Even when children draft story charts together and they use these to build reading skills, the content young writers compose is typically stories, poems, and paragraph that describe personal experiences. This is equally true when elementary youngsters write independently; stress is on drafting stories, poems, and descriptions of firsthand experiences. Only infrequently do children compose on relational topics from science and social studies. As a result, students have little opportunity to develop their ability to organize expository content on paper. Yet this learning basic, for it relates to reading as well as to writing. In learning to organize informational content for writing, students gain insight into how authors handle complex ideas on paper; in so doing, they are refining their schemata for comprehending this kind of content.
This lack of attention to building schemata for interpreting and composing informational content seems to occur even though study in science and social studies is part of elementary programs and children read from content area texts as early as first grade. An analysis of teachers guides to science and social studies text hints at the reason for this lack. Few series suggest ways to encourage young learners to perceive the structure within which ideas are organized in a chapter, to gather data systematically based on their comprehension of that structure, and to organize points gleaned into an original structure for writing.
A basic strategy for introducing students to the structures through which informational content is expressed in written form is factstorming. Factstorming is the process in which students randomly call out phrases that come mind on a topic while scribes record these on chart paper or the chalkboard in the order given. To be productive, of course, factstorming must be based on a data-gathering activity. For example, students may view a film or filmstrip or listen to an informational passage shared orally by their teacher. They may read in several references on the topic. or they may collect data through a combination of approaches that are part of unit study. In any event, students must have informational background to bring to the factstroming.
The next category in the instructional sequence is categorization, or the systematic organization of facts “stromed”. This can be achieved in several ways, depending on the sophistication and previous experience of students with the process. One way is for the teacher to select an item of information laid out on the board and ask students to locate a second item that is in some way like first. Students tell how the two items are related, circle them. and locate other items that share the same relationship, circling them in the same manner. Having developed one cohesive category of facts in this way, students proceed to organize the remaining facts into other categories according to shared relationships, indicating related items by circling them with different colored markers.
Dittoed lists of terms and points “stromed” are helpful when students have had little experience categorizing. Youngsters factstorm one day, perhaps listening on a chart points recalled from an informational film viewed or from a series of paragraphs read. These points are reproduced on a ditto, so that each youngsters the next day has a copy and can circle related points on it with different colored crayond.
Once students grouped related points into labeled categories, they can take the next step - drafting shorts paragraphs based on each of the categories. Again there are several ways of proceeding. With youngsters who have had little experience drafting informational paragraphs based on one main idea, a good introductory strategy is teacher-guided group writing. Guiding either the total class or a small writing team, the teacher focuses attention on one category on information previously charted and encourages children to compose sentences on this topic. The teacher or a student scribe records sentences suggested and then guides the students is revising what they have drafted. The teacher may also ask students for a general statement to use as a summary at the beginning or the end of the paragraphs a topic sentence, so to speak. He or she may ask students to reorder the sentences drafted so that they flow more logically, to combine two sentences into one, to substitute a more expressive word for one used, to write another sentence that supplied added information. In short, children and teacher together mark over, cross out, insert, reorder, and finally title their paragraph.
Now in small writing teams, students work in the same way with other categories of information they have charted. If each group drafts a paragraph on a different subtopic, the result is several titled paragraphs, each on a main idea that relates to a broader area.
With sophisticated students who have had considerable experience composing informational paragraphs based on categorized lists or data charts, of course the teacher can offer the option of individual writing. Each youngsters composes a titled paragraph on one category information. Later those who have drafted paragraphs on the same category can pair off to talk about how they organized the given points into paragraphs and to help with the editing of each others papers.
Having drafted and edited paragraphs, students can share them by recording copies on a chart or the chalkboard. Now the task is to decide on the order in which the individual paragraphs can be combined into a composite report. Students reach a consensus by talking about possible orders and the advantages and disadvantages of each.
After students have sequenced their collaborative report, they can talk out the content of an introductory paragraph, cooperatively frame a beginning sentence, and dictate several supporting sentences that can be part of the introduction to their report. Again, this work can be handled as a teacher-guided group writing activity; the teacher asks questions that encourage students to think of a good beginning sentence and to identify key content that is to follow in the body of the report. In the same way students can formulate either a summary paragraph or one that proposes generalizations based on the content included in the report.
The nature of foreign-language teaching
The belief is prevalent that the teaching of a foreign language is a comparatively simple subject. This follows the assumption that the process is solely that of providing language experience; for every lesson in which the language is spoken, read or written must inevitably contribute to the extension of the pupils acquaintance with the language. If this were the true character of the process the only qualification for the role of instructor would be an adequate knowledge of the language. Closer examination, however, proves that the efficient teaching of a foreign language, far from being a simple process, is probably the most difficult and complex of all subjects in the curriculum.
For all subjects the initial considerations are what to teach and who. In this case of all other subjects there is no appreciable difficulty about the first, as the syllabus is usually clear and indisputable. Even for method there are guiding principles which meet with more or less general acceptance. Foreign-language teaching, however, has not yet attained the stage of universal agreement even as to what is to be taught, still less as to how.
This may be taken as an indication of the complex character of the subject, wherein content and method are curiously involved. What appears to be a single subject is really a group of associated yet distinct branches of study; for language is a generic term covering all or any of the following features; speech, reading. composition, grammar, literature, commercial, technical and scientific activities. Therefore courses must differ widely if reading or speech is made the sole or major purpose, and if the syllabus is extended to literature or commerce; the extent and choice of vocabulary too will depend on whether instruction is given on Translation or Direct Method lines; and presentation of grammar will vary considerably if taught formally or functionally.
It is difficult even to qualify the general character of foreign-language teaching. All other school subjects may be broadly classified as either knowledge or skills. Thus History and Geography are undoubtedly knowledge subjects, whereas Mathematics and Drawing are skills. Strictly speaking none is purely one or the other. History is certainly more than the mere absorption of data, and Mathematics call for the memorizing of tables and formulae; but the predominant feature is clearly one element, with the other as incidental.
In which category is foreign-language learning to be included& The answer is more than academic interest, as the respective point of view will determine the whole character of course.
If it is thought of as predominantly a knowledge subject, efforts will be concentrated on giving the pupils as large a vocabulary as possible and supplying them with many grammatical data. The value individual lessons will probably be assessed by the number of new words taught or the point of grammar elucidated.
On the other hand, if language is thought of as essentially a skill, or a series of skills less attention will be paid to extent of vocabulary, and progress will be measured instead by the degree of fluency attained by the pupils. The conflictin