Writing is an important part of communication. Though we live in a digital world, writing skills still play a predominant role. Text messages, social media posts, emails, blog entries, etc., are all ways of communicating. Writing, whether by hand or with a keypad, still plays an important role in the social, professional and academic contexts of our lives. One of the most challenging tasks in the classroom has been the teaching of writing skills. Teaching writing is challenging because when students produce a piece of writing, they have to deal with many different elements such as content, syntax, grammar, mechanics, word choice and organization. The theoretical perspectives as applied to the teaching of writing, the challenges faced in the teaching and learning of writing skills and the options available to teachers are the focus in this issue of FORTELL. To engage the interests of readers and contributors alike, we have also addressed other concerns of English language and literature through articles, book reviews and an interview with Professor Christel R. Devadawson.
Nivedita V. Bedadur lays emphasis on using authentic material to teach writing in her article. She argues that in the product approach, the writer is not involved and hence the write-up lacks a distinctive voice. On the other hand, in the process method called CODER, writing is more important than spellings, layouts and standards of correctness. Like Bedadur, Divya Chawla also gives importance to the use of authentic material. She discusses that wrappers, menu cards, metro time tables and flyers can be used to create a print rich environment in the classroom; not only will this aid learning, but it will also provide the learners with a connect with life rather than reproducing in writing things learnt by rote.
In S. C. Sood’s article, process and genre-based approaches to teaching writing have been discussed and the experiences of L2 students in writing various genres have been examined. Divya John looks at the advantages of free writing in increasing the speed as well as the thought process in writing based on her experiences with a group of students in an engineering course. Yasmeen Lukmani reveals the inadequacies in student writing that constrain the statement of meaning. She also looks into the different factors that subject teachers and English teachers consider as important when marking student scripts.
Prachi Kalra picks up on a problem frequently encountered by teachers, that of children being reluctant writers. She emphasizes that talking, reading and writing go hand in hand, and stresses on the need to move beyond the focus on rigid format, and instead feels the students should be encouraged to look for a form which fits their functional purpose. Like Kalra, Kirti Kapur gives importance to process writing, to encourage thinking and learning. She opines that right from content selection to the production of the final draft, critical thinking and writing go hand-in-hand.
Lina Mukhopadhyay takes the idea of teaching writing further by discussing the usefulness of feedback to appreciate what the learner has achieved. She provides various suggestions to enable learning through pedagogic feedback, both direct and indirect, and makes a case for keeping a record of student growth across sub-skills. In their paper, Bhaskar and Paliwal approach the problem of resistance of the students towards writing, and suggest that unconscious translation from L1 to L2 must not be rejected. The writers propose that an understanding of the processes and procedures of translation be used for language acquisition and supporting the writing skills of L2 learners.
Rajni Singh and Sanjiv Kumar Choudhary move away from the issue of writing to examine the impact of parental involvement on students’ achievement in learning English as a second language. And Devupalli Vishwa Prasad picks yet another aspect of concern, and elaborates on a few factors that materials writers need to bear in mind while designing textbooks.
Apart from different aspects of language, we have also included papers that delve into varied areas of literature in this issue. Neha Gaur poses a question about the politics at play when building a national identity by using the body of woman as a commodity, and of viewing the nation as woman and woman as nation. She critiques the idea of nationalism as presented in Tagore’s The Home and the World, and the gendered accounts of violence and displacement in the works of Amrita Pritam and Bapsi Sidhwa. In “The Development of Theoretical Principles of Dalit Literature”, Vikas Singh and Vikas Jain trace the spread of Dalit consciousness, the significance of the word “Dalit”, and the tradition of Dalit thinkers that Dalit literature draws from.
The interview with Professor Christel R. Devadawson, Head, Department of English, University of Delhi, picks on the various threads discussed in the articles, and moves beyond to larger concerns about changing boundaries of literature and genres. The Nobel Prize for literature being accorded to Bob Dylan forces us to think afresh about literature beyond its textual sense, and the fact that arts carry a sense of engagement socially and culturally. According to her, we are moving through a fluid, open-ended and complicated cultural space that the discipline needs to negotiate with. Professor Devadawson insists that even as there are shifts and changes at various levels in universities such as syllabi revisions, the important keystone is still the student in the classroom. With the increasing popularity of genres such as blogs, photo essays, graphic novels, cartoons and graffiti among the younger people, and the language shifts influenced by social media, changes are bound to storm into the classroom. She suggests that we need to discuss this, learn to mediate it, and moreover to widen our notion about what constitutes literature and intellectual enjoyment.
We hope that the wide range of articles, the book reviews and the insightful views of Professor Devadawson in the interview leads to invigorating discussions among our readers, in classrooms, staffrooms and through research papers. We look forward to your comments and feedback, and to have a continuing dialogue with you. Do write in if you wish us to focus on areas and themes that we have overlooked so far.
Dear readers, last but not the least, you would have noticed the new look of the FORTELL journal that we have launched from this year. This is just another step in reinventing ourselves to keep abreast with times, among other things it will allow us to include more articles of longer length. We hope for timely renewal of subscriptions and for you to spread the word about FORTELL among your colleagues. As always, you can read the current issue and access the archives for back issues at fortell.org.
Happy New Year 2017 and Happy Reading!
Rachna Sethi and Ravinarayan Chakrakodi