Luận văn The research focused on the problem of “inactiveness” in group discussion in pre-Writing stage of essay-writing practice lessons

To solve the problem "inactive participation", Alfred, a secondary school English teacher mentioned in the article "Helping teacher to conduct action research in their classroom" written by Tsui (1993), rearranged the seats so that inactive students sat next to an active student, to encourage good pair or groupwork. He tried to give inactive ones the chance to speak but acknowledge the enthusiasm of the volunteers at the same times. He also avoided competition in class since the winner was likely to be an active student.

Davies (2000) mentioned the difficulties and risks associated with groupwork (also with pairwork):

- the learners may be confused about the tasks and not do it properly.

- the noise level may rise (though seldom more than in choral repetition)

- the learners may start talking about whatever they like in L1

- the learners may make and repeat many errors

- you may not be able to get the learners' attention again and lose control of the class.

 

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opic. The body consists of one or more paragraphs. Each of them develops a subdivision of the topic. The conclusion is a summary or review of the main points discussed by the body. How many paragraphs an essay should consist of depends entirely on the complexity of the topic. However, the essays written in class or in an exam paper in a school or college should contains from four to six paragraphs, with the most common number of five: one paragraph for introduction, three ones for the body and the last one for the conclusion. The number of words in an essay of this kind (also named short essay) should be ranged from 150 words to 250 words for the time allowance of 45 minutes. 4.4. Types of essays Essays can be classified by their aims. According to Fawcett and Sandberg (1992) there were 8 types of essays: Illustration, Narrative, Descriptive, Process, Definition, Comparison or Contrast, Classification and Persuasive. In Illustration essays the writer used specific examples to support a thesis or to prove a statement. Narrative essays required the writer to retell a meaningful incident, an event or personal experience. The writer had to describe something such as a place, a product, a piece of equipment or cells under a microscope, etc in a Descriptive essay. Describing a process or steps in the procedure of doing something was the aim of a Process essay. In Definition essays students had to define a scientific term such as Disk Operating System in computer studies or DNA in biology etc. When writing a Comparison or Contrast essay, students might be asked to compare to find the similarities and differences between two things or two people. They could also use some criteria to contrast two things or two people to discover which features this person or a thing had but the other one did not have. Differing from the above-mentioned types of essays, Classification essays required the writer to use some criteria to classify some things or people or divide them into groups under some standards. In a Persuasive essay the writer had to take a stand on an issue and tried to convince others to agree with him or her. In the Persuasive essay the writer was often asked a question like this “Do you agree or disagree?” He had to choose to agree or disagree with the given topic. Differing from Fawcett and Sandberg, Smalley and Ruetten (1986) gave out only 5 types of essays with different names: Example Essay, Comparison and Contrast Essay, Classification Essay, Process Analysis Essay, Cause-and-Effect Analysis Essay and Argumentative Essay. Among those, a Cause-and-Effect essay was not mentioned by Fawcett and Sandberg. In Cause-and-Effect essay the writer identified the causes of a phenomenon, a problem or something or predicts its good or bad effects. However, in some cases the writer did both of these actions. These five types of essays given by Smalley and Ruetten (1986) are the most common types of essays which were taught to ESL students as the authors stated in their book. They are also chosen to teach to Major English students in Hong Duc University, Thanh Hoa because of their suitability for ESL students. 4.5. Essay writing process According to Fawcett and Sandberg (1992) there were four main steps in the essay-writing process: writing the thesis statement, gathering ideas for the body, ordering and linking paragraphs in the essay, writing and revising short essays. Step 1: Writing the thesis statement. In this step there are two sub-steps: Narrowing the topic and Writing the thesis statement. These are the first important sub-steps before writing an essay. 1. Narrowing the Topic: The essay writer often starts with a broad subject and then he narrows it to a suitable scale. Due to the limitation of the time for writing in class or the length of the essay, the writer should list possible narrowed subjects (sub-topics) of the given topic on a paper. Any one of these sub-topics is narrow enough and specific enough to be the subject of a short essay. Then he will consider each of them to choose one he could best develop into a good essay. 