I recently bought Phonetics for Phonics by Maxine Burton (2011) to help me increase my understanding of phonics. I’ve decided to use a think alouds method when researching phonics as I like to try things out for myself before giving it to learners; click here for some thoughts on think alouds.

What do I know about this topic?

I know that phonics is a way to help learners decode words through sound-letters. I know that there is some debate over which works; language experience or phonics. I know that it has gone in and out of teaching vogue, and recently, there seems to be a higher precedence on using them. I know that there is a programme called Jolly Phonics, Toe by Toe and Yes We Can Read. I’m aware of others in the company I work for using Yes We Can Read, and have spoken to them briefly about it. I have a volunteer I have trained to work with learners who need 121, however there are some challenges this brings on outreach, and in terms of being able to assess success, without doing it myself.  I know about the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). I know that there are about 44 sounds, accent can affect phonics delivery, and that the problem people have are more with vowels than consonants. I have an awareness of where sounds are produced (e.g. labio-dental, fricative etc) and understand a big part of voiced and unvoiced sounds.

What do I think I will learn about this topic?

I think I’ll learn some of the answers to these questions I have:

Are there different types of phonics programme? Do some say Dolch words come first, or language which the learners will find useful? What’s the difference between the different type of phonics (synthetic/analytic) etc?

Do I understand what I just read?

Yes, and here are some points I felt interesting to make it more accessible for me in future. Burton (2011, p.8) notes that many adults have learnt the alphabet but haven’t been able to link the letters to the sounds they make. She notes that learners might be successful in reading some words, but not have the knowledge to apply their knowledge to new words:

‘Even learners who are able to ‘sound out’ the letters, in the sense of connecting certain letters with certain sounds may still struggle to blend these sounds into words. This is a very specific skill and to the beginner reader it is not immediately obvious’. From experience using the Yes We Can Read programme, I first found it necessary for learners to know the majority of the initial sounds (26 – based on the alphabet rather than number of sounds which actually exist), which I think helped learners to use their prior knowledge of English, especially if they know the letter names. Some, from my experience, have been rather surprised to find out that there are (about) 44 sounds, and by blending letters together, they create new sounds.

Once my learners felt comfortable with this, they hurdled quickly into blending 2 letter words, most without major problems. Being explicit about blending, and ensuring that I followed the same process for each word I think helps the learner know what to do and when – they have a difficult enough time concentrating on learning the sounds, nevermind when to repeat, not repeat etc so I think consistency is the key to moving ahead quickly.

Burton (2011, p.9) states, ‘if word recognition is a prerequisite for the ultimate comprehension, then it seems perverse to withhold or downgrade knowledge of phonic techniques as a useful first step in decoding, and this empowering learners to become independent readers’. She believes ‘strongly that phonics should be the first (but not the only) word identification strategy used’.

Chapter 2 discusses ‘why does phonetics matter for phonics?’ She notes that many teachers don’t have an understanding of phonics and that ‘beginner readers and writers above all need highly skilled teaching from teachers who are totally secure in their knowledge of language’. Unfortunately, this highlights one of my main issues with adult teacher training; you just don’t get to know what you need to know quickly enough, and is the main reason why I have felt so uncomfortable. I hated going into a classroom, not knowing what I was doing. There were many points which I thought, and sill think, I have done well, but I’m surprised that you’re trusted with that level of responsibility so soon, and is not something which I have observed happens in quite the same way if you train for a different type of teacher role. The irony is that adult literacy learners have quite possibly been failed before, and are set up to fail again. I still think I have a million things to learn, and I am by no means complacent. You just don’t learn what you need to quickly enough.

On page 14, she points out that ‘this system is for the use of teachers, not for learners’. Maybe this is the case in literacy instruction, however in ESOL we would use the IPA. I’m not 100% sure why yet, so this is something I’ll look at at another time.

Do I have a clear picture in my head about this information?

