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Teaching Second Language Writing, Essay Example

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Words: 1850

Essay

Introduction and Claim

Writing in a second language is a unique and challenging process that requires a significant understanding of the language and the meaning of its words. Whether creative or analytical, writing may be simplistic or complex; however, the language must be well understood in order to write effectively. Some might argue that writing in a second language is easier than speaking it, but this is not the case. Writing in a second language requires an exceptional mastery of at least basic words and phrases that might be used to create sentences. Peer review of writing in a second language, requires the reviewer to understand the writer’s limitations in using the English language in written form. Formative assessment is integrated into the instructional process to promote greater learning and achievement as a form of revision or adjustment as the need permits, while summative assessment is identified in the form of a quiz, examination, or other type of format that enables a teacher to determine the level of aptitude of students (AMLE, 2013). In particular, summative assessment is critical in providing the level of feedback and encouragement that is necessary to establish improved writing skills in the second language. This also facilitates an expanded approach to supporting peer review in routine practice for novice ESL writers.

Main Opposing Argument

English as a second writing language is often easier to understand from the reader’s perspective when it is evident that English is not the primary language to begin with. When this is determined, it is likely that an individual will observe the work differently and will examine the written words with less scrutiny than a person with clear knowledge of English as the primary language. The use of summative assessment and standard benchmarks to measure peer review effectiveness is more definitive in determining whether or not this practice is successful, rather than the sole use of peer feedback. Therefore, it is necessary to identify specific forms of knowledge and learning tools by using the summative assessment, while also determining if other forms of feedback are effective with summative assessment.

Refutation of Opposing Argument

Writing in a second language is difficult to achieve for many people who do not have mastery of the language. For example, English is a unique language that is different in many ways from other traditional languages; therefore, it may be difficult for readers who have experience with the language and know it well to understand what others are trying to communicate with the words. Therefore, when educating others regarding writing English, it is important to identify word and language-based limitations in the earliest possible stage and to determine how to overcome these limitations through word/language practice and general knowledge (McCormick Calkins). Peer review is a critical measure of the work of another individual and as a result, should be conducted critically yet thoughtfully to encourage novice writers to improve their skills (Hansen and Liu, 2005). Furthermore, the use of formative assessment and peer review for second language students not only supports their learning through the provision of specific feedback, but also demonstrates a means of familiarizing oneself with a different culture and set of customs to improve writing skills in the secondary language (Ruecker, 2011).

Peer review for the novice writer who is new to English must be understood because it offers these writers a glimpse into the areas where they might be struggling with the language and facing difficult challenges that could be improved with peer feedback. For some learners who are inexperienced in English, writing is not a positive experience in any way, and furthermore, may be observed as more relevant than is even necessary in some subject areas (Cox, 2011). Rather than promoting harsh criticism of the differences in writing for second language students, the peer review process should recognize diversity and its impact on writing and language barriers (Cox, 2011). It is also expected that peer review is likely to be more effective in engaging learners and supporting their knowledge acquisition and growth when differences in culture, language skill, and other attributes are recognized (Cox, 2011). Furthermore, peer review should be examined in the context of the culture of the students that are new to the English language to ensure that they are getting the most out of the experience and its benefits for their own learning (Hu and Lam, 2010). This is strongly recommended because it provides excellent benefits to second language students who would otherwise struggle with English if they were required to explore the language on their own without assistance (Hu and Lam, 2010). The integration of second language students into regular classrooms to reduce segregation will also improve peer review, allow students to gain better exposure to the new language an d culture, and support successful formative assessment (Ruecker, 2011).

Main Positive Argument

One of the critical needs of peer review for writing when English is a second language is time, because students in this group often require additional time and effort that is not always available or utilized effectively in other types of coursework (Moloudi, 2011). Peer review should also be conducted not only by teachers but also by fellow students to promote greater outcomes for writers in this manner, while also allowing students the time and patience that are necessary to achieve their goals (Moloudi, 2011). To be specific, “When teachers find problems during peer negotiations, they should intervene and facilitate more productive discussion among students. After negotiations between peers, teachers can answer students’ questions. Students with lower language proficiency should also be given more help with the construction of their sentences and other grammar problems. Self-directed feedback is a realistic option for the better students” (Moloudi, 2011, p. 14). However, the type of peer review strategy that is conducted is critical to student success in learning to write in a second language, thereby mandating an evaluation of the options that are available to improve support of this practice and its overall impact on students (Goldburg, 2012).

