Teaching Young Learners – Writing Activities

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(924 words)

For this writing task, I was asked to give my response to 5 statements about writing activities to support young learners to improve their writing and learn a language. I will answer True or False to statements 1- 5 and explain why.

1. Writing should be developed in isolation from other skillls.

Is this True or False?

2. We should not restrict the age at when children begin to write.

Is this True or False?

3. Handwriting and spelling are only part of the process of writing.

Is this True or False?

4. Attention should be paid to developing good habits in alphabet letter formation.

Is this True or False?

5. Using joined-up writing may help develop the learning of the common letter strings found in English.

Is this True or False?

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Analysis of ‘A single mum’s Xmas tale’ by Nick Morgan

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(670 words)

In the following piece of writing, I will be explaining the way the writer, Nick Morgan, uses the story of a single mother to highlight what can be the quandary of lone parenting. Ann, now a single mum, is presented as declassed in the world having worked as a secretary and been in a relationship. The reader is to empathise with the single mum being in a predicament where she appears pretty helpless.

The writer starts by telling us of Ann with her ‘pale face weary’. This is the first sentence and the reader immediately conjures up an image of this young woman experiencing difficulties in her life and feeling depressed and tired. It expresses life is a hard struggle for this lady. The ‘old broken guitar with a broken string’ in the corner of the room may be a metaphor for her present situation. She has a casual approach of not looking forward to Christmas albeit resigned to an unexciting one. She is almost excepting she cannot see anyone because she has no money and is a one-parent family. She says it feels like ‘charity’ for her friends to take her out.  She cannot ‘swallow her pride’. The writer is trying to emphasise to us that she has become a victim of her situation. This is further underlined by her ‘reluctant’ manner and the feeling she would ‘be the odd one out’ with her relatives. The haggard image of her is telling.

With James, the little son, the reader is invited to feel the boy is an innocent party to his mother’s situation. With his ‘golden curls’ playing around and reading books, he is shown as a bright little boy although the reader gets the feeling that he is suffering too from his mum’s position. The boy can sometimes be ‘quick-tempered’ and ‘unsettled’ the mother says. The writer tries to make the reader comprehend their predicament where this boy is stuck indoors with his mother all the time with nothing really to do except play with his book to which she says ‘though, it’s not one of mine’. The reader senses she cannot afford anything special for him because of her somewhat desperate position. Obviously, she cannot leave but she feels ‘like I just want to get out’.

As if the mother’s plight was not tough enough, there is the fact it is Christmas. At Christmas, there are plenty of images and adverts of a time of plenty, happy families, and warm decorated houses. Here the writer uses this emotive subject to contrast the mother’s family to others’ experience of Christmas. She is ‘reluctant’ to see her family. Ann’s feeling is that everyone in the family seems ‘sorted’ and it is her, single, ‘on her own again – the odd one out’ which unfortunately only compounds her difficulty at the festive time.

The reader is shown that money is Ann’s main worry. The writer comments on Government policy with ‘it could get worse ‘. The reader is already told of the mother’s financial predicament regarding clothes and toys for her son. James’ clothes are ‘handed down’. To be losing money on her benefit would ‘hit’ her. This conveys that Government policy is hammering the people already hardest hit. The writer points out that she can ‘provide the very basics’. The reader thinks about Government strategies and how they may fail to help women in these situations; reinforcing this impression with the phasing out of her ‘means tested ‘benefit. Ann does not ‘think about the future’.

The writer has made his case for us to sympathise with Ann and James and the situation of single parents. As we leave 2021, from skyrocketing petrol and gas bills to ever-increasing inflation and price increases, this year the UK is seeing a considerable increase in living costs. Single parents are often only just managing to scrape by and people like Ann remain on that financial ‘knife edge’.

Help Single Parents at Christmas. Gingerbread.org.uk provide information to help single parents support themselves and their family.

So, how does creative and continuous writing start?

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I am reading this great book called ‘Teacher’ written by Sylvia Ashton-Warner which highlights her teaching of Moari kids in New Zealand in the 1960s. The facts is, how do you teach kids who have different upbringings and only know one way of life? You teach them ‘organic teaching’. You bring their inner feelings and stories to the fore. I hope this passage below gives you an insight into how a teacher can get too attached to lesson plans and teaching books while forgetting the reality of the classroom with the students and their own history. The passage starts with Sylvia getting the students to write.