2. Writing the thesis statement The thesis statement further focuses the subject because it must clearly state, in a full sentence, the writer’s central point: the main idea or opinion that the essay will support and discuss. The thesis statement should be as specific as possible. By writing a specific thesis statement, the writer focuses on his/her subject and give himself/herself and his /her reader a clearer idea of what will follow in the body of the essay. Step 2: Gathering Ideas for the Body This step also consists of two sub-steps: brainstorming ideas and then find paragraph groups and write topic sentences and then plan paragraphs. Now the writer should make a plan that includes the following things: - Two to four main ideas to support the thesis statement - Two to four topic sentences stating these above ideas - A plan for each paragraph in the body - A logical order in which to present these paragraphs 1. Brainstorming ideas and then find paragraph groups. The essay writer should try to jot down any ideas that develop the thesis statement, including main ideas, specific details, and examples, all jumbled together. Only after creating a long list do they go back over it, drop any ideas that do not support the thesis statement, and then plan paragraphs. 2. Write topic sentences and then plan paragraphs Sometimes a writer can compose his/her topic sentences directly from the thesis statement without extensive jotting first if the thesis statement itself shows how the body will be divided or organized. Such a thesis statement makes the work of planning paragraphs easy because the writer has already broken down the subject into supporting ideas or parts. The order of paragraphs should logically follow the order in the thesis statement, discussing first the problem and then the solution. Step 3: Ordering and linking paragraphs in the essay 1. Ordering paragraphs An essay should have coherence. That is, the paragraphs in an essay should be arranged in a clear, logical order and should follow one another like links in a chain. In order to keep the paragraphs in the essay in a logical order the writer has to use his/her common sense and plan ahead. He/she should not order his paragraphs randomly. Types of order such as time order, space order, and order of climax can sometimes be used to arrange paragraphs within an essay. Essays about subjects that can be broken into stages or steps, which each step discussed in one paragraph, should be arranged according to time. Space order is used occasionally in descriptive essays. A writer who wants to save the most important or convincing paragraph for last would use order of climax. 2. Linking paragraphs There are four ways to links paragraphs: - Repeat key words or ideas from the thesis statement. - Refer to words or ideas from the preceding paragraph. - Use transitional expressions. - Use transitional sentences. Step 4: Writing and revising short essays. 1. Writing the first draft The writer should make sure that he/she has a clear plan or an outline from which to write the first draft. This plan should contain his/her thesis statement, two to four topic sentences that support it, details and facts to develop each paragraph, and a logical order. When writing the first draft he should leave room for later corrections. 2. Revising The essay writer reads the first draft slowly and carefully to himself and underlines trouble spots, draws arrows and writes in the margins or corrects directly any kinds of errors in the essay draft on his paper. He may ask a trusted classmate or a friend to read his paper and give feedbacks. 3. Proof reading and writing final draft. The writer should proof read the draft for grammar and spelling errors and try to correct them. Finally, he types or writes the final draft to hand in. 5. TEACHING WRITING ESSAYS IN THE FOREIGN LANGUAGE DEPARTMENT AT HONG DUC UNIVERSITY, THANH HOA PROVINCE 5.1. Teaching writing skills to Major English College students. According to the Programme of Training English Teachers for Junior High Schools, writing skills is taught in 5 terms of the whole training course: Table 1: Teaching writing skills to Major English College Students Terms TERM 1 TERM 2 TERM 3 TERM 4 TERM 5 Time 45 periods 60 periods 60 periods 60 periods 30 periods Contents Sentences and writing sentences Authentic-Task Writing Writing paragraphs Writing essays Writing essays (continued) Details + Sentence structures and sentence components + Types of sentences + Sentence building + Writing notes and memos + Writing personal letters + Writing telegrams, personal ads and instructions + Writing reports on incidents and events + Form-filling + How to write a paragraph + Writing paragraph process + Types of paragraphs + Practice assignments + How to write an essay + Writing essay process + Types of paragraphs + Practice lessons + Revision of essay writing + Practice lessons + Writing a long essay as project work in groups My study was carried out in Term 4 of the 5-term writing course. In the early stage of this term students were taught how to write an essay, the process of writing an essay, different types of essays and at the end of this term students mainly wrote their own essays in practice lessons in class. In this term students could reach the intermediate or advanced level of English as required writing essays. 