In parts no. I have read a few books by Maxine Burton now, and love how she writes simply. Sometimes when getting my head around something it takes me a while to process what is written, naturally, but sometimes authors make it a bit more complex than they need to. Burton is not one of those writers, however I had to re-read the following a few times before it sunk in. She discusses some of the problems/misleading information teachers have given learners about phonics (2011, p.12):

Trying to help a learner read the word <ship> by pointing ut the /h/ ‘sound’. The problem is is that /h/ is not the phoneme at work here, rather /ʃ/ is. It would be more helpful to discuss ‘sh’/ʃ/ and examples.

Breaking down the word <married> into ‘syllables’ – marr-i-ed to make it easier to read.’ For a start, ‘married’ has 2 syllables, but it might also be helpful to look at how we form past tenses, depending on what stage the learner is up to, or to look at ‘ied’ spellings//Id/ sounds.

Helping a learner spell the last letter of <floor> by asking what sound there was at the end of the word.’  The last sound of the word is /ɔ:/ (depending on your accent).

I also had to read this a few times before I could ‘get’ it: ‘in words such as ‘light’ and ‘sight’ the sound /t/ is represented by the grapheme <ght>…comparison with words such as ‘site’ and ‘sigh’, would suggest a different correspondence’. I’m not sure how I’d present this yet, but I’m sure I’ll know more soon!

Burton (2011, p.17-18) describes Phonetics as the actual sounds and how they are produced, and Phonology as how sounds are organised and the patterns made by the sounds. She explains that not all sounds are phonemes.

I will have to re-read chapters 5 and 6, as although I understood the meaning, it didn’t really sink in, and I have not yet noticed how the information can be used in future.

What were the most important points in this reading?

Probably the bits I will need to read again! Chapters 5, 6 and 7 need to be looked at again. I found them confusing to transfer into teaching.

What new information did I learn?

  • The most interesting thing I learnt was that when we say ‘the apple’ we use /i:/ rather than the schwa. If we say ‘the banana’ we use the schwa. I would have expected that I would have known this teaching ESOL, and that’s probably why I find it so exciting!
  • I understood a little bit about assimilation, and would like to understand more in future, however I found it interesting that ‘if you have a voiceless consonant it’s easier to follow it with another voiceless one’ (Burton, 2011, p.21) and vice versa. She continues this…means that consonant clusters – adjacent consonant phonemes – in English are either all voiced or all voiceless’.
  • a schwa can usually only be used in unstressed syllables, and spelled with any letter, but usually ‘a’
  • stress can change phonemes e.g. conduct (verb) v conduct (noun)
  • learners are used to using connected speech – remember this.

How does it fit in with what I already know?

It doesn’t in many respects. I’ve found more questions and action points than I have answers. My questions still stand: Are there different types of phonics programme? Do some say Dolch words come first, or language which the learners will find useful? What’s the difference between the different type of phonics (synthetic/analytic) etc?

Some further questions:

  • Where do different programmes start? All 26, then digraphs, chosen to high frequency words, or learner’s idiolect?
  • Why do you use phonics in 1st language, but the IPA in ESOL? The British Council’s Nexus site shows how to use phonics/language experience with beginner literacy learners. Is there more debate than I realised?
  • How would I teach <ght>?
  • What are the ambiguities mentioned on p.15?
  • assimilation
  • articulation
  • connected speech – features in Liverpool/how much do learners need to explicitly understand?
  • how do I present phonics in regards to accent?

She suggests many further reading lists throughout the book, and I have added these to my further reading post.


Burton, M. (2011) Phonetics for Phonics. Underpinning Knowledge for Adult Literacy Practitioners. Leicester: NIACE

Reading for pleasure in an adult literacy classroom, and oral reading fluency


Burton (2007, p.11) poses the questions, ‘It has been suggested that reading aloud is an activity that is hardly ever done by adults. Is this true? Take a minute to think about occasions when you, or other you know, have read something aloud’.