…..Yet there are times when one cannot start. He’s just plain not in the mood. You can’t always say an important thing because it is the time to say it. Sometimes he will say candidly, “I don’t want to write,” and that’s just what you get him to write: “I don’t want to write”. From there you ask, “Why?” and here comes an account of some grievance or objection which, after all, just as well as any other idea, delivers his mind of what is on it, practices his composition, and wraps him up in what is of interest to himself.

You never want to say that it’s good or bad. That’s got nothing to do with it. You’ve got no right at all to criticise the content of another’s mind. A child doesn’t make their own mind. It’s just there. Your job is to see what’s in it. Your allowable comment is one of natural interest in what they are writing. As in conversation. And I never mark their books in any way; never cross out anything beyond helping them to rub out a mistake, never put a tick or a stamp on it and never complain about bad writing. Do we complain about a friend’s writing in a story felt letter? The attention is on the content.

What I feel about their work has nothing to do with it. The thing is for them to write what is on their minds and if they do or do not accomplish that, it is you who are good or bad. From the teacher’s end, it boils down to whether or not she is a good conversationalist; whether or not she has the gift or the wisdom to listen to another; the ability to draw out and preserve that other’s line of thought. Which refers to the nature of the teacher. The best juniors I had on this work were the modest, self-effacing kind, while the worst of them was a very clever girl who was an insatiable talker and who in her personal life talked everyone else to pieces on the subject of herself (Ashton-Warner, 1963: 58).

(463 Words)

Looking at various examples, please examine how letter writing

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The purpose of this essay is to examine through examples how letter writing has changed over the past 20 years. This essay will start by highlighting letter writing and features about it which were common 20 years ago before the advent of the digital computer revolution. With the remarkable change of communication over the past 20 years comments will also be made on the distinctive features of what letter writing has arrived at which is digitally communicated electronic mail or abbreviated as ‘email’. Further mention of handwritten letters sent by post and emails electronically sent through computer networks will emphasize the differences. Within this transition from the almost archaic written form of letter writing to the innovative typed keyboard form, remarks will also be made to the positive and negative features of this letter writing transformation.   

Handwritten letters take a while to write. It is not that common to just write a short note and go all the way to the post office to post it. Letters are not just quick messages. It is a time to collect thoughts on what is needed to be written. The writer has to understand clearly who the recipient is and the type of letter they are going to write. There has to be careful thought to the tone and content of the letter. People are concerned with what they are saying when they write their letters.

20 years ago telephone calls were expensive and for people with pen friends, relatives abroad, and business contacts while not forgetting those smitten lovers, this was one of their only ways to express their thoughts and keep in touch. These letters were often detailed and long. Letter writing was a product of school. Students learned certain formal structures for letters. For example, a common formal letter written in the past had the recipient’s address which was in the top left-hand corner of the letter, and the sender’s address in the top right-hand corner while not forgetting the date below. This was followed by a space and then the use of ‘Dear’ on the opposite side of the page with the receiver’s name. Then another line was left which then had the first paragraph which was indented. Salutations were imperative, the use of ‘Dear’ plus the recipient’s name usually with Mr, Miss, Mrs, or Ms was the norm while not forgetting the closing remarks such as ‘yours faithfully’ or ‘yours sincerely’. All these little details were imperative thus sending and receiving letters by post had a positive impact because you knew that that person had taken time out and used their narrative abilities.

Furthermore, in the business world managers would write their letters and have their secretary type them up, then they would re-edit them again. This was a process that could take 2-3 days to get the letter into the post. These business letters also followed a format and were often stilted and too formal with long introductions. Much of the letter was usually filled up with superfluous sentences. Like business letters and in many other cases of letter writing 20 years ago, this way of writing was a literary vehicle that arguments, thoughts, ideas, and plans were laid out cursively on a blank sheet of paper for direct communication.