5.2. Teaching writing essays to Major English College students In Hong Duc University, essay writing is taught to the college and university students in last two terms of their academic course because in Term 4 and Term 5 of the Course students are at the levels of intermediate and advanced of English Teaching writing essays in class in the early stages often consists of two steps: Step 1: Students are taught how to write an essay Step 2: Students write essays in practice lessons in class with the help from the teacher. Writing in class is ‘especially helpful in the early stages because you (the teacher or trainer) are available for intermediate consultation. Also, you can work your way around the room checking to make sure that everyone is on the right track’ (Oshima and Hogue, 1991) When students know how to write an essay the teacher can ask them to write an essay of their own in practice lessons in class. The teacher may apply the 8 steps in a two-period lesson (90 minutes) as follows: Step 1. The teacher chooses a suitable topic for each type of essay and writes on the board Step 2. Students brainstorm the topic (3-5 minutes) Step 3. Students discuss the topic in groups to exchange their ideas on the topic (7-10 minutes). Step 4. Students write their short essays (under 300 words) individually (45 minutes). Step 5. Students exchange their essays for peer’s correction (10 minutes) Step 6. Students get their essays back from their peers and read their peer’s comments and discuss about the mistakes and comments given by their peers. (5 minutes) Step 7. Students get consultation from the teacher if necessary (10 minutes or more) Step 8. The teacher collects students’ papers for correcting and/or marking at home (rest of time) In Step 1 in early stages the teacher should choose an interesting, easy and simple topic and make sure that all of his/her students understand and have enough knowledge about the topic. In Step 7 students may disagree with their peer’s comments and corrections so they can ask the teacher for help. Step 8 requires the teacher a lot of time for reading students’ essays and giving comments and correction in details. However, this helps his students write better later. Up to now the model of 8-step practice lesson has been applied in teaching writing to major English students in Foreign Languages Department of Hong Duc University and it has proved its effectiveness. 6. SUMMARY This chapter mentioned the definitions of writing in general and academic writing. Writing was one of the four language skills that a learner should master. Writing was the act of forming graphic symbols which was arranged according to certain conventions to form words, then form sentences and linked these sentences in a certain way to express the writer’s ideas or thoughts. Among the definitions of writing given by Leki (1976), Davies (2000), Hornby (1989) and Byrne (1988), the Byrne’s definition of writing was the most complete. Academic writing was a sort of writing skill students are required to do in colleges or university. According to Oshima and Hogue (1991) the concept of academic writing was different from other kinds of writing by its audience, tone and purpose. We might have two main types of approaches according to two authors: Product Approach (consisted of four approaches such as Controlled-to-Free Approach, Free-Writing Approach, Paragraph-Pattern Approach and Communicative Approach given by Byrne (1988). This approach was so-called because it focused on the product of the writing process) and Process Approach by Raimes (1983) (because it focused on the process of the writing activity). Writing essays was a difficult skill because it required the writer to be at intermediate or advance level of the language. This chapter also gave out the definitions of essays, its structure, its types and the process of writing essays with four main steps: writing thesis statement, gathering ideas for the body, ordering and linking paragraphs in essays and writing and revising short essays. Teaching writing essays was also discussed in this chapter. Essay writing was for intermediate and advanced students of English as a second language. Essays were also used to evaluate language learners’ writing ability in some international test systems such as IELTS or TOEFL in many English-speaking countries. At Hong Duc University writing essays is taught in Term 4 and Term 5 of the 6–Term Training Course for Junior English teachers. Firstly, students are taught how to write essays, types of essays, process of writing an essay and then they write their own essays in practice lesson in class through 8 steps. . CHAPTER 3: GROUPWORK 1.1. GROUPWORK 1.1.1. What is groupwork? Groupwork in its most common meaning is a joint activity of more than two people to do the same task or duty. In language teaching, groupwork is “a learning activity which involves a small group of learners working together. The group may work on a single task or on different parts of a larger task. Tasks for group members are often selected by the members of the group” (Richards, J.C.; Platt, J., H. 1992). 