From observing other classes, through to volunteering in literacy sessions for a year, and eventually teaching literacy myself, I noticed that I, along with the other situations I had been in, had always ‘avoided’ reading activities with adult literacy learners to some extent. Of course we covered reading in sessions, however the start of my literacy class saw comprehension type activities and naturally dismissed reading for pleasure, or anything with wasn’t directly productive, or have focus on productive skills at least.

As time has gone on, I have encouraged my learners to take a more active part in reading for pleasure, and after picking up on bits of research here and there, decided to introduce it to my class more formally.

On the face of it, my classes are ‘literacy’ as opposed to ‘reading’.

In one study, ‘silent reading was the ‘activity’ that happened most often, corresponding with the large amounts of time learners spent working alone. ‘Active’ reading tuition…took up less that half of the class time/’ Burton, (2007, p.5). Burton, (2007, p.7) looks at ‘useful approaches mentioned in research which don’t seem to be used in the adult literacy classroom as often as might be expected’, with one of the main reasons for this lack being target-focused classes, leaving the tutor less willing to ‘take risks’.

Although my classes are target driven to some extent, I have some flexibility and say in how they are run. Our aim is to provide qualifications for learners, so as long as my choices have this in mind, we’re able to go ahead with most plans.

It took a long time to develop my literacy class, and although I now only have 3 regular learners, with one who focuses on qualification outcomes, they are 3 more than I’ve had for a long time, and the group is stable enough for me to try new things.

I had started to deliver a phonics-based programme with another learner 121, and had seen his levels of confidence increase significantly, as well as my pride in him. I started to think about how I could replicate this with ‘more advanced’ literacy learners (i.e. E1+).

Burton (2007, p.7) continues by suggesting that ‘practice in this, rather than just being a meaningless ‘exercise’, has been shown to assist reading comprehension and improve confidence’. Burton (2007) suggests a number of strategies to help reading, including oral reading fluency.

With this in mind, I started to consider how I could work oral reading fluency into my sessions, whilst still aiming for qualifications with learners. I decided to take a few Oxford Bookworms originally intended for ESOL learners, to my class one night. I told my learners I would like to try to focus on reading skills this term, and there were a few grumbles around the room. We talked this through for a few minutes (I got the hint the second time someone asked me if they could go out for a smoke), and they said they didn’t mind which book they read. The next week we started by using the suggested activities in the back of the book.

I found that analysing the back page, thinking about what it made us this about, seeing if we had any questions, discussing whether they think they’d like to read it or not, and repeating the process with the front cover was beneficial for the learners’ engagement. I was worried one might not want to read a book, but persevered and made it silently compulsory. The reaction to which I was really surprised at; there wasn’t one.

At the beginning of the term, learners expressed that they wanted to work individually, however agreed that with reading activities, this was a good option as a group. We decided to split the session into individual work, with about 30 minutes of group reading, either at the beginning, or at the end. They ‘let’ me set activities, discussion points, pair work, worksheets etc, and to my amazement, we worked through two books in a term.

The only downfall, was that I chose a book at approximately Entry 2-3, which was not challenging enough for one learner. I could choose some titles at a higher level, and pair him with a volunteer, although this might be equally disruptive for both ‘groups’. Another option could be to choose a slightly more challenging book, and set differentiated activities for the higher level learners, where they can choose to either read silently and complete activities, or join in and complete activities as homework.

I plan to use more oral fluency techniques in the classroom as I found my group were happier (observation of their behaviour, not empirical evidence!), they were supportive of each other, they listened better, they shared their ideas and seemed to engaged in the texts better. It was a pure pleasure to see them modelling my praise of them reading on each other, and it even felt like it made my praise for learners  a little redundant at one point, them favouring their peers’ support.

