Models and samples as a resource for writing
by Greg Gobel
Learners may not approach a particular genre in the same way in their LI. For example, writing SMS text messages on mobile phones is a rather new genre with a distinct style of shortening and informality reflecting the limited space per message and spoken language. Even when shortening and informality are aspects of messaging done in a learner’s Ll (for example, Spanish or Czech text messaging), it is unfair to expect a learner to know that ‘btw c u b4 nx cls’ means, ‘By the way, I’ll see you before my next class.’ In a recent advanced class, my learners were both motivated by and appreciative of the authentic models that I showed them from my mobile phone before asking them to attempt some. They reported they would not have been able to do the task as successfully without that help. Asking learners to write a text message first, and only then to compare it with authentic ones, as suggested by the process writing approach, might unnecessarily frustrate learners when they see how different their attempt and the authentic one are.
Learners may not have a particular genre in their LI. For example, Czechs do not write thank you letters/notes’ to each other. They are surprised to hear that many people whose LI is English do. A model here would help learners gain an appreciation for the genre, and Thirly introduce them to what they may be expected to write in real life.
Utilizing models allows and encourages learners to investigate genres that differ or do not exist in their LI and thereby more realistically enables them to succeed. Expecting learners to write, or even to prepare to write, what they do not have a concept of seems both unrealistic and unfair.
Models and samples can help inform learners about text types they will be expected to produce on proficiency examinations, including UCLES examinations, IELTS, and TOEFL. Learners oflert pay for courses specially designed to prepare them for these. Models are extremely valuable resources for examination preparation because they specifically identify the examination expectations in which ‘[s]uccess usually requires completing the tasks set with accurate granunar, spelling, and punctuation; adequate vocabulaty; suitable layout and clear handwriting; cohesion within the text and a style appropriate to the context’ (May, 1996:61). Learners need to develop strategies and an ability to quickly and effectively write many genres for these exams. I have noticed that published exanThntion preparation material typically includes varying forms of models to help learners prepare for examinations. One modem coursebook exploiting models and samples is Advanced Gold (CAE preparation). ‘Many writing sections focus on the analysis of sample answers or texts of the same type.’ (Burgess, 2001:5) Not using models of examination tasks would be a disservice to learners on these courses.
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