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International Journal of Languages’ Education and Teaching

ISSN: 2198 – 4999, Mannheim – GERMANY


UDES 2015 p. 307-316

IMPROVING WRITING SKILLS WITH GENRE-BASED INSTRUCTION FOR TURKISH


AS A FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEARNERS 1
Celile Eren ARGIT2 & Banu ÖZER GRIFFIN 3
ABSTRACT
In this study, we designed a writing class which is a genre-based and content-related course for TÖMER B1 level students.
Teaching writing about a certain subject matter through specific genres allows learners to raise their awareness not only of rules
of thumb but also of language functioning with exceptions and ambiguities. The learning activities conducted for this course have
been theoretically framed within the principles of sociocultural theory (Vygotsky, 1978) and the movement from the abstract to
the concrete (MAC) (Davydov, 1988). These two pedagogical approaches, which aim to foster cognitive development in order to
engage learners in meaning-making processes, are constituted by the social environment. Data was collected through examining
the course book (HİTİT B1) writing skill sections and genre-based writing assignments targeting communicative principles of
language functioning in terms of language and context. Primarily, the analysis of the writing assignments was done with systemic
functional linguistics including genre-based instruction (Martin, 1993 cited in Ferreria, 2005). The learners practiced writing
through several genres such as petitions, bio-sketch, e-mail, etc. which give the conceptual understanding of concrete
manifestations of communication. The results of the data indicate genre-based instruction improves learners’ writing skills, and
second language sociopragmatic knowledge, which in turn supports explicit instruction, sociolinguistic conventions, meaning-
based practices and the relationships among all three (van Compernolle, 2011).
Key Words: Genre-based Instruction, Writing Skills, Turkish as a Foreign Language.

1. INTRODUCTION

The purpose of this study is to plan, implement, and evaluate genre-based instruction for
writing activities. In order to raise learners’ awareness on language functioning in writing
activities, we implemented instruction based on the theoretical frameworks of systemic
functional linguistics (Martin, 1993 cited in Ferreria, 2005) and the movement from the
abstract to the concrete (MAC) (Davydov, 1988; Vygotsky, 1979). It is claimed that both
systemic functional linguistics (SFL) and MAC can foster writing proficiency through
facilitating the perceptions of abstract concepts of morphology and syntax. When the abstract
concepts of morphology and syntax become more concrete, language in context can be
perceived more meaningfully. Therefore, the systemic functional view of language states
genre is a “goal oriented social process, where students are exposed to samples of a genre
and to explicit instruction on the goal of the genre” (Ferreria, 2005: 22, 24). Through SFL, two
elements—context of situation (field, tenor, mode) and context of culture (genre)—scaffold
the usage of language. Moreover, SFL teaches aspects of context, field, tenor and mode which
provide a conceptual understanding of language functioning. Field refers to the content, the
social action involved in the text. Tenor regards the relationship between the language users,

1 This study was presented as oral paper at the I. International Symposium on Language Education and
Teaching.
2
Assist. Prof. Dr., Yıldız Technical University, English Language Education, e-mail: cargit@yildiz.edu.tr
3
Lecturer, Yıldız Technical University, School of Foreign Language, e-mail: banugriffin@yahoo.com
308 Celile Eren ARGIT & Banu ÖZER GRIFFIN

and mode refers to how language is employed in the text (Martin, 1993 cited in Ferreria,
2005).

Briefly, the social approach of genre-based pedagogy, in its main form, addresses issues
overlooked by process writing such as the social aspects of writing and explicit instruction on
language forms involved in a particular genre. It states that explicit instruction through
genres helps students acquire rhetorical patterns required by both academic writing and
official correspondences. In contrast, writing sections in many course books ask students to
write in vague contexts based on given guidelines, so they are not engaged in making
meanings and using them for personal needs.

In other words, in genre-based pedagogy, the activity is personalized or oriented with a


particular focus on actions that will change a person’s mental functioning. Thus, grammar is
linked to the social context, and the process of writing is studied beyond the classroom, for
instance, in terms of preparing students for writing in academia.

