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The Effect of Freewriting on Developing Punctuation Marks in Paragraph Writings of Iranian EFL Intermediate Learners

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Freewriting is writing whatever one knows or thinks for a certain length of time without stopping and editing till the time finishes. It’s an easy and useful way of writing for generating ideas but it is sometimes full of errors. The current study examined a new area of freewriting which aimed to explore the effect of freewriting on development of learners’ correct use of punctuation marks in their paragraph writings. The participants were 36 female intermediate students with Persian as their first language, enrolled in a six-week intensive English writing class. To homogenize the respondents they were given a version of Oxford Quick Placement Test (OPT) in order to assess the participants’ proficiency level. As a pretest and posttest students were supposed to write about a topic which were scored according to a standard rubric. In order to test the inter-rater reliability of the scores given by the two raters, intra-class correlation coefficient was calculated. Mann Whitney test was used to compare the experimental and control group's OPT scores and Wilcoxon test was used to compare the pretest and posttest scores of each group separately and the results showed that the treatment affected the learners in experimental group significantly.
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The Effect of Freewriting on Developing
Punctuation Marks in Paragraph Writings of
Iranian EFL Intermediate Learners
Farzaneh Nouri
Department of English Language, Qaemshahr Branch, Islamic Azad University, Qaemshahr, Iran
Amir Marzban
Department of English Language, Qaemshahr Branch, Islamic Azad University, Qaemshahr, Iran
AbstractFreewriting is writing whatever one knows or thinks for a certain length of time without stopping
and editing till the time finishes. It’s an easy and useful way of writing for generating ideas but it is sometimes
full of errors. The current study examined a new area of freewriting which aimed to explore the effect of
freewriting on development of learners’ correct use of punctuation marks in their paragraph writings. The
participants were 36 female intermediate students with Persian as their first language, enrolled in a six-week
intensive English writing class. To homogenize the respondents they were given a version of Oxford Quick
Placement Test (OPT) in order to assess the participants’ proficiency level. As a pretest and posttest students
were supposed to write about a topic which were scored according to a standard rubric. In order to test the
inter-rater reliability of the scores given by the two raters, intra-class correlation coefficient was calculated.
Mann Whitney test was used to compare the experimental and control group's OPT scores and Wilcoxon test
was used to compare the pretest and posttest scores of each group separately and the results showed that the
treatment affected the learners in experimental group significantly.
Index Termsfreewriting, punctuation marks, paragraph writing
I. INTRODUCTION
Writing in a second language seems to be the hardest skill to teach and to learn, because it needs learning many other
skills (Ningrum et al., 2013). Writing gives the writer the opportunity to express his ideas, feelings, and viewpoints to
others and convert them to visible manuscript. It is very important because it’s used in many areas of lives and most of
the students need to write some essays during their studies; also it’s essential for expressing and preserving the ideas
and memories. According to Robinson, "without writing there would be no history" (1995, p. 34). Writing is used as a
medium for collecting, preserving and transmitting information” (Graham, MacArthur, & Fitzgerald, 2013, p. 5).
However, writing encourages the writer to have physical and mental effort (Westwood, 2004) and the most important
factor in writing is making students involved personally in learning process.
Punctuation marks also play an important role in giving our intended meaning to the reader. When they are used
accurately, they guide the reader and make the comprehension of the text easier but when they are used wrongly or even
wrong placement of them can change the total meaning of the sentence unintentionally and create ambiguity. According
to Adekunle (1987), it’s hard or sometimes impossible to write or understand a text without proper punctuation marks.
So it is clear that not only at the intermediate level, but also at whatever level one must use correct pronunciation to
write meaningfully and to be understood.
Freewriting according to Elbow and Belanoff (2000), is to write whatever comes into one’s mind for a specified
length of time without stopping, thinking, editing and evaluating. In Elbow’s own words, “the only requirement is that
you never stop.” (1998, p. 3). When we freewrite, we express ourselves freely in what we write by our own voice. One
of the most positive points of this kind of writing is that even quiet and shy students have something to write. By
freewriting students become aware of their personal and emotional aspects which become evident in what they write.
Findings suggest that students are more enthusiastic when they are involved in active learning that is “authentic,
reflective and collaborative” (Scott, 2006, p. 6).
