I received an education from elementary school through college in Shanghai, China. As Shanghai is an international city, its education authorities greatly value the importance of English learning and English is thus one of the mandatory subjects taught beginning in elementary school. Chinese students can score high marks and even outscore native English speakers on tests such as the GRE and GMAT, but on writing sections, Chinese students’ performance lags far behind the average. Why does this happen? What should be the proper teaching strategy in an ESL/EFL writing classroom? This paper shares my perspectives on English writing, teaching, and learning, based on my own experiences.
My English writing classes started in middle school. Before that, my English classes mostly emphasized the teaching of vocabulary and grammar. However, even though I was now a middle school student, English writing was still not treated as an important part of English learning. There was no separate English writing class. Once or twice every month, my English teacher would give us a 40-minute English writing lecture. The ironic thing is, as I see it today, this lecture was still more of a reading class than a writing class, because most of the time my teacher would assign us a certain amount of reading, ask us to underline the sentences we thought were “good” and write them into our notebooks. Although I agree that reading is the foundation of writing, I disapprove of this way of teaching writing. In my second year of middle school, teachers started to “formally” teach writing. We would be given certain simple topics to write about such as “The most unforgettable thing in your life” or “My family”. To begin the writing task, my teacher would first read several examples and carefully help the class analyze why each composition was excellent and explain what we should be aware of when writing about this topic. Another thing worth mentioning is that these examples were usually assigned...
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