Online Instruction and Creative Writing

Many students and instructors feel that writing in a foreign language is a chore rather than an enjoyable task. Students are always hesitant to write because they are inhibited and are afraid of making mistakes. Many cannot generate ideas. In the past six semesters I have used online courses in teaching EFL courses to freshman students. Blackboard and Nicenet were used as a supplement to in-class instruction. We used our PC's and internet connection from home. Students posted stories and poems that they read on the internet or in books and liked to share, and wrote short paragraphs related to the themes covered in class and textbook. I encouraged them to write for communication and not to worry about grammatical and spelling mistakes. I never edited their posts not corrected their errors. Positive comments were always given. Students commentated on each other's threads and were always supportive of each other. They were enthusiastic and felt free to write and not to worry about mistakes. Few weeks after the beginning of the semester (the first course), a student asked me if she could post anything. To my surprise, she posted a poem that she wrote. The students, as well as myself, were extremely thrilled. She received complements and I gave her extra credit and gifts. Soon few more students had the courage to post their own poems. In the following semesters, I started to tell the students that I had creative writers in my previous courses and would like them to write their own poems and stories and post them on the discussion board. Few would respond. In each class, I had between 5-9 students (about 5-10%) who were creative writers and who were able to compose their own poems, write their own short stories and paragraphs about their own experiences although they were in their first semester of college and were of an intermediate proficiency level. Interviews with creative writers showed that the online learning environment had a positive effect on their attitude towards the writing process. It made writing an enjoyable task. It provided an environment secure for making mistakes. Their motivation and sense of achievement were enhanced. Creative writing was enhanced by the multiple skills practiced and extension activities that they enjoyed. The number of poems, stories and essays written by creative writers as individuals and as a group will be reported and samples will be displayed. My experience with 6 groups of students showed that creative writing does not require a special talent or a high proficiency level in EFL. It is not difficult to achieve in the EFL classroom. Instructors need to encourage the students to write for communication rather than focus on grammatical and spelling correctness. Positive feedback is essential. Creative writers need an online learning environment that is supportive, and secure for trial and error. They need to feel free to express themselves and need to feel good about themselves and what they can do and achieve.

Prof. Reima Al-jarf
King Saud University
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

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Tags: &, EFL, technology


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