Language Experience


It seems there are many examples of how to use the Language Experience Approach with both ESOL learners, and children in US schools, but not many recent examples of adults in the UK who are using the method as first language speakers, or reflections of tutors who have. I attended a British Council workshop which focuses mainly on ESOL in the UK, but the series of modules are available on their website and are still a useful resource.

I do have some questions, so if any of you have any experience with LEA, I’d be interested in hearing from you!

Has anyone used language experience with adult first language speakers? What is your experience? How long did you spend with learners? What was their level to start with (roughly)/end with? Did you use other methods in this time? Did the learners like predictability of the method? Were they bored? How many hours did they have? Did anyone not respond, and if so, what did you do next?

I have to note as well that I’m a fan of this blog by Kate Nonesuch. I feel like I understand a bit more when I read her stuff. I like the bit about learners taking photos of texts from all around them. I think this would be difficult in a group setting with vulnerable clients, and a volunteer without a CRB. It wouldn’t be possible to accompany learners, but it might be possible to set them a homework activity and ask my line manager if I could buy a disposable camera. This could be a lengthy process as I see them once per week, but worth a go nonetheless.

On my internet travels, I found this video which helped me to see ways in which language experience can be used in an ESOL classroom as a way to create a group text easily.

Reading KWL and action plan


We completed a KWL grid for our own ‘reading’ learning, and read an extract from Wyse, D. & Jones, R. (2013) Teaching English, Language and Literacy

2014-12-22 23.03.44

KWL Grid and Reading Action plan

I need to add these points to my action plan:

  • More about top-down/bottom-up approaches
  • Research subskills more!
  • Frith – she did Life Scientific on Radio 4 – research!
  • Do more research on Searchlights model
  • Do more research on Rose Report/Simple View
  • I need to do more research to ensure careful phonics planning – buy Phonetics for Phonics book
  • Where to start with learners
  • That there are other strategies (language experience)
  • Word decoding – our brains scan through to find correct word and meaning
  • Miscue analysis
  • I also need to research some of the above more for my assignment, and I think buying Teaching English, Language and Literacy would help me in this



Gobbledygook – 19th April

Today we looked at a piece of writing. We tried to read the text.

  • We identified that we were trying to use phonics to identify the first letters then last.
  • We felt sick/queasy reading this as it took so much concentration and focus – I also found it difficult to concentrate as I could hear other people talking in the background, and I could hear the words I was trying to read. This annoyed me as I wanted to decode the text myself.
  • All mental effort was on decoding and as a result, we didn’t really understand what we were reading, but ‘barking’.
  • The context is important! – Once our schemata was activated, it was easier to try to decode the text.
  • We made guesses from the context – once we know what the text is about, we can use top-down processing.
  • Once we had read some words, it was easier to read them if they were then repeated in the text.
  • We made syntactical guesses – when trying to decode, we made guesses on what we thought would make sense grammatically.
  • Confidence came at a later stage.
  • Recognition of common words when repeated frequently.

It made me appreciate how it must feel for learners if they aren’t able to decode, and highlighted the importance of establishing the right starting point for learner. It was also interesting analysing how our brains decode and make sense of what is read. I am going to add this activity into my YWCR training for volunteers as I think it highlights the different processes involved in reading well. Also, by activating our learner’s prior knowledge, we give them a major heads up. I do this quite naturally in ESOL sessions, but need to make a conscious effort to collect activities to help my literacy learners with this.

Performance reading


I was first introduced to performance reading through Burton (2007), where it was suggested that learners could prepare for a performance of a play script. However, as I researched, I found a strategy with the same name, which enables the teacher, and learner, to make reading thinking visible for further work.

Readwritethink explain that ‘The NCTE/IRA Standards for the Assessment of Reading and Writing contend that “reading very short passages and answering a limited number of multiple-choice questions is not a good measure of what literate people normally do when they read. Authentic assessments of reading employ tasks that reflect real-world reading practices and challenges” (p. 46).’You can find the resources here.

