Why this approach is important
Writing always has an audience, even if that person is oneself. Similarly, every piece of writing has a purpose, even if it is simply a reminder to buy rice in the market. In schools, writing tasks sometimes lack this authentic audience and purpose, particularly if they take the form of mechanical exercises. If writing tasks aren’t authentic, students may not fully appreciate why being able to write matters so much in the real world, and how enjoyable and creative the mastery of this skill can be.
There are two elements of writing development: composition and transcription.
- Composition may be considered ‘the author’s role’, as it involves knowing who will read the writing (its audience) and what it is intended to achieve (its purpose), generating and organising ideas, and making choices about what style of language to use.
- Transcription may be considered ‘the secretary’s role’, as it involves making sure that the writing is legible, the spelling is correct, the punctuation is accurate and the layout of the text is appropriate.
Teachers usually tend to focus primarily on the transcription element of their students’ work and spend time explaining and correcting this. However, of the two, the more important skill for students to master is composition.
When your students are composing writing that interests and inspires them – that is to say, when they are developing their authoring skills – they will also be practising the secretarial skills of handwriting, spelling, punctuation and paragraphing. The opposite nevertheless does not follow. It is therefore important to introduce more authentic composition tasks so that students can become independent writers of meaningful texts.