Lesson 8: In My Own Words
Photo: Wikimedia Commons / Luqa Primary, Public Domain
Writing is always a process, no matter how long the text. It includes planning, choosing, deciding, searching, organizing, editing, checking, double-checking and yes, some actual writing.
Start by thinking about your own writing skills in English. What are your strengths? Which parts of the process do you need to work on? Is your vocabulary sufficient? What types of words or phrases do you need to learn? How about your grammar? Do you have the patience to check your work carefully enough? Do people understand what you are trying to say? Are you able to express yourself as well as you’d like? You can also reflect on these issues in your learner diary.
Let’s go over some parts of the writing process:
1. Choosing the title/topic
Read the title carefully. Make sure that you understand it. If you are not sure, check the words – not just as individual words because (catchy) phrases and idioms are often used in titles. Do not choose a title you do not understand especially if you are taking a test. Moreover, you might really like some title or topic, but make sure you actually have something (enough) to say about it.
2. Planning the content and structure
To organize your thoughts, draw a mind map or at least write down a list of ideas on the subject you have chosen. A mind map is a good visual aid. You can make one that has just the ideas that you want to write about, or it can include some word, phrases or idioms that you want to use. Once you have enough of the content in mind, start planning how to organize it.
Divide the text into three parts: the introduction, body and conclusion.
A. The introduction will inform the reader of your approach and how you have interpreted the title. However, if the title is a question, do not answer it in the first sentence. The introduction does not have to be long at all, but it should be interesting enough to make the reader want to continue reading. Don’t write it before you have decided what to write in the body of the text.
B. The body is where you present your facts, thoughts, arguments, opinions, details, pros and cons or whatever you need to cover. In a short composition you usually divide it into one or two paragraphs. Organize your text so that each paragraph has one key point or theme, but don’t write paragraphs that consist of just one or two short sentences.
C. The conclusion is a short review of what you have written, something that draws the whole text together. Again, this section doesn’t need to be long at all, just a few sentences – writing something clever or memorable would be great but a good, solid recap can be just as effective.
3. Checking and revising
After you have written the composition, check the following things:
- Is your composition about what the title says it’s about?
- Are your examples relevant?
- Is the content organized in the best possible way?
- Are your sentences too long or short?
- Have you used appropriate vocabulary?
- e.g. could you use some other adjective besides big or little
- Is your spelling okay?
- e.g. it’s / its, couch/coach, surprise, definitely
- Is the grammar okay? Make yourself a checklist, e.g.
- word order (declarative sentences, questions, indirect questions…)
- the subject predicate agreement (e.g. have / has )
- using there is / there are
- the tenses
- irregular verbs
- conditional sentences
- choosing between the past and the present perfect tense
- using the future tense
- the passive voice
- the articles
- the pronouns (e.g. relative pronouns)
Sometimes it might be difficult to check your own text because its content might draw your attention too much. Therefore, check your text one sentence at a time starting from the end.
4. Is this the best you can do?
If possible, take a break from writing and come back to your composition to check it again a bit later. Read through the whole text first. Sometimes reading it out loud can help you spot the parts that need to be rewritten. Second, check your grammar and spelling one more time. Lastly, submit your composition and pat yourself on the back for a job well done!
Photo: Pixabay / OpenClips, Public Domain
Exercise 8.1 Writing a composition
This is the last exercise of the course. Therefore, this is where you should present your best work and show off what you have learned by this time.
There are two parts to this exercise. Do them both.
|Part A – Planning|
Take a look at the topics listed below. Each one requires a somewhat different approach. In the first one you need to describe or explain something, and in the second one you have to express an opinion. The third one would be a response to the given quote, and in the fourth one you must use the information given in the graph and the description of the task.
Choose the topic that you want to write about and draw a mind map or write a list of things you want to include in your composition.
Submit the mind map (max 3 Mb) (or a link to one) / list below:
|Part B – Writing|
Write a composition of between 150 and 250 words on one of the following topics. Please add a word count at the end.
Tehtävä arvioidaan arvosanalla 4-10.
1. Adjusting to a new community
2. Is royalty outdated?
3. “Never believe that a few caring people can't change the world. For indeed that's all who ever have. ” (Margaret Mead)
4. Get the word out!
You are on the organizing committee of a community event, and your task is to promote that event in social media. Determine the type of event (family fun, a fundraiser, community awareness, getting to know each other…) and take a look at the chart below. How would you use the listed channels to reach people of different ages? Give an example of at least one message you would send out.
Social media usage demographics*
* The presented figures are not based on a scientific study.
NB. The word count:
- Do not include the title in the count
- Include all articles and prepositions in the count
- Harry had a couple of coins left in his pocket. = 10 words
- e.g. isn’t = 1 word but is not = 2 words
Submit your composition below:
Photo: Pixabay / Nemo, Public Domain
Otavan Opisto / Heli Viitanen
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