Peer review for students of English as a second language also requires the recognition of differences between lower and higher level learners to distinguish between comments that are likely to be more effective than others in the peer review process (Liao and Lo, 2012). Furthermore, “when critically reading each other’s drafts, the reviewing process enables reviewers to reflect more upon the writing and revision process, which enhances their judgment of what makes a writing piece good… less proficient writers usually have a narrower approach and focus on vocabulary and the surface grammar structure… peer review can assist a novice writer in considering the writing piece from the perspective and state of mind of the reader” (Liao and Lo, 2012, p. 46). As a peer reviewer, working with students in exploring their second language deficits is likely to bridge gaps in learning and knowledge that exist to overcome these weaker areas (Liao and Lo, 2012).

The experiences of ESL writers are challenging for many reasons, depending on the proficiency of these students and their understanding of the English language and the context of its words. Therefore, it is important for peer reviewers to take these ideas into consideration and to determine how to best improve outcomes for these learners through this practice. This process may be complex in nature but it is likely to be highly effective in promoting the development of new ideas and approaches to learning English writing from the experienced teacher, as well as less experienced writers, who may provide unique insights or perspectives that might not have been identified before (Lee, 2011). These developments demonstrate that is necessary for peer review to be conducted for ESL students by other students to provide the most comprehensive approach to learning (Lee, 2011). Formative assessment encourages students and teachers alike to utilize peer review because this feedback is likely to be effective in improving writing in a new language versus standardized measurements, which might not be useful in this area of study (Lee, 2011).

Establishing a supportive environment for ESL writers requires strong and intensive peer review that is meant not only to provide constructive criticism, but to also encourage students to learn about the more advanced principles of the language the writing skills that are required to master it effectively. The efforts that are made with peer review are important because they provide greater evidence of the capacity of peer review to be effective as a learning tool in supporting the acquisition of advanced writing skills in a second language because this is likely to impact student learners in positive ways. Creatively, students will benefit when they understand the context of the words that are used and are provided with an environment that allows them to use words in context in the correct manner. Teachers must utilize these principles and engage other students in this practice to encourage their continuous growth and developments as writers of English. This is perhaps the most important method in advancing novice students in writing the language.

Conclusions

Students who commit to learning how to write in English as their second language are challenged by this process on a regular basis. This practice not only tests the boundaries of their knowledge, but it also demonstrates the impact of a second language on their ability to communicate with an entirely new group of people with significant experience with a different language. Therefore, prior research and evaluation demonstrate that students are likely to experience greater benefits from this practice to enhance their writing skills, particularly when they are provided with a background for improving their writing skills in a language that is foreign to them. Summative assessment provides the level of review and detail from peers that is required to facilitate improved writing skills and a greater understanding of the English language as a secondary form of language acquisition. Therefore, it is expected that this practice will support student learning in a more positive and meaningful way than that which is provided solely by formative assessment.

References

Association for Middle Level Education (2013). Formative and summative assessments in the classroom. Retrieved from http://www.amle.org/publications/webexclusive/assessment/tabid/1120/default.aspx

Cox, M. (2011). WAC: closing doors or opening doors for second language writers. Retrieved from http://wac.colostate.edu/atd/ell/cox.cfm

Goldburg, M.E. (2012). ESL students’ perceptions of their English writing proficiency and the  effects of peer review training among three types of students in a community college ESL composition course. Alliant International University, pp. 1-622.

Hansen, J.G., and Liu, J. (2005). Guiding principles for effective peer response. ELT Journal 59(1), 31-38.

Hu, G., and Lam, STE. (2010). Issues of cultural appropriateness and pedagogical efficacy: exploring peer review in a second language writing class. Instructional Science: An International Journal of the Learning Sciences, 38(4), 371-394.

Lee, I. (2011). Formative assessment in EFL writing: an exploratory case study. Changing  English, 18(1), 99-111.

Liao, H.C., and Lo, Y.F. (2012). Peer review comments provided by high- and low-proficiency learners: a comparative study. International Journal of English Linguistics: 2(5), 45-54.

McCormick Calkins, L. The art of teaching writing: new edition. Toronto: Irwin Publishing.

Moloudi, M. (2011). Online and face-to-face peer review: measures of implementation in ESL writing classes. Retrieved from http://www.asian-efl-journal.com/PTA/May-2011-Moloudi.pdf

Ruecker, T. (2011). The potential of dual-language cross-cultural peer review. ELT Journal, 65(4), 398-407.

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