Performance reading template – blank

Performance reading template with questions

I also had a look at think-aloud strategies used in classrooms which seems to be based on the same theory. I mainly found examples from the USA. I’m not sure if this is a strategy used or not in the UK, but I can definitely see the benefits of trying the method with a text in class, and recall similar techniques used in school. I found the following videos interesting in various ways, as well as some info on the readingrocket website using think alouds and using them to aid comprehension.

The benefits:

  • You can ‘see’ what the learner is thinking which can provide useful diagnostic, formative and summative assessment
  • It helps my understanding of how we think through reading a text and gain meaning from it
  • You can guide learners into a way to think, through modelling and demonstration – this could suit a variety of learning styles
  • It helps learners think more autonomously


  • Getting learners on board with a deep thinking/reading exercise – it could take a lot of time!

I’ll definitely be giving it a try in class with these documents as guidance, as I’m aware I need to further my knowledge of learner’s thinking skills, and how to develop them. I’ll try it out. At the end of the day, if my learners don’t like it, I’m sure they’ll let me know!

Have you ever used these techniques with adults of various skill levels? I’d be interested in finding out your thoughts!


Burton, M. (2007) Reading. NIACE: London

Read Write Think, (2013), Making the Reading Process Visible through Performance Assessment, [online] Available at: [Accessed 18/02/13]

Readingrockets, (2013) Think Alouds, [online] Available at:

Readingrockets (2013) Using Think Alouds to Improve Reading Comprehension [online] Available at:

Language and literacy development & models of writing


Today we worked in pairs and discussed/listed the factors which influence language and literacy development both in children and adults. One of our objectives was to describe how literacy skills are acquired and learnt. We formed the table below.

 Children  Adults
learning difficulties (possibly undiagnosed)
Chomsky’s genetic blueprint/LAD
social/peer/parental influences
background/school they go to
background – abuse etc
religion/other cultural groups and norms within these
approaches taught through – top-down/bottom-up, whether phonics is “in” at the time etc
speech difficulties
technology dependency
access to reading/norm of this at home – how often parents read
parents’ first language
highly prized handwriting culture
how literacy is valued in their multidimensional cultures
skills of the teacher/rapport
literacy levels of parents
gender – boys read fact-based/girls read stories
learning difficulties (possibly undiagnosed)
” especially if bilingual
social/peer/employer/media and wider society influences
background/school they went to
background – abuse etc
political opinions, economic status, identity and perceived identity
religion/other cultural groups and norms within these
approaches might need to be similar, or completely different to school depending on the learner
speech difficulties
technology dependency/lack of skills
access to reading/norm of this at home – how often parents read
parents’ first language
highly prized handwriting culture
how literacy is valued in their multidimensional cultures
skills of the teacher/rapport
literacy levels of parents
skills required at work
gender – stereotyping as adults – e.g. advertising, social norms

Many factors which affect children also affect adults, and sometimes in different ways. Making this list highlights the need to acknowledge the wider issues in literacy teaching which might not be so apparent in other subjects. For example, a learner who had a hard time at school, often with basic skills, comes to a literacy class with many assumptions, where as if they are studying a new subject, they might not have the same reservations. It also highlights that teaching and learning are not stand alone things we do outside of contexts, and it is easy to see why teaching literacy as a social practice can help give it more weight as a subject for both adults and children alike. It also shows the importance of knowing your learners and being able to relate to people in different ways. Sometimes it is necessary to get away from the ‘teacher-like’ behaviour, and sometimes learners like, work well and even expect this. Children often don’t get a chance to negotiate learning so much, but with adults you kind of have to due to the lack of contact time you typically get with them.

