1991:153). As McCarthy says, the decision-making
processes are brought to the surface and individuals will
have to "explain their choices, a process more motivating
to learners than having to explain the choices of an invisible,
unknown author." (McCarthy 1991:154). Another advantage
of having students work in groups is that students may be
encouraged to take more 'risks' (J. Hatfield 1992). Quieter,
more reserved students who are often put off by speaking in
front of the class or teacher are able to contribute valid
knowledge and opinions in a small group setting with less
pressure on their spoken performance.
I chose my material from another source Instant Grammar Lessons
(Battersby 1996) which has suitable activities for FCE. The
idea I have used is based on a dictogloss style activity incorporating
a 'bottom-up' approach but in a written rather than audio
form. Using a dictogloss (or dovetailing as it is known. See
stage 6) type activity can encourage learners to call upon
their linguistic resources, considering the various language
options open to them and it encourages the learners to discover
what they do and do not know about English.
I chose the discursive essay from Instant Grammar Lessons
(1996 unit 2.1) which compares the advantages and disadvantages
of watching television and reading books. However, there were
certain things on the original text which I wanted to adapt
because I felt that the 'reproduction of text' style activity
chosen called for a simpler version, I wanted it to be challenging
but not demotivating. I changed some of the vocabulary and
phrases which I thought would hinder the reproduction of the
text (see stage 5) for example, "well-stocked".
I also felt it was necessary to change the phrase about television
licences as it was not culturally relevant to the students.
I reduced some of the longer sections in order for the students
to have similar length paragraphs to reconstruct. I removed
the sentence in line 10 because I thought the idea of a question
would distract from the idea of using discourse markers, so
I rewrote the sentence adding another discourse marker (i.e.
"Besides" see Main Aims). I removed one of the discourse
markers in case it might confuse the students. I reduced the
amount of sentences that the students would have to reproduce
to make it a more manageable task, leaving the groups of students
with the first and last two sentence cards. I should point
out that this class will be mostly experimental for me and
the students, and although the students have already been
exposed to some activities of the lesson plan in previous
lessons (see stages 2 and 4) we were looking at an informal
White board, board pens, blutak, pencils, white paper strips,
help cards, essay photocopied on card and cut into strips
for each group, discourse markers on large pieces of card,
photocopies of the essay in paragraphs (enough for each student),
2 x copies of the essay on OHTs (one with the discourse markers
underlined, see appendix ) , OHP.
1) The students will find the task challenging but not too
difficult as to be demotivating.
2) Students will be interested in the topic as the two activities
(reading and watching television) are common past-times, however,
some students may not be familiar with the genre especially
if they have never had to write a formal essay like this).
3) The students will be interested in building up their writing
skills for exam purposes or equally for those students who
have to write letters at work.
4) The students may be fully capable of writing formally in
their own language but there may be differences in style or
structure which they are not aware of in English.
5) The linking devices should not all be completely new for
the students and they should have some idea of how to use
most of them. Likewise, they should be able to categorise
them without too much difficulty (see problems and solutions
section for the discourse markers which may cause some problems).
6) Students will transfer their knowledge of the discourse
markers to future written compositions of this nature.
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