Nowadays, keeping in touch is far easier. People do not write letters of great length they drop people e-mails which are just short messages. The quickness and urgency to send information is more of an important aspect these days. Emails are extensions in many respects of conversations already had face to face or ongoing started through email messages. Emails are concise and written impromptu without the need to be formally edited. These days, no one wants a lengthy email that takes a while to read, particularly at work. For example, it is actually a courtesy in a business email to get to the point even to the extent of using imperatives such as ‘please send details’ instead of the over-polite ‘would it be possible if you could send’. There is a lack of officialdom of an email message. The sender’s and receiver’s email addresses are already shown which cuts out formal headings. The message usually starts with the salutation ‘Hi’ or ‘Hello’ and a closing of ‘Regards’ which nowadays actually suffices without repercussions. With the broad ignorance of formality, there is not really a chance that there will be a literary resurgence of writing because the swiftness of information through email is the essence. In this regard, a single email can be sent around the world to one or many people at the press of a button, and once on the computer of another person can be forwarded on to other people. The circulation of these letters can rapidly travel the world within the hour. It is no wonder the younger generation has taken to it while do they actually know what letter writing was like many years back?   

Of course, major differences can be seen between the two forms of letter writing. Firstly is the instant gratification that email gives. Short messages are sent and received in minutes especially with the advent of the Blackberry mobile phone where handheld emailing can be done. This may well appeal to the younger generation who have no time to sit down and ponder their thoughts but in some cases, an email will not suffice as formal communication such as an official written apology or termination of employment which a handwritten letter is a correct format. There is certainly an emotion that can be taken from reading a handwritten letter. People can read between the lines that can be certainly lost on emails. In this respect, the handwritten letter writer has time to mull over what they have written. In addition, handwritten letters offer that private token that is written by someone to the individual and can be saved for future viewing or reference. Emails on the other hand zip off into cyberspace and are snippets of conversations or messages, that the next day, are pushed down the priority list to be forgotten memories. They can be sent round to many people where even their understanding can be misconstrued. For example, jokes written on emails can be taken the wrong way within the workplace. The older generation would agree both forms of writing are worthwhile but the younger generation would not agree.

So there are many positive and negative aspects with letter writing past and present. Speed has to be number one these days. It would seem odd for someone to take time out to sit down and write a cursively written letter and take it down to the post office for mailing. With respect to day-to-day correspondence people would not hesitate to quickly write an email, send it and get on with the rest of their day. The negative side of this though is that there can be a lack of development of ideas and quality which, in most if not all cases, is not commented on by the email receiver thus instant meaning takes precedence over quality. This was the positive aspect of letter writing that care was taken and events were usually clearly written about. The problem of quality and clear expression is not a real issue as emails are read, sent, and deleted regularly thus creating a very impersonal global communication system. Email writers will without worry send an email that drops punctuation and capitalization while using lots of ellipsis and incomplete sentences. It also seems the use of ‘Dear’ has been left behind by the informal email salutations ‘Hi’ and the more formal ‘Hello’. Often these concise email messages are returned within minutes of the receiver reading them. This of course is a great bonus that it speeds up correspondence where letters would take days and annoy someone if they were hesitantly expecting your reply. People these days are impatient for new information.

Furthermore, for example, if an email message is received and then sent back straight away by a person who got angry by it there can be repercussions because the availability of instant messaging the sender avoids time for contemplation. In addition, these un-proofed emails are sent over cyberspace. No one really knows where they end up. Another example is an employee sending an angry letter about their boss to their friends via internal company emails. This can end up having their message on the boss’ desk and all the staff reading it.

The fact people are sending emails has to be one of the major positive aspects of this generation of letter writers. On any given day any email user can come home and find their inbox full of messages. In most cases, people who usually would not have been one to send handwritten letters do not mind sitting behind a computer and writing an email to their friends. The vast amount of email messages written on the computer and mobile phones each day can not compare with the number of letters sent and received by post 20 years ago.

In the 21st century, an evolution of letter writing has been brought to the world of communication. It has been shown that email has taken over from letter writing. The world now strives for instant gratification from the information. Email writing may not be an example of perfect diction but the point is made by the sender. Have the computer generation got time to complain about someone’s lack of sending a perfect email? Nostalgia does not play a part and from this essay, it has been commented how email has taken precedence whatever style it is has ended up as. This essay’s little snippet of the recent history of letter writing has shown it to be fine art but unlike letter writing there will not be a museum full of famous emails sent. In a throwaway culture there will always be positives and negatives on how communication moves forward but can anyone stop progression?