Some (e.g. Fox & Suhor, 1986) believe that because freewriting is liberate and unstructured, it’s incoherent and
disorganized. Lots of studies have been done by many researchers on freewriting, however, this study differs from the
previous ones. The current study aimed to explore the effect of freewriting in developing the students’ correct use of
punctuation marks in the area of paragraph writing. This study differs from the previous ones because the researcher
focused on the correct use of punctuation when students freewrote which was not done before. So when students write
paragraphs they will have less errors in term of punctuations. Also the students shared what they freewrote to the class
which is called “public writing”. When they share their freewritings to the class and when they listen to other
classmates, they become familiar with different ways of thinking and writing. However, the unstructured nature of
ISSN 1799-2591
Theory and Practice in Language Studies, Vol. 8, No. 1, pp. 34-43, January 2018
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17507/tpls.0801.05
© 2018 ACADEMY PUBLICATION
freewriting can be a challenge. The ultimate goal of this study was making students aware of the importance of
freewriting as an interesting activity which can help them develop their punctuations which was neglected in
freewritings before. The obtained results showed that freewriting could be an influential and effective learning tool to
improve students’ use of punctuations when they write paragraphs.
II. LITERATURE REVIEW
Writing is an important skill which enables the writer to communicate. “Writing is seen as a product constructed
from the writer’s command of grammatical and lexical knowledge, and writing development is considered to be the
result of imitating and manipulating models provided by the teacher” (Hyland, 2008, p. 3). Writing with all its different
purposes and forms, is a complex process because some researchers argue that writing is the sum of other language
skills which entails the writer to master in listening, speaking, and reading (Chastain 1971; Finocchiaro 1958; Rivrse
1968).
Polio (2001) believes that when writer focuses on fluency the quality may decrease; however the quality is not
important in freewriting. Jacobs (1986) believes that freewriting has three important aspects “concerning on content, not
worrying about form, and writing without stopping” (p.282). Regarding this, free writing is a student-centered activity
and increases the self-esteem and motivation of students (Jacobs, 1986). Freewriting can help both novice and
experienced writers to reverberate their thoughts and their experiences and convert them into writing; reshaping their
knowledge leads to decreasing the worries that many writers have while writing (Murray 2013; Murray and Moore
2006). According to Kamler, writing with ease and confidence requires letting go and even writing bull shit(2001).
To create knowledge is the main aim of freewriting, as suggested by Richardson (1998; 2000) and Kamler (2001).
Writing for a specific length of time like for five or ten or twenty minutes but quickly and steadily and without stopping
is the essential rule of freewritng (Elbow 2000; Goldberg 1986). Murray (2009) believes that new writers can
particularly benefit from freewriting, because without being worried about being evaluated, they can articulate their
own words and express their thoughts. In addition, Murray adds You start to write, even if you are, in fact, unsure
about where the writing is going” (2009, 93). Moreover, by freewriting, the writer can identify in which areas he is
weak; why his ideas make sense or not. According to Richardson (1998; 2000), all human beings have two kinds of
knowledge; tacit and intuitive. Elbow (2000) mentions that with the help of freewriting one can convert his implicit and
tacit knowledge into explicit and written form of it and then go through it.
Badenhorst (2007, 2008), Elbow (2000), Goldberg (1986), and Murray (2009), believe that freewriting cannot be
regarded as a result, but it is more like a procedure. According to Elbow (2000), by freewriting all the limitations
existing in writing are eliminated. When the self-imposed restrictions for writing accurately and flawlessly are removed,
freewriting keeps the writing alive and lets the writer exhibit his voice and attempts (Elbow 2000). That is to say as
Elbow claims, writers “speak on paper (2000, 86). Furthermore, when writers regularly do freewriting, they are more
satisfied and pleased. Instead of elbow grease , writing is more like detecting and producing.
For Badenhorst (2007), Elbow (2000) and Goldberg (1986), after bringing the opinions and reflections together,
freewriting lets them expand. It makes thinking better and it is a way to capture and extend what the writer wishes to
say (Richardson 2000). Regarding freewriting, the researcher demonstrated what the advocates of freewriting such as
Badenhorst (2008), Elbow (2000) and Goldberg (1986) believe in that freewriting has the capability of producing and
gathering original opinions and beliefs. It is simple and fast while being very delightful and pleasant. Moreover, it
removes the obstacles the writer faces and provides him with the confidence about himself and and his writing.
