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A Process Genre Approach to Writing
Transactional Letters
By James Frith
- 5

Lesson Plan

Preliminary Information

Level: Upper-Intermediate

Class Profile: The class consists of 3 male and 5 female students who live in Madrid. Some have been coming to English classes twice a week in the evenings for 3 hours each time since October. Some members of the class plan to take the First Certificate in English examination in December. Others are taking the course purely for personal or professional reasons. Most of the students prefer to learn through games and communicative activities and it is particularly important for this group that lessons are paced appropriately. Sandra is a Colombian who misses many classes due to her other studies. She is also has problems with retention and is finding herself increasingly out of her depth as the course continues. All of the other students are Spanish. Patricia is a very strong, very motivated student, largely due to her interest in British culture. As a scientist, she has a logical mind which accounts for her superb grasp of grammatical concepts. Unfortunately, however, she is reluctant to confine her numerous useful contributions to L2 and has problems with listening activities. Her writing is fluent but often too informal in style. Paloma is a strong, conscientious student who travels around Europe with her work and as such is often absent, but has a excellent level of spoken fluency. Graciela is a weaker student (particularly in terms of listening and hence pronunciation) whose confidence is growing in proportion to her interlanguage. She puts in a lot of effort outside the classroom and her writing has improved enormously throughout the year. Santiago is orally fluent and prefers fluency work to language systems work. He is older than the others and has retention problems. Lucia is a highly motivated fluent speaker who takes a great deal of interest in accuracy too. Possibly the strongest all-round student in the group and her written work supports this although she has problems with the correct use of logical connectives. Antonio Manuel is an eager new student who seems to be lacking in vocabulary but not in effort. His writing lacks logical progression. Antonio has made steady progress throughout the course. He tends to work hard in the background. Although quiet, he has no problem in expressing himself when required. His writing lacks focus and organisation.

Timetable Fit: This lesson follows on from the one discussed in the lesson rationale and within the larger frame of a writing syllabus which is preparing some of the students for the FCE examination. Prior to the stages in the lesson plan, I will have stated the aims of the class and reasons for these aims in relation to the session discussed below. The students will then have selected an institution or organisation to write to in order to request information. This will have been chosen in groups after having looked at a wide choice of options. They will have then generated ideas for the letter individually through a quickwriting activity.

After the observed part of the class, the students will look at the sample texts from the genres again and this time the focus will be on logical progression of ideas. They will see the texts without logical connectives and try to work out the relationship between clauses, before deciding which connective might fit into the text, and then comparing with the original. This will produce a very limited number of simple, commonly used connectives of the four main types (addition, order, contrast, cause/effect) for the students to use where communication breaks down in the texts they will have just written together. We will then elicit criteria by which they can judge each other’s work. After providing positive and negative feedback, there will be a revision stage and one student from each group will be asked to type the letter up at home. The replies that we will (hopefully!) receive can be used at a later date to study the genre of letters offering information.

A brief summary of the lesson then, is:

  1. ‘Test’ students’ awareness of stylistic appropriacy and layout and discourse structure in the genre
  2. Raise awareness of discourse structure and layout through model texts (genre analysis)
  3. Elicit techniques to effect stylistic appropriacy using recording as stimulus
  4. Raise further awareness of techniques (genre analysis)
  5. Raise awareness of the importance of a planning stage through practice
  6. Students produce first draft

Main aims:
i)To raise awareness of the benefits of a planning s tage in writing (stage 5)

ii)To guide students to consider audience and appropriate style in written work (stage 1, 3, 4 &6)

Subsidiary aims:
i)To raise awareness of how style can be effected linguistically and to provide opportunity for controlled and freer practice in this area (stages 3, 4 & 6)

ii)To raise awareness of discourse structure and layout in a letter of request and to provide opportunity to practice its reproduction in the students’ own writing (Stages 2, 5 & 6)

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