31 SES 06 A, Developing Skills and Strategies for Writing at School
In a period of increased migration and international globalization it is necessary to challenge received notions of language education and redefine these, considering that second and third languages are ever more present and that a new understanding of how they are learned and taught is required. This reconsideration is needed even more in the context of South Tyrol, a region in the north of Italy and in the middle of Europe where several languages and communities coexist and bi- and multilingualism are a matter of course in everyday interactions. This coexistence is possible due to specific conditions created through a legislative framework based on the principle of “separate but equal” (Wand 2016) that emerged from some crucial historical events.
I will focus on an educational intervention in writing in Italian, English and German in two grade 5 classes in the A. Rosmini primary school in Bressanone (25 and 24 pupils aged 10 or 11 and 5 teachers, myself included). It is a school with Italian as main language of instruction and where a strong heterogeneous component is present (both Italian native speakers and multilingual pupils). Here experimental classes were set up based on intensified and reinforced teaching of a second and third language (German and English respectively).
The choice of investigating writing comes from the awareness that this ability plays an important role in the construction of thought, being linked with the thorough capacity of thinking, as classical studies confirm (Bereiter and Scardamalia 1987, Vygotskij 1932) and as pointed out by the most recent criticism (Cisotto 2006, 2015). Writing as a process also recognizes that writing itself can help (and change) thinking, (Lotze et al. 2014).
Investigating writing in more than one language at the primary level also fills an important gap in research, since only 5% of all studies in this field in second languages were conducted at primary schools according to evaluations conducted between 1980 and 2015 (Tardy in Marx 2017).
The theoretical framework of this study consists of a construct which draws on three main process-based approaches aiming at facilitating learning: socio-cultural, (Bachmann & Becker-Mrotzek 2018) meta-cognitive (Bereiter & Scardmalia 1985, Cisotto 2015, Feilke 2014) and interactionist (Lodi 1985, Lodi & Tonucci 2017, Milani 1967).
Then I focus on the opportunity to promote compositional and strategic skills of students. Compositional skills are required when students deal with linguistically complex issues, overall strategic skills include the ability to solve problems in language communication and language learning.
Both competences are very important in language learning, are essential components of the general language competence and are crucial for success at school. They suit to investigate multilingual writing because they are independent from the language in which they are used and they reveal how the students think about language itself (Nodari 2008).
The aim of the study is therefore to find out what is the best way to organise a multilingual writing didactics that promotes the development of compositional and overall strategic skills. The combination of different but complementary didactic concepts should enable the pupils of the classes to improve their writing skills on the basis of the writing processes they have implemented.
Based on this, the research questions are: How do pupils' textual and strategic skills manifest themselves in the languages involved? How do they transfer from one language to another? What role does teacher input play? What can be the pupils’ contribution?
This study uses a qualitative research design and was conducted during the 2018/2019 school year by means of explicit support provided by teachers, support which was differentiated for the three languages in the first blocks, then only differentiated for L1 and L2/L3, and finally was completely identical. In the first block, the aids had to guide the writing of a letter to a twinning class; in the second, the production of a thriller story as a text genre; in the third, guidelines were used to create a story in the three languages making use of a narrative wheel with options to be chosen. Pupils write in pairs or little groups and diirect and semi participated observation was conducted. Overall strategic skills emerge through oral data, collected through recordings and consisting in talking aloud protocols and classroom conversations, while compositional skill are visible in the written texts. Two methodological orientations predominate: the triangulation and the comparative method. The first method has been applied since the theoretical premises and has consisted of crossing the three mentioned approaches in conducting the teaching of writing. They have the common matrix of putting the learner at the centre of learning and allowing him to develop skills. The triangulation also underlies the interventions, since investigating the presence of skills and taking into account the talking aloud of the pupils, presupposes the intervention of the teacher in promoting them. In this way, the didactic triangle is applied where three elements are involved: the learners, the texts and the teacher’s input (Becker Mrotzek, 2017). Comparison is the other method used in the interventions. Comparisons are made both between the written data in each class and between the classes themselves in order to identify the presence of as many common skills as possible across the three languages. To find them, grids has been developed. Each one is divided into two areas: general structure and content. The first area is the broader one and includes the criteria to identify the adherence to a specific textual typology and those to ascertain the adequacy of the text from a structural point of view. The second area is shorter and includes the criteria to verify the quality of the text with regard to the content. Each text typology has its own characteristics and each grid lists some of them. Categories for investigating teachers and pupils’ speech have also been created.
