“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.” – Robert Frost
English is used in the world as a lingua franca among people from different cultures, ethnicities, and social backgrounds across the world. As a teacher, guiding students to write effectively, being the major component in teaching English, has always been a herculean and challenging task for me.
Thankfully, there are a plethora of ideas, activities, and tools which can be adopted to improve children’s writing skills. Creating a blended learning environment to teach languages online, often involves utilizing various tools and pedagogical approaches. Teaching online has its own set of challenges and hurdles but with the easily accessible technology, for me, as an English language teacher, it has turned out to be an effortless task. However, using these applications can create technical, administrative, and pedagogical challenges unless the right application is used and the right culture is created in the online classes for students, especially skills that require writing.
Prior to this pandemic, my classroom teaching involved direct teaching, guiding, and encouraging writing skills with the add-ons like Powerpoint presentations and Youtube videos, which played a secondary role in encouraging writing. But during this extraordinary situation of virtual schooling, and the uncertainty looming with regard to offline classes, all these technological sources became the primary source and not just add-ons.
One of the best ways to help children strengthen their English writing is to ensure that they master the art of reading as it is the stepping stone to better writing. Since time immemorial, this is one fruitful skill, which is used in classes across the sphere. Inspired by this. I have been using this technique in my regular classes not only to instill a habit of reading but also to enhance their visual as well as auditory senses and concentrate on the pronunciations, punctuations, literary elements, and devices to increase their ability to understand and reproduce them when penning down their writing assignments.
As online classes are in full swing, using the break-out rooms to have small discussions, supporting peer-review, and giving feedback on their writing skills is another tool which I make use of, to develop confidence and avoid anxiety in children when they are putting words on the paper.
Over and above, introducing new words to build vocabulary, encouraging letter writing, which has become a bit of a lost art, journaling, creating story prompts, stressing the importance of clear, thoughtful writing, assigning brief writing exercises, classroom writing competitions, allowing learner autonomy so as to help students identify the common errors and rectify them and last but not the least is to making writing fun is what I always adopt in my teaching of this language.
Applying and incorporating innovative writing tools and collaborating with other faculty members to integrate and to make writing more effective in their subjects, is an innovative technique which we use in Ekya Byrathi, encouraged by our HOS, so as to build and boost the skill of writing in varied subjects and topics.
We, as adults, and teachers can write to explain and elaborate our ideas through our writing, to the world out there. But a student can take years to develop that skill and it is my earnest desire and aim to help them progress and succeed in this language. Writing is a fine skill and it is an apprehended state of education.
I believe that my students are my vital assets, wanting and waiting to be challenged and encouraged in this online journey. Enabling and equipping them using this online forum to the best of my ability, is my goal.
Students, on the other hand, during the classes are a great help in guiding me when I get stuck and helping me handle any technological hitch that I face. This role reversal does enhance my own learning skills of this virtual world and this also becomes a source of good communication and vocabulary for the students, which boosts my enthusiasm and theirs as well. As the quote goes ‘ A teacher is always a learner’ is so relevant, more so in my case, as it took me a few months to learn and appreciate this virtual teaching and learning.
It is my commitment to teach, advise and apprise students that, it is only when one learns to write, they can fix their official signature. Numerous teaching and learning skills are out there to grasp and there are many that I have to master, but my journey of learning will never cease. Finally, as an English teacher, I can never call it a day as I will continue to learn, develop and motivate myself to impart the writing and reading skills of this amazing language and develop the skill and love for writing in students.
By, Virginia Isaac, IGCSE and Middle School English teacher, Ekya Byrathi