Writing a Discourse

Sir Francis Bacon said 'reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man'. Writing is the most difficult language skill. A child starts acquiring the four language skills listening, speaking, reading and writing in order. This is true of all the languages including English.

A child starts listening to the speech sounds right from its inception in the mother’s womb. Modern Linguistic research corroborates this fact. When a child is born it starts listening to the sounds around, starts imitating some and starts imitating them later. It starts with babbling and continues till the end of life. Listening and speaking come to a child naturally. But reading and writing are formal and unnatural for a child. So we have to start teaching the skills of reading and writing which depend on encoding and decoding the symbols or signs.

Writing is comparatively more difficult and more useful than reading. Though it is a fact that reading helps one to write well, children or even elders cannot write well, unless some techniques are taught and some thought is naturally generated in the minds of the learners.

The famous linguist from Kerala Dr. K. Anandan conceived and designed a pedagogy which is appreciated by some and scorned by others. But some of his disciples like me are following D.O.P. (Discourse Oriented Pedagogy) which believes that language exists in the form of only discourses. A discourse is an inter connected speech or writing. It may be a dialogue, a diary entry, a letter, a story or a narrative.

Let's discuss how a diary entry can be taught to the children. I have experimented myself this task in the class room of tenth class English and Telugu medium sections.

In Abdul Kalam’s autobiography there was an episode that happened in his childhood. A progressive teacher who belongs to an orthodox Brahmin community invited Kalam, a shy Muslim boy, to his house to lunch and took him straight into the kitchen, which was resented by his orthodox Brahmin wife.

 The  progressive teacher asked his wife to serve food to the boy which she refused to do. Then, the teacher was prepared to serve but his wife decided to serve halfheartedly.

I dramatized the incident with the help of my students. I became the teacher and one of the students played the role of my wife. Another student enacted the role of young Kalam. Surprisingly, the students spoke English better than expected since the thought process is triggered off. I experimented this twice with the help of my students.

The students who were listening to this task (The dialogue between the teacher and his wife) wrote the dialogues in their own words.

Some of the dialogues were incredible; some others were good except some grammatical errors. Some other students were allowed to write in their mother tongue. Those who are studying in English medium naturally fared well. But some of those studying in Telugu medium fared well better than expected. I read all the dialogues carefully and asked the children to correct their mistakes, if any, themselves..Later I asked the children to exchange their writing tasks and read them aloud.Thus a student knew what he had written besides knowing what the other students had written. Then I gave right feed back to the students and asked them to rewrite or refine their writing task namely writing a dialogue or conversation. I read all the discourses carefully at home and handed over the tasks to the respective student.

I have come to the conclusion that children are far more creative than the teacher. Because the teacher has only one brain but a class of 32 students think and write in 32 different ways. So we must believe that child is the creator of the knowledge or language and the teacher is just a clever facilitator..Thus a teacher can make the students write the given task by providing a suitable context, proper dramatiszation, right feed back at the right time

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