In the three blocks an increasing presence of common skills emerges. Considering the first block, analogies in the use of compositional skills can be seen in the ability of mixing text typologies in German and in Italian texts or of using a considerable number of adjectives in German and in English. Teachers have a supporting and corrective role and pupils are very autonomous both in collaboration and in reaction to the teacher’s input: sometimes they want to follow their own line and don’t care about teacher’s advice. In the second module pupils are able to formulate clear conclusions or to create suspense, to express thoughts and feelings and to use connectives in the Italian and the German texts (less in the English ones). The teachers’ intervention is concentrated in the initial part of the lesson and the category of the correction is rare. The Italian teacher begins the first two module giving in this way the strongest input. Pupils create word chains to form the idea and help the weakest partner adopting personal strategies. In the third block there is a large amount of both common compositional and strategic skills among the languages. In the texts you find direct speech, the inclusion of descriptive parts, extra phrases and connective in the three languages and even humour. The major input comes here from the German teacher, who uses an inductive method to teach the use of connective or new vocabulary and exploits different sensory channels to elicit solutions. In Italian and English teachers strongly underline the request of extending text descriptions and give advice to select alternatives. Pupil always try to construct meanings, collectively expand sentences point by point, use personal solutions to help classmates (for instance following precise pattern for a drawing) or solve conflicts (playing rock, paper, scissors).
Bachmann, T. & Becker-Mrotzek, M. (2010). Schreibaufgaben situieren und profilieren. In T. Pohl, (Ed.). Textformen als Lernformen (pp. 191-210). Duisburg: Gilles & Francke. Bereiter, C. & Scardamalia, M. (1987). The psychology of written composition New York: Routledge. Cisotto, L. (2006). Didattica del testo. Processi e competenze. Roma: Carocci. Cisotto, L. & Gruppo RDL. (2015). Scrivere testi in 9 mosse. Curricolo verticale di scrittura per la scuola primaria e secondaria di primo grado. Trento: Erickson. De Angelis, G. & Jessner, U. (2012). Writing across languages in a bilingual context. A dynamic system theory approach. In Manchón, R. (Ed.), L2 Writing Development. Multiple Perspectives. (=Trends in Applied Linguistics 6) (pp. 47-68). Berlin/New York: De Gruyter Mouton. Feilke, H. (2014). Argumente für eine Didaktik der Textprozeduren. In T. Bachmann & H. Feilke (Eds.), Werkzeuge des Schreibens. Theorie und Potentiale einer Didaktik der Textprozeduren (pp. 11-34). Stuttgart: Fillibach bei Klett. Hofer, B. (2015). On the Dynamics of Early Multilingualism: A Psycholinguistic Study, (Trends in Applied Linguistics). 13. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton. Lodi, M. (1985). Scrivere insieme. In C. Lodi & F. Tonucci (2017). (Eds.), L’arte dello scrivere. Incontro fra Mario Lodi e don Lorenzo Milani (pp. 78-86). Drizzona (CR): Ed. Casa arti e gioco Mario Lodi. Lotze, M. et al. (2014). Neutral correlates of verbal creativity: differences in resting-state functional connectivity associated with expertise in creative writing. Frontiers in Human Euroscience. Lausanne. 8: 516. Published online 2014 Jul 15. Marx, N. (2017a). Schreiber/innen mit nichtdeutscher Familiensprache. In M. Becker-Mrotzek, J. Grabowski & T. Steinhoff. (Eds.), Forschungshandbuch empirische Schreibdidaktik. (pp. 139-152). Münster: Waxmann, . Milani, L. & Scuola di Barbiana. (1967) Lettera a una professoressa. Firenze: Libreria Editrice Fiorentina. Nodari, C. (2009). Es gibt nur eine Deutschdidaktik, in M. Clalüna. & B. Etterich. (Eds.), Deutsch unterrichten zwischen Daf. DaZ und DaM. Akten der Zweiten Gesamtschweizerischen Tagung für Deutschlehrerinnen und Deutschlehrer Bern, 20. Und 21. Juni 2008. Sondernummer Rundbrief AkDaF (pp. 11-24). Stallikon: Käser. Pallotti, G. (2017a). Applying the interlanguage approach to language teaching. International Review of Applied Linguistics in Language Teaching 55. (4), 393-421. Torri, S. (2020). Scrivere in più lingue alla scuola primaria: il valore aggiunto della collaborazione tra alunni. Formazione & Insegnamento XVIII, 1, 679 – 690. Vygotskij, L. (2008). Pensiero e linguaggio. Bari: Laterza. Wand, A. (2016). “Separate but equal”, segregated or stymied? Second language learning issues in South Tyrol. Journal of the Anthropological Society of Oxford. 8(3), 330-347.
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