THE “BIGGEST SECRET” OF COACHING RELUCTANT ESL LEARNERS TO WRITE ESSAYS
Do you have learners who refuse to write essays and simply claim they just do not know what to write? Have you been getting blank papers or essays with only three lines in length? Do you have learners who keep on telling you they have some ideas but they just do not know how to express them in English? Have you at least once admitted or said something like this “I don’t know what else to do…they just do not want to write essays”? Well, if you give three or four “YESes”, do not worry as you are not alone; what you have been experiencing are quite common.
No doubt, some learners are extremely reluctant but this gloomy reality does not give us an excuse to stop trying or to surrender and do nothing. Their reluctance to even attempt to write does not provide English teachers with a reason to make this claim, “There is nothing that can be done with the students in that class”.
All the ESL teachers have to do is to stay positive and keep on exploring the ways and strategies to develop their confidence to write. The central idea is to be perseverant. That is my “biggest secret” so far. Of course, I am fully aware everybody knows perseverance is the key to success. Personally, I always believe that with perseverance, ESL teachers can help the reluctant learners to write.
I wish to share my story dealing with a reluctant writer. One of my Form 5 classes is 5M3. I also taught the class when the learners were in Form 4. Generally, they are weak ESL learners; only 4/25 of them passed the PT3 English. Most of them have never passed English in various school-based and public examinations. When they were in Form 4, I introduced to them my strategies to develop weak learners’ confidence to write – Kona and Goreng (already shared in the previous write ups). Frankly speaking, the strategies have been working well; I know because I have been implementing the strategies for years. However, Kona and Goreng failed to change some of my very reluctant learners. Did I give up? Surely, no! In June 2018, I developed another strategy named Q-SCOPE to support Kona and Goreng. Q-SCOPE (already shared in the previous write up) was implemented throughout July 2018 and after three weeks, I did a post test.
Surprisingly, a boy named Faris (not his real name – he has only been submitting a blank paper for Continuous Writing since the first examination in March 2017) did write more than a page! Only after teaching, coaching and motivating him for 1 year and 7 months, he wrote an essay! Of course, it has not been easy to deal with Faris. He is not only weak but gives little commitment in his studies. Most of the time, he sleeps in other classes too as he works part-time at night at a food stall. The stall closes at 2.30 a.m. and he only goes to bed at about 3.30 a.m.
Here is the essay written by Faris in the post test in July 2018.
[Please ignore the high incidence of language errors and the high mark which I gave him. It is done with a purpose]
What are my points here? Of course, firstly, perseverance is stubbornness with a purpose. Through perseverance, we the ESL teachers can achieve success out of what seems destined to be a certain failure. Next, perseverance is the hard work that we do after we get tired of doing the hard work which we already did.
I have some other sample essays to show improvements in terms of length and language quality. You can read those essays below. You can compare their essays written when they were in Form 4 (pre-test essays) and the ones after these writing strategies were implemented – Kona, Goreng and Q-SCOPE.
To conclude, I wish to highlight here that what I have shared here is not to claim I am much better than you. No!!! My intention is merely to convey a few truths about perseverance; “my biggest secret” to succeed:
Truth 1: Perseverance is the secret of all triumphs.
Truth 2: Great works are performed not by strength but by perseverance
Truth 3: Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after the other.
Truth 4: With ordinary talent and extraordinary perseverance, all things are attainable
Truth 5: Great things come from perseverance. No excuses.
Teachers, we do not have to be a super hero. We can just be an ordinary teacher who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles. Trust me, in carrying out our responsibilities as English teachers, there will always be obstacles. They will always be doubters. Surely, we will make mistakes. However, with hard work and our perseverance, we will succeed! In shaa Allah.
[Note: Two more essays which show progress and improvements after my ongoing efforts to implement three writing strategies for weak and reluctant learners; Kona, Goreng and Q-SCOPE]
Pre-test essay by Izwin
(The continuous essay does not fulfill the required length, ideas are not developed and errors are very evident]
Post-test essay by Izwin
(The continuous essay fulfills the required length, ideas are fairly well developed and there are some error-free sentences]
Pre-test essay by Faiz
(The continuous essay does not fulfill the required length, ideas are not developed and there are errors in every sentence]
Post-test essay by Faiz
(The continuous essay is much longer, ideas are fairly developed and there are patches of accurate structures despite having frequent serious errors]