Murthy (2007) points out that punctuation plays very important role in developing writing skills. Therefore, the
correct use of punctuation marks is very crucial in writing meaningfully. Manser (2006) also believes that the purpose
of punctuation mark is making the meaning of the sentences clear; so correct use of punctuation marks is necessary to
avoid writing meaninglessly. Pryse (1993) also asserts that a good piece of writing can be ruined by lack or
inappropriate punctuation; therefore, if one wants to avoid misinterpretation, his writing should be correctly punctuated.
Therefore, to be understood accurately, one must use correct punctuation marks.
III. STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
Freewriting is writing freely and continuously without concerning about the mechanics of writing, such as
punctuation, spelling and grammar. Because in freewriting the quantity is important and it cannot be edited, so it’s
sometimes full of errors. But if teacher encourages the learners to focus on punctuations when they freewrite, they will
make more accurate sentences in terms of punctuations in their future paragraph writings even without the direct help of
teacher. Also learners of English as a foreign language suffer from lack of knowledge of punctuation marks and the
correct use of them as tools for presenting their ideas in writings. Moreover, there is no research being done related to
this issue which integrates punctuations with freewriting. The research question that guides this study is:
Does practicing freewriting help intermediate EFL learners improve their correct use of punctuation marks in
paragraph writing?
Today it’s essential to train competent and qualified learners in student-centered classes. This study can help bringing
up autonomous writers who can articulate their own writings with more accurate punctuations than before.
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IV. METHOD
A. Participants
The participants were 36 female intermediate students with Persian as their first language, enrolled in a six-week
intensive English writing class in Shokuh-e- Iran Language Institute where the researcher was the instructor. Initially
the participants were 50 and their level was supposed to be intermediate. To homogenize the respondents they were
given a version of Oxford Quick Placement Test (OPT) and based on the results, 36 students were selected as the
participants of the study.
B. Materials and Instruments
The first instrument was Oxford Quick Placement Test (OPT) was used to ensure the homogeneity of the participants
in order to assess the participants’ proficiency level. The second instrument was in the form of paragraph writing. The
researcher selected Guided Paragraph Writing by TC Jupp & John Milne (1972). In this book, different types of
paragraph writings were presented and the researcher used it for both control and experimental groups. As a pretest and
posttest, students were supposed to write a paragraph about a specified topic. The students’ papers were scored
according to a standard rubric which was Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA)
NAPLAN 2012, Persuasive Writing Marking Guide, that is presented in the appendix. The written paragraphs in pretest
and posttest were graded by two raters and the two scores were then averaged. If the raters disagreed, that piece of
writing was given to a third rater to grade its disputed aspect(s). The scores given by the third rater were then averaged
with whichever of the two sets of scores that was closer to it. This suggestion was made by Paulus (1999) to guarantee
the reliability of rating.
C. Procedures
First, the participants were homogenized based on their performance on the Oxford Quick Placement Test. Based on
the results of the text, the intermediate learners were selected as participants of the study. Then they were randomly
divided into two groups as control and experimental group. If there were students who were better in writing, they
would be divided equally in both groups. The two groups received similar procedures in the class which were traditional
approaches, but only the experimental group had an extra freewriting exercise each session focusing on punctuation
marks. All paragraphs written in each session were discussed and corrected in the class; if time did not allow and all of
them could not be corrected in the class, they were corrected at home by the teacher and main points were discussed on
next session. During the term in each session students were provided with paragraph, paragraph writing, paragraph
structures and other things related to paragraph writing in details which was introduced to them briefly during the first
days. In each session some points of grammar were also illustrated briefly. Three days a week in six-week program
students took part in the classes and the time of each session was ninety minutes. Encouraging students to consider the
punctuation marks when they freewrite, is the final aim of the class to see the results if they use more accurate
punctuation marks in their paragraph writings or not.
On the first day of instruction, for more explanations and better clarifications, paragraph and paragraph writing was
explained to students; the way a paragraph is written and what a paragraph consists of. On the second day, different
structures and characteristic of a paragraph was explained to students and some punctuation marks were explained to
them in details. Then they were asked to write a paragraph on a specific topic with taught punctuations.
