1 Writing in the real world

Activity 1: Writing in the real world

What kinds of writing can you find around your school and your community? Together with a colleague, take a few moments to make a list. Examples might include:

  • traffic signs
  • advertisements
  • timetables
  • health posters
  • political slogans
  • calendars
  • religious texts
  • magazines
  • newspapers
  • books
  • cinema posters
  • school notices
  • subject charts
  • attendance charts.
Figure 1 A school menu.

Now answer these two sets of questions:

  • Set 1:
    • What writing do you think your students see in their homes or community?
    • Who is the intended audience of this writing?
    • What is the purpose of this writing?
  • Set 2:
    • What writing do your students do in school?
    • Who is the intended audience of this writing?
    • What is the purpose of this writing?

Are there any similarities between the writing your students see outside school and the writing they do in school? Why, or why not?

In Case Study 1 you will read about a teacher who brought real-world writing into her classroom.

Case Study 1: Writing postcards

Mrs Shamila is a Class II teacher in a school in Kanpur. Here she describes a simple writing activity that she undertook with her young students.

Before the summer, I received a postcard from a friend who had travelled to Delhi. I brought it into the classroom to show my students. They were excited by the picture of the Red Fort on the front and the message from my friend on the back.

I decided to plan a lesson to develop my students’ interest in the postcard. I cut out rectangles of thick white card and handed out one to each of them. I then asked them to draw a picture on one side of whatever they wished – be it something familiar or imaginary.

When they had finished, I asked them to turn over the picture and divide the other side in two. On the right, they wrote their home address. Some of my students weren’t sure of this, so I explained to them how to say and write it.

On the left of the address, they wrote a short message to their parents. I modelled some sentences on the blackboard such as ‘Dear Maaji and Pitaaji’, ‘I hope you are well’, ‘I send you greetings’ and so on. In this way, I supported the less able students. The more able students wrote a message of their choice. They then signed their name at the end of their message.

My headteacher had kindly agreed to give me funds to purchase stamps for the postcards. Having pasted a stamp in the top right-hand corner of the postcard, my students and I walked to the nearest postbox and they put the cards inside.

My students were thrilled when the postcards were delivered to their homes the following week. Their parents were also happy to receive them.

Pause for thought

  • How does Mrs Shamila’s postcard activity balance composition and transcription-related tasks?
  • How would you adapt this activity for older students?

In this activity, students are invited to compose a text using their own ideas, but the teacher gives them some of the phrases that they may need to do this. Sending messages to parents in an activity like this promotes home–school communication in a positive way. Older students have more options for what they write, They could also write postcards to each other, or to students at another school that you are familiar with.

Why this approach is important

2 Shared writing