1.1.2. Groupwork in language teaching When the Communicative Language Teaching Approach was applied widely in many countries in teaching foreign languages, groupwork became very important and necessary in developing language skills for learners. Groupwork was used in teaching four language skills (speaking, listening, reading, and writing), not just in speaking skill. According to Gower (1995) groupwork had a place in most types of lessons so every opportunity should be taken for students to talk to each other in groups such as when asking about unknown words, comparing their answers to tasks, correcting each other’s work as well as information gap activities, discussions and games; etc. Groupwork in teaching writing When teaching writing a teacher can exploit groupwork whenever he/she wants his/her students to practice speaking skill. ‘… groupwork can involve brainstorming, writing and editing’ (Oshima and Huge, 1991). Students can brainstorming a topic in groups; write their writing assignments in groups or edit their writing assignments in groups. Teaching writing essays in class in three stages (pre-writing, while-writing and post-writing) groupwork is often used in the first and the last stages. The second stage (while-writing) is often carried out individually. During group work students can share their ideas about the given topic. Groupwork also helps them get more information and ideas from others for their own essays in pre-writing stage. In post-writing they also work in groups when they exchange their essays for peer’s correction or comments. Students can learn some new words or grammar items from others in groupwork. 1.2. GROUPWORK AS AN INTERACTIVE ACTIVITY IN CLASS 1.2.1. Advantages and problems of groupwork ‘Groupwork is so much a part of our everyday teaching routine that we hardly pause to think before partitioning the class to tackle some particular communicative task. Groupwork came into the standard EFL teaching repertoire with communicative methodologies in the 1970s. (Simon Andrewes, president of Granada English Teachers' Association). According to Andrewes groupwork brings to the language teacher many advantages: - Groupwork made it possible for the teacher to devote more time to the students' oral production, which perhaps before had not been a priority of the foreign language classroom. - Less confident students get the chance to put their knowledge of the new language into practice in a non-threatening environment, away from the critical eye and ear of the teacher. - Instead of being dependent on the teacher, students get used to helping and learning from each other. - The teacher is left free to discreetly monitor progress and give help, advice and encouragement where and when it is needed. Sharing some similar advantages of groupwork with Andrewes, Gower (1995) also added some more useful points of groupwork (and pairwork also): - Giving the students more valuable talking time. It gives them more of the time they require to practice the language than is possible when the teacher is dealing with the class as a whole. - Encouraging rapport between students. - Enabling students to invest much more of themselves in the lesson - Providing a change in pace. - Adding variety to a lesson. On the other hand, groupwork also had some disadvantages for a foreign language teacher. Michael J. Wallace (1998) pointed out some aspects of groupwork that might bother a language teacher: - composition of group - personality clashes within groups - use of mother tongue in groups - dynamic of group (how the individuals within a groupwork together?) - issue of group leadership - effectiveness of group work - selection of the best materials for groupwork ( or topics for discussion) - effect of different tasks on groupwork. Like any kind of praxis, groupwork can lose its meaning if it is handled in an automatic and unthinking way: - The topic is boring or out of students' knowledge to discuss. - The levels of students are not the same and this leads to the unequal participation in group work, that is, only good students discuss actively. - Some language problems prevent students from groupwork such as: inability to express their own ideas because of poor vocabulary related to the topic, poor grammar knowledge, bad pronunciation,... - Some personal problems such as: shyness (some students do not want to speak in front of others because they are afraid of making mistakes and other students may laugh at him or her), health problems (illnesses, tiredness, stress) , and bad relationship with other group member (conflicts, quarrels). There are many advantages of groupwork but there are some problems that require a teacher to solve. The two main threats to the success of groupwork in language learning are unequal participation and inactive participation. The teacher should find out the best ways to exploit the advantages of groupwork and the