By Yerni Miss Endang Polly
How do you teach English language skills (listening, speaking, reading, and writing) in your class? Integrated, right? The fact that rarely a language skill is taught separately, but integrated with one or more language skills, for example reading and writing, should be taken into the teacher’s best consideration. One of the ways to integrate reading and writing is through exploratory writing as discussed by Vacca and Vacca (1999:263) in the summary below.
Exploratory writing refers to a first draft writing in which the students start to explore ideas and concepts in order to get as many information as possible about what they know and connect it to the reading text. It can be given before or after reading. The following is 4 kinds of exploratory writing that can be used to connect reading and writing.
- Unsent Letters
This is one of the writing activities that students can do after being exposed to a reading material. The teacher invites the students to write unsent letters to a particular audience. For example, after learning about nuclear war, students are asked to write unsent letters to the president as a response to that topic. Through this way, students learn to develop imaginative, interpretative, and evaluative thinking related to the reading text.
Asking students to write biopoems can be another alternative to foster their writing skills. This time they are required to use precise language as a reflection of their mastery on the materials they have learned. The strategy must be introduced and students learn to synthesize their mastery on the topic whether it is about a person, place, thing, concept, or event in the form of a biopoem.
After the reading activity, students may be required to improve their writing skill by writing dialogues which contain an exchange of roles between two or more people or characters in the text. After that, they may role-play the conversation in front of the classroom, while the teacher examines their pronunciation, sentence structure, and grammar usage. This activity requires that students learn to think about conflicts and how to solve that conflict.
4. Admit Slips and Exit Slips
These two activities contain the students’ brief comments about a certain topic. The teacher invites the students to react to what they are going to study or what they have studied in the form of anonymous writing. If it is used as a way of beginning the classroom discussion, it is called admit slips, and if it is used as a way of bringing closure to what was learned, it is called exit slips. The purpose is to build relationship between the teacher and the students and construct a sense of community in the classroom. Through these ways, the teacher is able to recognize the difficulties that students encounter and provide direction to the next activity.
About unsent letters, what if students are not writing seriously as their writing would not be sent, or at least known/read by other people? One of the solutions is to read the letters inside the class to get responses from the teacher or other classmates. Another solution is to let them display their letters on the bulletin board for other people to read. Please, add more alternatives to this list based on your experience.
And biopoems, I love this idea. But I think the students should be equipped with knowledge on how to write a biopoem in advance. I can’t wait to try it.
As for dialogue writing, it is a common practice. I did it too, but the idea to make it a post-reading activity is interesting. What do you think?
And oh, anonymous writing. Well, giving comments about the reading text is common, but anonymous writing is a good new idea (which one: a good new idea or a new good idea?) for me, as the students can be honest about their ability and expectations, and yes, we can make things better together without them being shy or even guilty with their expressions.
What is your experience? Are you interested in this, or do you have your own ways to connect reading and writing?
Vacca, Richard T. and Jo Anne L. Vacca. (1999). Content Area Reading. New York: Addison-Wesley Educational Publishers Inc.