From the perspective of SFL (Ferreria, 2005), writing curriculum has three phases: the
modelling, the negotiation between text and student, and the independent construction of a
text. In the first phase, students are given samples of a genre and taught explicitly the goal of
the genre, and how this goal is achieved through the stages of the genre (specific linguistic
patterns, rhetorical expressions, specific vocabulary). This is followed by the negotiation
phase, with teacher and students collaboratively constructing a text, and, finally, the learner
alone writing his/her own text which is constructed independently from the given sample.

On the other hand, in Davydov’s pedagogical approach, “the movement from the abstract to
the concrete” (MAC), makes students engage in a meaning-making processes through genres
as well. When students become engaged in problem-solving situations, they try to use their
own processed knowledge, in other words, no ready-made knowledge is provided; thus,
knowledge is acquired through experiential learning. Students are motivated to learn new
structures corresponding to the situations in which they find themselves. They become aware
of the language, and how it is used differently according to the context. However, they lack
the explicit concrete instruction of genre writing, so they do not know precisely how to
realize linguistic and rhetorical nuances.

2. PARTICIPANTS AND SETTING

The data was collected from a state university’s TÖMER students, 16 participants, who are
aged from 18 to 30, and will keep studying at the state universities in Turkey. The students
studied Turkish for 25 hours per week for one semester. The data collection process was
divided into two stages, in terms of pre-writing practices and post-writing practices after the
genre-based instruction. In the first stage, the writing topics presented in the course book
were discussed together in the classroom and then students were asked to write on them,
based on their current linguistic knowledge and subsequently, their writing tasks were
compiled through the classroom activity, which is called “Let’s Write” (Yazalım), and is the

International Journal of Languages’ Education and Teaching


UDES 2015
IMPROVING WRITING SKILLS WITH GENRE-BASED INSTRUCTION FOR TURKISH
AS A FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEARNERS 309

basis for our research. This activity is found at the end of each unit in the course books,
“HİTİT Yabancılar için Türkçe Ders Kitabı B1”, which is an intermediate level textbook.
In the second stage, principally the students read the sample texts through which they are
introduced to the grammatical patterns, exceptions, idiomatic usages, vocabulary, addresses,
endings, etc., which are peculiar to writing in that genre; subsequently, they are guided to
model the text with all these specific expressions in order to adapt and rewrite it with their
own text.

3. METHODOLOGY

The current study’s main concern was to understand the style of writing with regards to
genre and formal language functioning from the participants’ perspectives. The research has
an emergent and flexible design, a purposeful and small sample, and deep and frequent
contact with participants (Merriam, 2009). Briefly, the characteristics of the qualitative study
and inductive process are particularly well suited for this research as the focus is the
participants’ perspectives on their experience in genre-based writing assignments. In this
study, action research provided the process and tool for planning, action, monitoring, and
reflection in the implementation (Patton, 2002).
4. DATA COLLECTION

The researchers collected data through using multiple sources of data, such as students’
classroom writing activities (general concepts), genre-based assignments (e-mail, petition,
bio-sketch, movie critic), and course book (HİTİT B1) practices to observe their writing skill
progress.
Firstly, the course book’s (HİTİT B1) writing activity, “Let’s Write,” was classified according
to thematic writing with regard to certain instructions and grammar topics given in the
section. This aimed to demonstrate the starting point and general concepts through the
writing instruction. Secondly, the students analyzed the sample texts and situations through
MAC procedures, where abstract concepts were shifted into concrete functions of genres.
Thirdly, they received explicit instruction in the concrete functioning of language with the
help of the SFL components of field, tenor and mode. In fact, our research mainly focused on
discussing and repairing the students’ genre-based writing assignments, which related to the
notions of field, tenor, and mode.

5. DATA ANALYSIS

Primarily, we determined the course book writing activities and classified them according to
their objectives and outcomes within thematic frameworks. Each unit is titled with a writing
topic, and the context of the composition is confined to certain structural outcomes which are
presented as general writing rules and grammatical forms.