On the third day, the experimental group received complete explanations in details about the nature of freewriting,
the way it should be done and also its benefits and the reason why they need to learn it for improving their English
writing skills. Other punctuation marks were also explained in details. On the same day, the teacher gave a simple topic
to students and asked them to freewrite for ten minutes and introduce themselves. For the next freewriting that they
were supposed to write, students asked for additional time and another five minutes and they were given fifteen minutes
to freewrite. The teacher explained to students that in freewriting whatever comes to their minds is what she wants and
they should not worry for the mistakes they make. The teacher also clarified that students should not edit and no need to
make a perfect piece of paper. By the time students finished their writing, the teacher asked them to read aloud what
they wrote or exchange with another student. They did that and whenever time allowed, the teacher asked students to
share their writings to more than one student for peer comments. In each session, before students started to freewite, the
teacher wrote some necessary words on the board related to the topic they were going to write about.
On the fourth day, the teacher offered students a needs analysis survey regarding the class instructions and asked
them about their favorite topics they want to write. In this way, freewriting was more enjoyable and pleasant for
students to write about the topics they want. Each session the teacher tried to use the topics they suggested. Throughout
the freewriting sessions over the six weeks, the teacher encouraged students to pay more attention to punctuations when
they freewrote and feedbacks were given on correct or incorrect use of punctuation marks; also sometimes the class had
a small conversation about the topic after the freewriting. The researcher noticed that when students freewrite and
consider the punctuation marks, not only the quality of their freewritings because of their attention to punctuation marks
did not decrease at all, but also what they freewrote was more accurate than before. The researcher decided to
encourage students to have pair-work (after they freewote) because of two reasons. One is that students are not
accustomed to group work yet. The other reason is that when a student works alone, shy and quiet students will remain
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silent, while talkative students always talk. When students read aloud, they become familiar with varieties of thoughts
and opinions and this is valuable. Freewriting also equip students with self-confidence to make meaningful texts very
quickly and easily. Writers could take turn to read aloud to the class what they freewrote with expressing their
punctuation marks and ask others to give their opinions and even criticize the writer.
Students had the first test at the beginning of the six-week course, which involved writing a simple paragraph for
twenty minutes on a specific topic. For the second test which was held at the end of the semester, they had a similar
writing test with another topic to do in twenty minutes to assess their achievement in paragraph writing in term of
punctuation marks at the end of the course. The pretest and posttest of the present study were rated by two raters with a
standard rubric in order to compare the results at the beginning and at the end of the course. The standard rubric is
presented in the appendix A.
V. DATA ANALYSIS AND RESULTS
In order to estimate the reliability of the test and the extent to which the test results are generalizable to the
population, the Cronbach's alpha was calculated to be 0.716 which reveals the acceptable reliability of the test. The
results are shown as below:
TABLE 1.
THE RELIABILITY STATISTICS
Cronbach's alpha
N
.716
4
Kolmogorov-Smirnov test was used to estimate the normality of the distribution of the data which is shown below:
TABLE 2:
KOLMOGOROV- SMIRNOV TEST RESULTS
Control
Opt
Pretest
Posttest
Pretest
Posttest
Experimental
Control
Statistic
.363
.363
.363
.421
.256
.118
Sig.
.000
.000
.000
.000
.003
.200*
Table 3 shows the descriptive statistics for OPT, pretest and posttest scores. 18 participants' scores are included for
the experimental group and 18 scores for the control group. Regarding the experimental group's pretest, the highest
score equals 2 and the lowest one equals 1. The mean is 1.55 and the standard deviation is .51. For the experimental
group's posttest, the highest score equals 4 and the lowest one equals 3. The mean is 3.55 and the standard deviation
is .51. Regarding the control group's pretest, the highest score equals 2 and the lowest one equals 1. The mean is 1.44
and the standard deviation is .51. Regarding the control group's posttest, the highest score equals 3 and the lowest one
equals 2. The mean is 2.66 and the standard deviation is .48.
