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Use of a Process-Writing inspired approach to prepare and motivate students to write a discursive composition, with particular attention to generating, selecting, ordering and organising ideas: effective use of linking devices: and paragraph planning - by Nicola Holmes

Lesson Plan to accompany the article - 2

Aims of the Lesson:

1. To familiarise students with a set of linkers of addition, concession, cause/effect and conclusion, and encourage them to begin to use these linkers in their writing.
2. To prepare and motivate students to write a discursive composition, with particular attention to generating, selecting, ordering and organising ideas, and paragraph planning.

Assumed Knowledge

I am assuming that the students will be familiar with most of the vocabulary that comes up, especially in the warmer and gapped sentences, and that they may also already be familiar with some of the linkers, although I do not consider the latter to be essential to the success of the lesson.

I am hoping that the students will be interested in the main topic of materialism and also in the topic of Christmas, which comes up in the warmer.

I imagine that some students will have written similar compositions in Spanish at some time in the past and will have some ideas of possible conventions of layout and paragraphing for discursive essays, although, again, this is not essential to the success of the lesson.

Anticipated Problems and Solutions

This lesson is an adapted and considerably edited version of an earlier plan, which I tried out with another class at the same level. However, I am still concerned that some students may feel overloaded with text in this lesson. I have tried to compensate for this by keeping the topics discussed as simple as possible and by recycling as much vocabulary as possible from previous lessons. I have also cut down on the number of handouts originally planned and have deliberately chosen not to give the students Yvonne's full email to read themselves until the end of the lesson.

I have also been concerned about overloading my students with linkers, and have consequently cut down on the number to be covered and deliberately included the gapped sentences as controlled practice before asking the students to use the linkers more freely. I do not expect each student to use all of the linkers in the free practice at this stage, but hope that it will serve as an initial awareness-raising and familiarisation exercise, where students will see how linkers can help them to express their opinions and argue a point more effectively.

The free practice activity may also seem slightly unnatural, given our tendency to use linking devices more in written English than in spoken English, but I hope to draw the students' attention to the role of linking devices in the more formal medium of debate, and, as mentioned above, their usefulness in arguing a point clearly and effectively.

I am also concerned that the e-mail from Yvonne will seem too contrived and obviously set up by me. I am hoping that any possible impressions of this nature will be outweighed by the prospect to the students of having a real native speaker audience for and response to their ideas. I am also hoping that by showing the students the photographs of Yvonne, they will be further aware of her and her students as real people and real readers of their writing.

Some students may question whether the medium of discursive composition is really the best way of presenting ideas to 15-16-year olds. I will acknowledge any different ideas on this, but will stress the academic context in which their ideas will be received and responded to.

The students may have problems with the meaning of the linkers themselves, as well as with the analysis of their use. I have tired to simplify the terminology used in the analysis stage, speaking simply of a 'noun' rather than a 'noun phrase' and a 'sentence' rather than a 'clause'. I have also attempted to guide them more in their analysis, by underlining the verbs and nouns which follow the linkers in the initial handout to enable them to make connections more easily and more quickly.

Some students may feel a need for a Spanish translation for some of the linkers. I hope to get round this by describing them simply as approximate alternatives for 'and/also', 'but' and 'because of', but I may tolerate a degree of translation amongst students if it clears up any slight confusions more efficiently.

There may be problems with the more subtle facets of the linkers' use, particularly with the distinction between the use of 'however' and 'although'. I will deal with such problems as and when they arise, whilst tying to avoid too much detail at this stage. (This is something which can be focused on more at the later drafting and redrafting stages.)

I often have problems with the late arrival of students, which could make my warmer longer. However, I have explained to the students that this class will be observed and asked them to arrive on time if possible. Some students have also expressed a dislike of walking around the room, but I feel that this is a valid activity to warm students up and vary the pace in the class, the main reason given for an objection to this was that students felt they didn't have enough time to think before speaking. I am hoping that by keeping the opinions used in the warmer fairly simple, interesting, topical and linked, this should not pose too much of a problem on this occasion.

There could alsobe a problem with some pairs working together on the planning tasks, particularly where there is a mixture of weak and strong students., I will try to ensure that the final pairings are well-balanced and that Jesus in particular is matched with another strong student.

Finally, I have tried to be as realistic as possible with my timings and tried to keep the tasks as simple and clear as possible, so as to keep the pace moving throughout the class. However, I may need to adapt my plan slightly if areas of difficulty crop up, particularly where the linkers are concerned.

Materials

-Cut up opinions about Christmas, stuck around the classroom

-Handout of above opinions with questions about the meaning and use of six linkers of concession, addition and cause/effect.

-Handout of sentences with gaps for controlled practice of linkers.

-Picture of my friend Yvonne and copies of her email with essay title highlighted.

- Basic spidergram handouts

- One set of cut-out linkers per student.

- Worksheet for essay planning

To part 3 of the lesson plan

To Nicola's article

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