International Journal of Languages’ Education and Teaching


UDES 2015
310 Celile Eren ARGIT & Banu ÖZER GRIFFIN

TOPIC/THEME INSTRUCTIONS GRAMMAR


UNIT 1 Başarılı olmak için Başarılı olmak ile –malı/meli
neler yapmak ilgili bir Obligation
gerekir? kompozisyon
Success yazınız.
Write a
composition about
success

UNIT 2 Toplum yaşamında Toplumda Reciprocal voice


iletişimin rolü ve iletişimin rolü ile -ArAk gerund
sözlü iletişim ilgili bir
Communication kompozisyon
yazınız.
Write a
composition about
communication
UNIT 3 Tatildeyken Bir tatil anınızı -(i)ken conjunction
yaşadığınız bir anlatınız
anınızı anlatınız. Write about one of
Past Holidays your holidays
UNIT 4 Hayatınızda önemli Önemli teknolojik Reflexive verbs
yeri olan teknolojik gelişmeleri önem
gelişmeleri bir liste sırasına göre
halinde yazalım. listeleyelim.
Technology Make a list of
technological
improvements in
order of importance
UNIT 5 Her insan çocukluk Siz de bir çocukluk Adverbial
anılarını hatırlar, anınızı yazın. connectors
hiç unutamaz. Write about a -dıktan beri
Childhood childhood memory - dı -alı- dır
memories of yours. - dAn beri
UNIT 6 Ülkenizdeki evlilik Ülkenizdeki evlilik Conditional
geleneği geleneğini anlatan -sA
Marriage traditions bir kompozisyon
yazın
Write a
composition about
marriage traditions
in your country
UNIT 7 Kendi ülkenizdeki Çevre kirliliği ile Factitive Verb &

International Journal of Languages’ Education and Teaching


UDES 2015
IMPROVING WRITING SKILLS WITH GENRE-BASED INSTRUCTION FOR TURKISH
AS A FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEARNERS 311

çevre kirliliğine ilgili örnekler verip Meaning


ilişkin örnekler önerilerinizi
verip önerilerinizi listeleyin.
listeleyin. Give examples of
Pollution pollution and
suggest solutions
UNIT 8 Televizyon ile ilgili Aşağıdaki metne General review
bir metin uygun bir başlık
Television bulup 50-80 sözcük
kullanarak metni
tamamlayın.
Write an
appropriate
headline to the
given text
UNIT 9 Bir grup Tatil hazırlığı ile Time adverbs
arkadaşınızla tatil ilgili bir diyalog -AnA kadar
yapacağınızı oluşturun. -IncAyA kadar
varsayın Write a dialogue Zaman Ulaçları
Imagine you are about preparations - mAyAcAk+iyelik
going on a holiday for your holiday. zaman/sırada
with your friends
UNIT 10 Her kültürde, Siz de kültürünüze Participles
herkesin bildiği ve ait ya da bildiğiniz -(y)AcAk/-An/-dIk+
anlattığı, dilden dile bir aşk hikâyesi iyelik eki +ad
dolaşan bir aşk yazın.
öyküsü vardır. Write a love story
Love stories from your culture
UNIT 11 Basın ve Okuduğunuz Participles
enformasyon paragraf, Birleşmiş + mAktA / mIş +
alanında çalışanlar; Milletler tarafından iyelik eki
halka doğru bilgi hazırlanan ve basın +(y) AcAk olan
vermek, olayları çalışanlarının
tam olarak uyması gereken
aktarmak için Uluslararası Ahlak
ellerinden geleni İlkeleri'nin ilk
yaparlar. Bütün maddesidir. Bu
bilgileri en iyi ilkeyi de göz
şekilde önünde
doğrulamaya bulundurarak
çalışırlar. "Gazetecinin Görev
Journalism ve Sorumlulukları

