From sentence to paragraph to essay – Teaching paragraph writing in Saudi Arabia

After having taught in Saudi Arabia for around 8 years, it is only now that some aspects of what makes Saudi students ‘tick’ is making me re-think my preconceptions of why students struggle to write.

During a recent writing course I was teaching, the best student in the class made me aware that he and the other students had never been taught how to write paragraphs at school. “We were just told to write”. So that’s what they did – write.

They were not taught to:

  • Plan
  • Write an outline
  • Brain storm
  • To write their ideas in any particular order
  • Or to write with any kind of interconnectedness
  • Or to summarise their ideas

There were told “just to write”.

This information is important, as what this brief piece of information reveals, is that students lack basic cognitive/thinking/learning skills, and that in the EFL classroom in addition to worrying about language, a great deal of time needs to be spent in just developing these more ‘lateral skills’.

If anyone knows of any traits within Arabic writing that might help us understand the Arabic writing/thinking process, then could they please share their experiences?

It’s not an Arab problem, it’s a Saudi problem. I say this, as all Arabs tend to be boxed into one category, but as experience shows, cultural and experiential factors play a significant part in how learning and language skills develop. We certainly need more research in this area.

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Ramadan Day 19 to 30 (2012)

Apologies for not posting anything the last ten days or so of Ramadan. This is partly (mostly) due to a lack of discipline on my part, but also the greater intensity of the last third of Ramadan; a time when the act of spirituality takes more of one’s time, and the mind is pre-occupied with higher purpose.

In the last ten days worship becomes more active at night. Between sunset and sunrise, with intermittent breaks, the focus is on greater spirituality, probably more than any other time of the year, although this need not necessarily be the case (why not make it regular?)

In a way, night turns into day, and day turns into night, thus for the last 10 days of Ramadan this is a continuous theme across the world. We beseech, we implore, we request, for greater peace and success in our lives and the life beyond.

Although there is a greater quantity of worship, it’s the quality that matters. Were we distracted during our spiritual experience, or were we genuinely in one-to-one communication with the force to whom we are to return?

Despite the fasting and the intense spirituality, the end of the month brings forth feelings of desire for the next Ramadan to come quickly, so that we can again be engrossed in this most uplifting of months.