National Poetry Day will be celebrated in UK on October 1st and on the basis that last week’s Bulletin article highlighted the importance of literacy skills in our daily lives. Therefore with this combination I am carrying on the theme of the importance of the written word.
I have been recently talking to a concerned student who feels he does not have the skills to write an effective essay in English or History for his chosen A levels.
Whilst this student is studying within the British system, many students who have been educated within the Spanish system are at even a greater disadvantage, there seems more emphasis on grammar and regurgitation of verbs rather than developing flowing creative juices and budding writers.
This is where Jay, Head of our English department gets wildly animated and calls for all potential writers to come and talk to her.
At MTA we obviously support many students who are preparing for English examinations; A level, IGCSE and Cambridge Certificates at PET, First and Advanced levels. Jay spends many hours working with those who need to improve their writing skills but do not find it something they enjoy at all.
We live in an era where the interest in the written word is dissipating, and people hand write and mail letters out of novelty rather than necessity, however writing skills are still important.
The reasons for this are many; however the two main reasons are the Internet and a highly competitive job market. Even though some see the rise of digital media as the death of writing, the Internet actually makes unprecedented use of text, we write a lot!
Regarding the job market a resumé and cover letter have long been the basis of a job search, the ability to make your application pack stand out is a major step in even being considered for a position. A must for the future.
Many students have an aversion to any kind of writing and do not understand why they need to learn how to write since they think it is not something that needs to be learnt in a step by step process. A solid writing foundation focuses on the step-by-step process from brainstorming to outlining to composing the rough draft and writing the final copy.
Jay believes that writing starts with the young; if we can develop skills in childhood that follow through to IGCSE years and beyond then we have done our job.
Jay has very kindly given her personal top tips to help our budding writers and anyone taking an English examination in the following months:
Read – Reading the work of good authors helps you develop a sense of how effective writing is constructed, and gives you a glimpse of the skills and artistry that goes into it. Whilst you are reading, take note of the author’s style and pay attention to how ideas and emotions are expressed. It is a very enjoyable way to become a better writer.
Think – Writing isn’t only a pen to paper activity. It’s a brain to pen to paper activity. Thinking is necessary preparation for writing. Before you pick up a pen or place any hands on a keyboard get into the habit of giving thought to what you are going to say. Know your purpose, do your research and organise your information. Ensure you chose the right style; formal, casual or professional. All of these are decisions that a writer must make. Proper preparation is the key!
Enrich you vocabulary – We have so many words to choose from. The more you have in your head the more expressive your writing will be. You can enrich your vocabulary by reading and listening to proper English or using a dictionary. Whenever you look up a word in the dictionary, take another moment to read the synonyms.
Keep it simple – Simple writing is clean, clear and appeals to a wide variety of readers. The key elements of making writing simple are
· Sentence length and structure.
· Do not use needless words; less clutter without detracting from the meaning.
· Proper use of correct grammar.
The above clearly is directed at the writer but what about our role as parents?
The first step of course is to encourage your child to want to write. The writing process is fairly easy to learn and develop but if there is no desire then of course it becomes a more difficult task.
Here are our top 5 tips for parents to help encourage budding writers:
· 1. Encourage your child to read. Reading daily for pleasure is a must, for those with younger children make the effort to read to or with them. Reading and writing go hand-in-hand; good writers are well read, not just in grammar and usage, but in various subjects also, and well versed in various writing styles.
· 2. Play games with words. Word games include not just commercially available board or card games, but brainstorming games as well. Great board game are available for all ages; Scrabble, Hangman, Crossword puzzle. Whilst www.britishcouncillearnenglish.co.uk has an amazing array of online activities for small to big kids.
· 3. Planning - Get your child to think about a writing project before doing any actual writing. Most writing begins by planning the story, article, or poem before actually putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard.
· 4. Ask your child questions about the project. For story writing, questions can revolve around the story’s setting (e.g., “When does the story take place?”), main conflict (”What is the most important event?”), and action/resolution (”How does Johnny get Green Lantern’s power ring back to him?”)
For a report, appropriate questions can revolve around the journalist’s “who, what, where, when, why, and how.”
· 5. Practise, practise, practise - Encourage daily writing. The best way to improve writing skills, no matter the writer’s age, is through regular practise. You can also provide writing prompts in the form of pictures clipped from various sources or picture books without words. If the budding writer is still struggling, start them off with an initial sentence and let their imaginations run riot.
From a tutoring perspective, Jay says that building self-confidence by mastering the fundamentals of writing before diving into a first daunting essay alleviates writing roadblocks.
Writing is the key to success in school, university and future life.
Try creative writing yourself it’s fun!