International Journal of Languages’ Education and Teaching


UDES 2015
312 Celile Eren ARGIT & Banu ÖZER GRIFFIN

başlıklı bir
kompozisyon yazın.
Write a
composition about
responsibilites and
duties of a
journalist
"İletişimsizlik nasıl Yukarıdaki sözü Participles
anlaşmazlıkları ve açıklayan bir -mAktA/- mIş/-
savaşları getirirse kompozisyon yazın. (y)AcAk
sağlıklı ve özgür bir ol+duk+iyelik eki
iletişim de
uzlaşmaları, barışı
getirecektir”.
Fikri Sağlar Write a
Eski Kültür Bakanı composition about
Miscommunication the quotation given
and not above
communicating
UNIT 12 Sizce aile neyi ifade Herhangi bir Indirect Speech
ediyor? Aile yönerge yok.
yapısının güçlü veya No given
güçsüz olması instruction
nelere bağlıdır?
Toplum açısından
ailenin önemi
nedir?
Concept of family
UNIT 13 Çok özlem Özlediğiniz bir yere Time adverbs
duyduğunuz bir veya kişiye -DIğI zaman
yere ya da kişiye kavuştuğunuz - IncA
kavuştuğunuz andaki -Ar/-mAz
andaki duygularınızı -DIğI sırada
duygularınızı anlatın
anlatın Write about how
Missing someone you feel when you
miss someone
UNIT 14 Gülü seven dikenine Gülü seven Participles
katlanır dikenine katlanır Compound voices
Every rose has its sözünden hareketle
own thorn bir kompozisyon
yazın
Write a

International Journal of Languages’ Education and Teaching


UDES 2015
IMPROVING WRITING SKILLS WITH GENRE-BASED INSTRUCTION FOR TURKISH
AS A FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEARNERS 313

composition about
this proverb
UNIT 15 Genel Tekrar Genel Tekrar Genel Tekrar
(REVISION) (REVISION) (REVISION)
UNIT 16 Bir toplumun Bu listede olmayan General Review
kimliği konulu kendi kültürünüze
metin özgü davranış
Identity of a society biçimlerini
listeleyin.
Write about some
typical behaviors
from your culture

After this documentation of structural writing instruction, we conducted genre-based writing


activities and assignments, and MAC’s seven learning actions were carried out in the class: a)
problem situation, b) modeling, c) modifying the model, d) applying the model to solve tasks,
e) monitoring the actions, f) evaluating them, and g) social interaction in order to achieve a
particular focus on both context and actions.
1- Problem Situation: Mostly required genre writing (e-mail, bio-sketch, petition, movie
critique)
2- Modelling: Examining the text given by the course book (HİTİT B1) and the teacher.
3- Modifying the model: Based on problematic situations, how to write in the format of
the given genre with specific vocabulary, grammar and pragmatics.
 E-mail: Teacher-instructed, formal address, clear expression, how to conclude.

 Bio-sketch: Writing a CV briefly and concisely.

 Petition: How to address, stating the problem, what is needed on the part of the
governmental institution to solve the situation.

 Movie critique: Giving general information about the movie, i.e. name, actors, year,
genre, director. Taking notes about the film while watching (good, bad, funny,
moving), giving a short summary of the film avoiding crucial information.

4- Applying the sample: Using vocabulary, and grammatical and rhetorical patterns with
regard to the function of the language.
5- Monitoring the actions: Self-observation and struggling with real life situations
through self-assessment and self-motivation.
6- Evaluating assignments: Showing corrections on the paper, giving individual feedback
and having classroom discussions on them. Frequently-made errors are categorized
below with some examples:
 Misspelling: En güzel Farsça ve İngilisce konuşuyor.

 Adverbial Clauses: Onun eşi kanser için öldü.

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UDES 2015
314 Celile Eren ARGIT & Banu ÖZER GRIFFIN

 Direct Object-Accusative case: Legolas dostların çok seviyor, onların için herkes
öldürebilirdi.

 Participles: İÜ de yapacak soğd-türk münasebetleri konusundaki konferansa gitmek


için izin istiyorum.

 Tense Coherence: Çünkü o YTU Mekanik mühendisliğini kabul etti ama üniversitesi
için TR hazırlık çalışıyor.