Stages of writing development 

We also looked at the stages of writing development from Abbots Langley Primary School. It was interesting to look at the typical patterns of mark making. I did think about how we can relate this to our adult learners who may have missed this step. On average, the adult literacy learners I have encountered have been able to formulate letters, even if they have extremely low reading skills. I have experienced learners who have had unusual letter formation, which includes a guy who was from a travelling family. He does ‘need’ to work on handwriting skills, but I’m not sure how I feel about addressing this yet, and whether it’s something which will help him in the long run. We did start to look at letter formation, however he stopped attending. I’m not sure whether this was due to something that happened with the class, or external factors, but it got me thinking about how to approach handwriting with adult learners. When we were ESOL trainees, we looked at teaching learners cursive script as it built muscle memory and involved taking the pen from paper less times. I have yet to actually complete a handwriting programme with someone. I can totally see how the theory works, but in practice? I’m going to add this to my action plan of things to look at again as I’ve got a million other things to focus on at the moment. Food for thought though.

Writing activity

We then were asked to consider how we would write a letter of complaint, including think about what would we need to do to prepare, to complete the letter and note what skills were involved in this.

2014-12-29 20.36.59

In order to prepare for the task, I drew upon previous knowledge such as accessing my memory of how a letter looks and we started to discuss the task. I noted in my group that I needed to think of the audience, purpose, and draw up a plan in order for me personally to think of how to complete the task. I’m unsure whether this is because this is the way I encourage learners to do it, or whether this is actually my preferred method. In my plan, I noted that I had to decide on the register, greetings and endings, facts and nature of the complaint, answering who/what/when/where/why/how if applicable, state my expected outcome and say that I wanted a reply.

We then split the activities/skills we noted into:

Composition, which The National Literacy Strategy (2001) (available on Sassoon Fonts website), describes as:

● Planning: What am I writing about and who is it for? i.e. content, purpose and audience
● Composing: How do I say it in writing? i.e. word
choice, sentence grammar and text organisation

Frank Smith (1994) Ch.3. Writing and The Writer. Routledge:London, describes composition as ‘getting ideas, selecting words, grammar’.

In the above task, we noted that choosing the following were examples of composition:

  • deciding who the audience was
  • what the purpose was
  • what the context of the letter was e.g. a serious complaint, or a more trivial one
  • thinking about content e.g. setting ourselves who/what/when/where/why/how questions in order to help us plan
  • deciding on the register, and therefore word choice such as greetings and endings conforming to genre-based expectations of how the letter should be written
  • deciding that there needed to be an opening and an ending saying what we expected from the complaint, and saying that we wanted a reply at the end of the letter
  • research to inform what address etc I write (transcription)
  • choosing the vocabulary to ‘fit’ with the tone, context, audience and purpose, or to choose to not ‘fit’ by using sarcasm etc.

Transcription, which The National Literacy Strategy (2001) shows transcription as:

● How do I write it down? i.e. spelling and handwriting
Frank Smith (1994) Ch.3. Writing and The Writer. Routledge:London, describes transcription as ‘physical effort of writing, spelling, capitalisation, punctuation, paragraphs, legibility’.

In the task above, there were some examples of transcription such as:

  • knowing how to complete a mind map
  • using some punctuation e.g. forward slash to separate ideas, additional information in brackets, however as these notes were just for myself in the session, I used no capital letters or full stops. I did use a few question marks though and some commas and dashes too as bullet points, and to separate ideas.
  • I used very rough handwriting, and as it was only for myself, it wasn’t very legible. Sometimes I have a problem with this. I tend to take notes, take them home and wonder what the hell I wrote. I also have a habit of randomly abbreviating things too!

If we actually wrote the letter, these are the transcription skills that would be involved:

  • layout of a formal letter (genre)
  • choosing the mode (writing on paper possibly first, then on a computer as it is the norm to write letters via word processing now)
  • organising it into paragraphs – choosing that the greeting goes first, then an opening sentence, main body, expectations, end, signature, researching and writing the address on the envelope
  • proof-reading skills – spelling, punctuation, grammar

Evidence of composition and transcription in CC

Learners are expected to be able to plan, an example of composition. They are then expected to draft, re-draft, proof-read for grammar, spelling and punctuation which are examples of transcription.