TABLE 3:
DESCRIPTIVE STATISTICS FOR OPT & PRE- & POSTTEST AND OPT SCORES
N
Minimum
Maximum
Mean
Std. Deviation
Experimental
Pretest
18
1.00
2.00
1.5556
.51131
Posttest
18
3.00
4.00
3.5556
.51131
Control
Pretest
18
1.00
2.00
1.4444
.51131
Posttest
18
2.00
3.00
2.6667
.48507
Opt
Experimental
18
32.00
39.00
34.5000
2.20294
Control
18
31.00
39.00
35.0000
2.22288
According to table 4, Mann Whitney test is used to compare the experimental and control group's OPT scores.
According to the results U=133.5, P=0.358(, there is no significant difference between the two group's scores. The
results of the comparison between respondents’ pretest scores in both control and experimental group (U=144,
P=0.511(show that there is no significant difference between them. But the experimental group who received the
treatment, had better scores compare to control group and the results of the comparison between respondents’ posttest
scores in both control and experimental group (U=48, P=0.000 ( show that there is significant difference between their
scores.
TABLE 4:
RESULTS OF MANN-WHITNEY U TEST FOR OPT & PRE- & POSTTEST AND OPT SCORES
Mean Ranks experimental
Mean Ranks control
U
Z
Sig.
Opt
16.92
20.08
133.500
-.919
.358
Pretest
19.50
17.50
144.000
-.657
.511
Posttest
24.83
12.17
48.000
-4.025
.000
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Table 5 shows the results of the comparison between pretest and posttest scores of each group separately. Because
the distribution of data was not normal, Wilcoxon test was used. There is a significant difference (Z= -3.861, P=0.00)
between experimental group’s scores in pretest and posttest and according to the means (table 2) it is observed that the
mean of posttest scores has increased 54% compare to pretest scores and the treatment was effective. In control group
also there is a significant difference (Z= -3.508, P=0.000) between pretest and posttest exam and according to the means
(table 2) it is observed that the mean of posttest scores has increased 45.8% compare to pretest score and in
experimental group the mean of posttest scores compare to pretest score has increased 56.25% .
Fig. 1: The mean scores of pretest for control group and experimental group
Fig. 2: The mean scores of posttest for control group and experimental group
Fig. 3 shows experimental group's performance on the pretest and posttest. It is obvious that the treatment affected
the learners in this group significantly, as it is reflected in the mean scores in fig. 3.
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Fig. 3: experimental groups mean scores for pretest and posttest
Fig. 4: control groups mean scores for pretest and posttest
In order to test the inter-rater reliability of the scores given by the two raters, Intra-class correlation coefficient was
calculated. The results are shown below:
TABLE 6:
INTRA-CLASS CORRELATION COEFFICIENT
Intra class
Correlation
F Test with True Value 0
Value
df1
df2
Sig
Pretest
Experimental
.882
8.500
17
17
.000
Control
.730
3.706
17
17
.005
Posttest
Experimental
.845
6.434
17
17
.000
Control
.857
7.000
17
17
.000
According to the results (F=8.5, p= .000), the correlation between the two sets of the scores given to the experimental
group by the two raters on the pretest is significant since the observed p-value is less than .05.
Fig. 5: Two raters' scores given to the experimental group on the pretest
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According to the results (F= 3.706, p= .000), the correlation between the two sets of the scores given to the control
group by the two raters on the pretest is significant since the observed p value is less than .05. this is also visible in
figure 6 below.
Fig. 6: Two raters' scores given to the control group on the pretest
According to the results (F= 6.434, p= .000), the correlation between the two sets of the scores given to the
experimental group by the two raters on the posttest is significant since the observed p value is less than .05. this is also
visible in figure 7 below.
Fig. 7: Two raters' scores given to the experimental group on the posttest
Fig. 8: Two raters' scores given to the control group on the posttest
VI. DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION
The present study aimed at investigating the effect of freewriting in developing the correct use of punctuations of
Iranian EFL intermediate learners’ written paragraphs. The results obtained from Wicoxon test revealed that freewriting
has a positive influence on students’ correct use of punctuation marks in their usual paragraph writings. Also the
researcher noticed that the quality of their freewritings increased because of their attention to punctuation marks. When
practicing freewriting with students which punctuations were emphasized, at the end of the semester the researcher
noticed the students’ enthusiasm in doing so and their increased confidence in producing sentences freely and
autonomously with more accurate pronunciations from the beginning of the semester. When supervised freewriting
becomes a usual and integral part of the teaching and learning process, learners will be more encouraged and
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empowered to think, to express their ideas with self-confidence and to have novel opinions to make discoveries through
spontaneous writing while having correct pronunciation markers in their paragraph writings. Therefore, the findings of
the study highlight the importance of freewriting on helping students make better and more accurate punctuations in
sentences than what they were doing before.