 Vowel Harmony: Film hikayası

7- Social interaction: This is a preliminary study of writing in formal language and it is


oriented to the real-life situations that students may encounter. When the writing was
carried out in class, the frame of formal writing rules such as vocabulary, polite forms,
books, and main text-interpretation/adaptation were taken into account. There was a
meaningful interaction among students, the teacher and the internet.
After having analyzed the genres based on MAC’s learning actions, the students had an idea
about the specific function of language expected in certain situations. Then, we examined
their understanding of the concept of genre with regard to the explicit instruction, which
helped to decode the context of the situation (field, tenor and mode). The following table
indicates students’ performances on genres according to their effectiveness, the reason(s)
behind this level of effectiveness, and practices of explicit instruction:
Genres Which is most Reason for Explicit instruction (grammar,
effective **** efficacy vocabulary, punctuation)

E-mail *** Academic Field: YTU-Tömer; Request. Tenor:


need asking for permission. Mode: DIğI için,
ability –(y)Abilmek

Biosketch * No need Field: CV for job applications; Tenor:


Introducing yourself; Mode: Present and
Past tense, predicates, Case endings,
tense coherence
Petition **** Frequency Field: Govenmental Institutions; Tenor:
Request, Permission & Excuse;
Mode: Politeness, Punctuation, ability –
(y)Abilmek, -(y)AcAk, verbal nouns –mA,
mAk; predicative suffix- DIr; expressions
of necessity gerek, lazım, mAlI,
postposition için, Direct object with
participles
Movie critics ** Interest Mode: Genitive case , adverbial suffix

International Journal of Languages’ Education and Teaching


UDES 2015
IMPROVING WRITING SKILLS WITH GENRE-BASED INSTRUCTION FOR TURKISH
AS A FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEARNERS 315

(y)Ip, -(y)IncA, -(y)ArAk, participle –DIK,


postpositions kadar, için, beri, önce,
sonar

**** = The most frequently used official correspondence


*** = The most frequently used institutional correspondence
** = Leisure time writing task
* = No need to write CV

6. FINDINGS & RESULTS

The students frequently used informal language where a more formal tone was appropriate.
They tended to write conversationally. They showed problems in employing vowel harmony,
buffer sounds, accordance between verb tenses, suffixes, using a direct object, adverbial
clauses, connectors, and punctuation. In addition, they were usually unable to understand the
main goals of a text, or to construct and support a thesis statement. The students did not
know how to use language efficiently to achieve certain purposes in their daily lives,
especially in writing tasks. Through modelling situations that they were frequently exposed
at the institutional and academic level, they became familiar with generic writing samples,
and were encouraged to monitor, evaluate and modify their own writing process. By raising
awareness of the components of context (field, tenor, mode), learners understand explicit
instruction and acquire rhetorical patterns which help to realize the functioning of language
knowledge (grammatical-textual-functional-sociolinguistic) (Douglas, 2014:31).

The implementation of genre-based instruction and the analysis of students’ writing


improvement and meaning-making processes can offer insights in writing instruction and
interactions between students and the target culture. It is obvious that genre-based
instruction improves learners’ writing skills and second language sociopragmatic knowledge,
both of which support explicit instruction, sociolinguistic conventions, meaning-based
practices and the relationships among all three (van Compernolle, 2011).

Thus, learners are motivated to solve their concrete communicative problems with concrete
guidelines for language use. Furthermore, their conceptual understanding of the relationship
among form, meaning and function is transformed into communicative practice (Ellis, 2005).

REFERENCES
Davydov, V. V. (1988). Problems of developmental teaching: the experience of
theoretical and experimental psychological research. Soviet Education, 30(10), 3-77.
Douglas, D. (2014). Understanding Language Testing. Routledge
Ellis, R. (2005). Principles of instructed language learning. System, 33(2), 209-224.

International Journal of Languages’ Education and Teaching


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316 Celile Eren ARGIT & Banu ÖZER GRIFFIN

Ferreira, Marilia Mendes. (2005). A Concept-Based Approach To Writing Instruction: From


The Abstract Concept To The Concrete Performance. Ph.D. Thesis, The Pennsylvania State
University.
Martin, J. (1993). Genre and literacy: modeling context in educational linguistics. Annual
Review of Applied Linguistics(13), 141-172.
Merriam, S. B.(2009). Qualitative Research: A Guide to Design and Implementation, John
Wiley & Sons, Inc, San Francisco.
Patton, M. Q. (2002). Qualitative Research and Evaluation Methods. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Van Compernolle, Rémi. (2011). Developing second language sociopragmatic knowledge
through concept-based instruction: A microgenetic case study. Journal of Pragmatics.
Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

International Journal of Languages’ Education and Teaching


UDES 2015