DEVELOPING LANGUAGE ACCURACY IN ESL WRITING: Part 1 (DIVER FORMS)
Even the native speakers of English have never mastered writing skills. Therefore, the ability to express ideas accurately and coherently in the second or foreign language writing is truly a major challenge for the non-native speakers of English (Celce-Mucia, 2001). Campbell (1998) also highlights the complexity of writing and the intricacy of teaching writing. Kroll (2001) posits that teaching EFL students to become successful writers is a complex task and her view is echoed by the majority of Malaysian teachers as writing is always regarded as the skill most students are least proficient in (Chitravelu et al., 2005).
One of the main concerns is learners' language accuracy in their piece of written product. This is crucial especially among the potential A and B candidates, be it in the PT3 or SPM examination. No doubt, there are various ways of improving learner's language accuracy. I believe all teachers do not want to see frequent serious errors in their learners' essays and they do have their own strategies to reduce errors.
I would like to share mine; DIVER FORMS, which stands for Different Verb Forms. This innovative strategy was developed in 2010 when I was teaching in SMK Kulim, Kulim, Kedah. The ETR or KPI there was high as the learners came in with 4As and 1B (UPSR). We had to produce 100% passes, with at least 50% scored an A in both public examinations. DIVER FORMS was designed and implemented in all forms - from Form 1 until Form 5. There are 20 practices for each form. In each practice, there are 6 different verbs. Teachers are required to complete as many practices as possible - if possible all. Why does it involve all forms? I think you know the answer. Should the PT3 and SPM teachers struggle alone? Of course, no! Most importantly, developing language accuracy takes time. There must be collaborative, ongoing and systematic efforts by all panel members to reduce errors among the learners. If you are keen to know more, please click this for the lists of verbs in DIVER FORMS.
Why do I focus on verbs? Well, every sentence that is written in any essay must have at least a verb. It is also a known fact that many learners, even though they score an A in their UPSR English, still have serious problems with verbs. They are still confused with the basic tenses such as simple present, simple past, continuous tense, perfect tense and passive verbs. Moreover, they also have serious problems with subject verb agreement in their essays.
Some tips for teachers to reduce marking workload when implementing DIVERS FORMS:
1. Revise the basic grammar rules on the selected tenses thoroughly. Refer to the notes given.
2. Practices 1 - 5: Learners construct sentences individually and then the teacher selects some wrong sentences. Ask the learners to write them on the whiteboard. Other learners copy the inaccurate sentences on the whiteboard. Later, each wrong sentence is discussed. Errors are corrected by the teacher using a red marker. During the discussion, learners also mark the corrections in their exercise books using a red pen. Each correction is justified.
3. Practices 6-10: Learners construct sentences individually and then the teacher selects some wrong sentences. Ask the learners to write them on the whiteboard. Other learners copy the inaccurate sentences on the whiteboard. Later, students attempt to correct each error on their own - in groups. Each correction is justified. Then, the teacher asks the learners to share their corrected version of the sentences and the justifications of their corrections.
4. Practices 11-15: Learners construct sentences individually. At this stage, errors should have reduced because learners should have a better understanding of how to use the different types of verbs. Later, they are paired to do peer correction. They may discuss the errors and how to correct them with another pair if necessary. They are encouraged to consult any second pair for corrections if necessary. The point here, learners must attempt to identify and correct errors on the own. Referring to the teacher is not the first and immediate choice.
5. Practices 16-20: Learners construct sentences on their. At this stage, errors should have reduced more because learners should have a much better understanding of the different types of verbs. Learners are encouraged to identify and correct errors on their own. Then, the exercise books are submitted and teachers must mark each sentence. Remember, marking each sentence should not be done at the early stage! There will be too many errors for you to mark! Unless, you don't mind non-stop marking. I mind.
Happy exploring DIVER FORMS! All the best to you!
Campbell, C. 1998. Teaching Second-Language Writing – Interacting with Text. Toronto:
Heinle & Heinle Publishers
Celcia-Murcia, M. 2001. Language Teaching Approaches: An Overview. In Celce-Murcia, M.
(Ed.). 2001. Teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language 3rd Edition. Boston:
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Chitravelu, N. Et al. (2005). ELT Methodology: Principles and Practice 2nd Edition. Shah
Alam: Oxford Fajar Sdn. Bhd.
Kroll, B. 2001. Considerations for Teaching an ESL / EFL Writing Course. In Celce-Murcia,
M. (Ed.). 2001. Teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language 3rd Edition. Boston:
Heinle & Heinle