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A Process Approach to Writing
by Adam Simpson
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3. Implications for Teaching

Some of the difficulties that are associated with writing in language classes stem from the nature of writing itself. According to Hadfield and Hadfield (1990), Writing can be considered to be an 'artificial' activity when compared to speaking, in that everyone learns to speak and to listen, whereas far fewer people develop literacy, i.e. are able to read and write(1) . Consequently, writing should be something that is nurtured and developed in the language classroom, resulting in the difficulties experienced by learners being comprehended and dealt with. I have tried to achieve this by understanding the problems that learners experience and employing techniques to overcome them.

3.1 Problems for the Learner

Hadfield and Hadfield (1990) note three areas of difficulty for the learner in relation to the productive skills of writing and speaking, namely psychological, linguistic and cognitive(2) difficulties. Each of these will be considered in turn(3) .

3.1.1 Psychological Difficulties

Firstly, the writer cannot consult the reader; the audience is not immediately present as is the case with speaking. The psychological difficulty therefore lies in deciding what information the reader needs and the best way to express this. This difficulty manifests itself in the prewriting stage, when some learners may be unwilling or unable to produce ideas that will work towards the construction of a piece of writing. In order to overcome these difficulties, the teacher must employ certain strategies to elicit the necessary input.


3.1.2 Linguistic Difficulties

Secondly, learners suffer from linguistic difficulty, in that the language used when speaking is not the same as that used in speech. In some cases it is simpler (e.g. shopping lists), in others it is more elaborate and formal (e.g. academic essays). Native speakers not only know an elaborate network of conventions but also know how and when to legitimately 'break the rules'. This problem is evident in learners who are unaware of the discourse patterns inherent in certain types of writing(4) .

3.1.3 Cognitive Difficulties

Finally, there is cognitive difficulty. This relates to the necessity of learners to organise their thoughts on paper. This may be difficult in such circumstances as an essay given as homework, for which the purpose is not immediately apparent, and the piece of writing is not being done for any personal reasons.

1.Hadfield & Hadfield, (1990), p.5.
2.Ibid.
3.Methods for overcoming these problems will be discussed in section 6.
4. Examples being comparison/contrast essays or argumentative essays.

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