We then discussed how to support compositon with our learners. We decided that the following would help:

  • brainstorming ideas in pairs or groups
  • mind mapping/spider diagrams (lone-working)
  • scaffolding – providing starter sentences
  • discussion
  • language experience approach
  • photographs/pictures
  • story boards/vision boards/graphic organisers/collages
  • consequences
  • kernel sentences
  • who, what, when, where, why, how questions
  • decide on purpose and audience.

Frank Smith (1994) Ch.3. Writing and The Writer. Routledge:London, discusses that, ‘compositon and transcription can interfere with each other’, and that ‘the more attention you give to one, the more likely the other will suffer’. He discussed that both ideas compete against each other for attention and that writing is the most tiring and effort-heavy skill of them all. He suggests that being able to use word processors may help as ‘anything that can reduce the effort of writing is likely to improve its quality’. He also notes that writing has the slowest number of words per minute compared to speaking, listening and reading, increasing the likelihood of people forgetting what they’re writing because there is so much going on. He suggests that if we try to concentrate on legibility, thoughts slow down, but if we concentrate on thoughts, then accuracy in spelling and handwriting is diminished.

Smith suggests only one answer, that the ‘two aspects of writing have to be separated. Thus rewriting and editing can be as important as writing’ and that transcription must come last. On the face of it, I must say I agree with him. I have often thought that the skills I needed to cover in order for a piece to be successful were too much. I felt a pressure to ensure that I covered everything in the CC and panicked when I was nowhere near. Over the past year, I have relaxed so much in my expectations of learners. I don’t mean that to sound negative! I mean that it’s apparent that I didn’t quite understand what constituted progress before.

If one of my learners manages to compose a text and make an attempt at transcription, I’m happy. I could ask for no better starting point. The rest is negotiated from there.

How we achieve competence in writing

  • Need to understand that we write for different purposes, audiences, contexts
  • Usually need a situation
  • composition – what?
  • transcription – how?
  • draft/re-draft – different stages of the process
  • Writing as a product
  • Writing as a process – your first thought isn’t always your best thought
  • research – staged writing – where you work through a text together as a class (Genre theory)
  • differentiated – already have writing and match heading (consequences, name of the game) a
    • by outcome
    • writing frame/sentence starters
    • depersonalising/personalising
    • fairytales – each think of a fairytale and then pass round etc, get teaching for progression: writing?




Frank Smith (1994) Ch.3. Writing and The Writer. Routledge:London

What did you learn?

The theory of composition v transcription really resonated with me when I thought of my learners. It immediately jumped out as I have often thought about whether I was trying to do too much in the way that I was staging activities in the past. I agree from practice that learners spend most of their time in composition skills, especially in lower levels and it can be useful to separate these. I think in terms of genre theory, I usually try to give learners and example of what they’re heading towards at the start, but with an emphasis on content. I then focus on facilitating composition skills and lastly in the editing phase, transcription skills.

Thinking about how I usually write something, I usually start thinking about transcription and if I need to write.type anything at the top first, before moving on to content. I tend to edit as I’m going and compose thinking about transcription. However, as stated, I think this is too much for learners when starting off, so maybe staging it as originally discussed above, and explaining how competent writers think would be more useful for them.

How will you apply it? Practical implications? Resources made/changed? For assignment? Meet with? Find out more about? By ___ in my teaching.

As above. I introduced a stages of writing sheet to help learners see the process which we usually go through.

I tried this on:

I try this virtually every lesson, but feel a bit more confident about when to bring transcription in and why.

What went well?

For competent writers, it helps me assess them in terms of what I naturally do to gauge where they’re up to in their competence levels, whilst for beginners, it helps me judge on a long-term basis – as they plan more and more and are visibly more comfortable with planning, more effort goes into draft and so on.

What would I change?

Nothing at the moment. For me, this helps.

How will I make changes?