solutions to eliminate its problems. Some implications for language teachers. To solve the problem "inactive participation", Alfred, a secondary school English teacher mentioned in the article "Helping teacher to conduct action research in their classroom" written by Tsui (1993), rearranged the seats so that inactive students sat next to an active student, to encourage good pair or groupwork. He tried to give inactive ones the chance to speak but acknowledge the enthusiasm of the volunteers at the same times. He also avoided competition in class since the winner was likely to be an active student. Davies (2000) mentioned the difficulties and risks associated with groupwork (also with pairwork): - the learners may be confused about the tasks and not do it properly. - the noise level may rise (though seldom more than in choral repetition) - the learners may start talking about whatever they like in L1 - the learners may make and repeat many errors - you may not be able to get the learners' attention again and lose control of the class. He said that teachers couldn't avoid these potential problems by careful preparation and organization, and by progressively training the learners to participate fully and effectively. If these things were done, the advantages of groupwork (and pairwork) far outweighed the drawbacks. In his opinion, groupwork (and pair work) provided: - Variety and dynamism - An enormous increase in individual practice - Low-stress private practice - Opportunities to develop learner autonomy - Interaction with peers. Davies (2000) also introduces other techniques and strategies that can make groupwork (and pairwork) trouble-free and profitable: - Give clear instructions followed by a demonstration and a comprehension check. - Monitor the activity: move among the groups (and the pairs) as quickly as possible, listening for major problems and helping the learners when necessary. Your 'ubiquitous presence' will deter the learners from using their L1. - Train the learners to stop talking when you give a certain signal. - Check on the task after groups (and pairs) have completed. - After the groupwork (and pairwork), deal with major errors you noted. "Often it is a good idea to appoint one student in each group as "secretary" - writing out the answers or taking notes to report back to the whole group. Groupwork must always be followed by a general class activity when the results of the groupwork are reported to the whole group, and commented on by the teacher "(Michael, J Wallace, 1985). Gower (1995) also suggested that a teacher should pay more attention to the ways to put the students into groups (or pairs). The teacher needed to decide whether he wanted the groups to be random, ‘streamed’ according to level, or a mixture of weak and strong, talkative and quiet. Did he want to let students choose who to work with? Did he want them to work in the same groups everyday or in different groups each time? All of those were up to the teacher himself. SUMMARY Chapter 3 has reviewed some theoretical issues of using groupwork in language teaching in general and in teaching writing in particular. the definitions of groupwork, the uses of groupwork in language teaching and in teaching writing, its advantages and problems have been elaborated. Also, some implications for language teachers were mentioned. . ACTION RESEARCH PROCEDURE 1. PRE-IMPROVEMENT STAGE STEP 1: IDENTIFYING THE PROBLEM 1. IDENTIFYING THE PROBLEM The action research was carried out to solve following problem: “Students’ inactiveness in pre-writing group discussion of an essay- writing practice lesson at Hong Duc University” 2. OBSERVING A LESSON THAT ILLUSTRATED THE PROBLEM Three volunteer students from other classes were asked to observe six groups which were formed randomly (students at two or three nearest desks made up a group) in a class. The observers just focused on the turns of speaking of each student in a group. The number of students’ turns of speaking in a group was counted and recorded. The code number of students who did not participate in groupwork or spoke Vietnamese during groupwork was recorded. A. BRIEF DESCRITION OF THE LESSON 1. Topic for writing essay: “Tertiary education is the key to a successful career”. Do you agree or disagree? 2. Time allowance: 10 minutes (3 minutes for brainstorming and 7 minutes for group discussion) The criteria of evaluating each student’s activeness in groupwork based on the number of turns of speaking in groupwork : Active (over 2 times), Inactive ( 1 time or no participation). 3.Total number of students was observed: 36 4. Total number of groups was observed: 06 B. THE RESULTS OF PRE-IMPROVEMENT CLASS OBSERVATION TABLE 02: Students’ turns of speaking in six groups Ordinal number Group Total number of students 0-1 (turns of speaking) Over 2 (turns of speaking) 01 Group 1 06 03 03 02 Group 2 06 04 02 03 Group 3 06 03 03 04 Group 4 06 04 02 05 Group 5 06 04 02 06 Group 6 06 03 03 Total: 06 36 21 15 Table 02 showed that there were 21 inactive students (made up about 58.33%) who spoke once or did not speak anything in gr

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