The findings also suggest that this kind of freewriting can be applied in broader settings of teaching and learning.
This study investigated only one level of proficiency, i.e. the intermediate level, and further studies are required to be
conducted in other levels of proficiency and on other mechanics of writing to see if the same results will be
accomplished. It is also advised to do the same research with different writing types such as diary, composition, essay
and etc. More different factors which may establish important indicators of task performance can be considered in
further studies such as: learners’ motivation, their differences and their proficiency level.
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APPENDIX. STANDARD RUBRIC
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
I wish to express my sincere appreciation to my friend, Dr. Siavash Zokaie who provided me with valuable
comments and feedback. I also wish to thank the two raters and all the learners who participated in this study.
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Farzaneh Nouri, was born in Mashhad, Iran. She got her BA in English Language Translation from Payam Nour University,
Mashhad, Iran in 2006. She got her MA in TEFL from Saint Louis University, Baguio city, Philippines in 2013. She is currently a
Ph.D. student in TEFL in Islamic Azad University, Qaemshahr branch, Iran. She is a part time teacher in Islamic Azad University of
Kashmar branch since 2014. Her research interests are teacher education, and teaching English as a foreign language.
Amir Marzban, born in Iran, obtained his Ph.D. in Teaching English as a Foreign Language from Islamic Azad University,
Sciences & Research Branch, Tehran, Iran. He is an assistant professor of TESOL working at Islamic Azad University, Qaemshahr,
Iran. He has published papers in national and international journals and also has presented in many international conferences. His
research interests include conversation analysis, L2 reading and writing, CALL and teacher education.
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Chapter
The impact of text-messaging on the form of students' writing was examined using a quantitative approach with a correlational research design to arrive at the findings. A total of 80 students in a Jamaican high school constituted the sample, which was randomly selected. The findings of this research revealed that the Grade 9 students in the sample used a minimal number of text forms in their academic writing. The students who used text forms in their academic writing tend to score high academically. Therefore, texting was found to have a slightly positive impact on students' writing. There was no relationship between the students' gender and their texting patterns. The findings of this study can assist teachers of English to better meet the needs of students who use text-messaging and become a tool for building phonemic awareness and improving literacy.
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This article recommends the introduction of 'quickwriting', an invention technique, to second-language learners. Quickwriting has three features: concentrating on content, not worrying about form, and writing without stopping. It is a good way to help students develop ideas, and words to express ideas, by separating the creating stage of writing from the editing stage. Other possible advantages of quickwriting are in generating writing quantity, thinking in the target language, developing the ability to write under pressure of time, warming up for other writing, and understanding the need to edit The article describes how quickwriting can be demonstrated to students, suggests ground rules for the technique, and mentions ways in which it can be integrated into writing classes. Although quickwriting has limitations, it can help students with their writing and may even aid teachers with theirs.
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New writing practices in qualitative research include evocative writing - a research practice through which we can investigate how we construct the world, ourselves, and others, and how standard objectifying practices of social science unnecessarily limit us and social science. Evocative representations do not take writing for granted but offer multiple ways of thinking about a topic, reaching diverse audiences, and nurturing the writer. They also offer an opportunity for rethinking criteria used to judge research and reconsidering institutional practices and their effects on community. Language is a constitutive force, creating a particular view of reality and the Self. No textual staging is ever innocent (including this one). Styles of writing are neither fixed nor neutral but reflect the historically shifting domination of particular schools or paradigms. Social scientific writing, like all other forms of writing, is a sociohistorical construction, and, therefore, mutable.
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This revised edition of the author's 1958 publication, aimed to "help teachers or language specialists make the transition from linguistic and educational theory to actual teaching practice," includes the following units: (1) Planning for Language Teaching and Learning, (2) Teaching English as a Second Language, (3) General Methods of Teaching, (4) The Role of the Supervisor, (5) Evaluating the Program, and (6) Material and Texts. Appended are some concluding remarks on second language learning, a glossary of useful terms, a listing of resources and texts, and a subject index. (AMM)