Educational Research and Reviews

  • Abbreviation: Educ. Res. Rev.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 1990-3839
  • DOI: 10.5897/ERR
  • Start Year: 2006
  • Published Articles: 1998

Full Length Research Paper

The comparison of fourth grade students’ essays based on free and guided writing technique in terms of the quality of written expression

Mehrali Calp
  • Mehrali Calp
  • Department of Turkish Teaching, Faculty of Education, Agri Ibrahim Cecen University, 4100, Agri, Turkey
  • Google Scholar


  •  Received: 20 October 2014
  •  Accepted: 28 January 2015
  •  Published: 23 February 2015

 ABSTRACT

Writing exercises are more effective than grammar rules in terms of making children acquire language skills. Knowing the characteristics of text genres and the rules of writing are not enough to improve writing skills of teacher candidates and to acquire necessary strategies for teaching how to write. Teachers would be uncertain about assessment and scoring students work and have difficulty deciding the content of mini lesson and responding to students in writing conferences if they lack the idea of what good writing is. It is aimed in this study to determine whether or not there are any differences in terms of the quality of the written expression between the compositions formed by secondary school fourth grade students using free writing and guided writing techniques and whether or not the quality of compositions differed according to socio-economic level. Topics like study model, work group, data collection process and analysis of the data have been discussed in this part of the study. This study is a descriptive study based on screening model. Author used document review as data collection method. Study group consists total of 201 students, 98 of which being fourth grade student from Agri Central O. N. Middle School which represents lower socio-economic level and 103 fourth grade student from I. C. Middle School which represents upper socio-economic level, 99 students wrote essays by free writing techniques whereas 102 students used guided writing techniques. According to the results, the scores of the students’ compositions created using free-writing technique are higher compared to those created by the technique of guided writing. According to the findings, there is a significant relationship between socio-economic level and compositions created by free writing techniques, but no significant relation was found between socio-economic level and composition created by guided writing technique. According to the findings, a significant relation was found between composition writing according to free writing technique and socio-economic level while there was no relation found between writing essay according to guided writing technique and socio-economic level. It is thought that methods, strategies and techniques followed in the activities of teaching written expression can affect all the stages and types of written expression. In this respect, different methods, strategies and techniques should be used by students for them to gain skills regarding this area.

Key words: Writing essay, composition, guided writing, free writing.


 INTRODUCTION

Acquisition of writing requires two skills. First of these is to produce thoughts and to turn them into a written text. The second one is reviewing and correction (Elbow, 1998). While producing a written text,  students  generally have problems in planning, consistency, coherence, text structure (introduction, body and conclusion), formation of sentences, spelling and punctuation etc. (Ruhi, 1994; Enginarlar, 1994; 1994; Aksan and Çak?r, 1997; Huber and Uzun, 2001). Many factors such as teacher, student, teaching environment and teaching methods can be shown as the source of problems that are experienced (Ülper and Uzun, 2009).

According to Güne? (2007) who defines writing skill as "writing down the information structured in the brain”, writing is a means for production, communication and expression. Writing is a work of structuring the meanings in one's mind. Reviewing the information structured inside the mind is an important process. During this process writing topic and thoughts are established, keywords, phrases, events that will be emphasized are selected and required intellectual data is collected.

Written expression is a process through which thoughts are organized and developed with the appropriate words, sentences and paragraphs that are chosen (Luckner and Isaacson, 1990). Karatay (2011) mentioned that presen-ting a good product of writing can only be possible with a well-designed and directed writing process which is monitored with certain intervals.

No text is made of randomly sorted sentences regarding the subject. On the contrary, sentences in a text are brought together by the writers consciously within a certain line of logic (Co?kun, 2009). Written expression includes the processes of choosing a subject for writing, limiting and attributing this subject to a purpose, gathering information regarding this subject, planning the information gathered within the integrity of the subject, choosing words appropriate for the concept desired to be expressed in order to write down the plan transforming these into accurate sentences and forming sound paragraphs with accurate sentences (Temizkan, 2007).

It might be mysterious to ask what good writing is, however, it relates to the most important points of writing instruction in classroom. Teachers would be uncertain about assessment and scoring students work and have difficulty deciding the content of mini lesson and responding to students in writing conferences if they lacked the idea of what good writing is (Cunningham and Cunningham, 2010).

Occasionally students should be allowed to choose the subjects they will write in to make them willing to write. Three or four subjects can be given to students for that aim. They can be asked to choose and write in a subject that is appropriate for their interests and living. These subjects can be picture cards, newspaper reports, photographs and beginnings of stories (Keçik and Laycock, 1993).

According to Calkins (1994), writing process is formed of five stages. These are planning the writing, preparation of draft, reviewing the content, making a grammar check and publishing. Students will be using techniques that will help them realize their writing purpose in different stages from the beginning to the end of the writing process (Güne?, 2007).

According to Y?lmaz (2012), students can be asked to decide in which type (story, poem, informative text etc.) they will write in, that is to say, to determine the genre of writing. Because some students like to write poems while others like to write stories. Also, making students write in different genres - essays, stories, poems, letters, invitations, brochures, advertisements texts, business cards, ads etc - help them know more about the relevant text genre (Y?lmaz, 2012; Co?kun and Tiryaki, 2013).

Written expression technique can be defined as "the writer’s style of handing his act of writing" which he found before starting to write. Expression technique is a start and a strategic attitude in this sense. There are various methods and technique in written expression such as "writing summaries, reformation of a text with their own words or critical writing" 


 LITERATURE REVIEW

In free writing, students are asked to write their own emotions and thoughts according to their own styles and independently from their teachers. Students choose a subject and they write about their emotions, thoughts and dreams regarding the subject they choose without any limitation in terms of the genre of the text (poem, story, drama texts, fairy tale etc.). Free writing works can be started in the second half of the fourth grade according to the readiness levels of the students.

Free writing ensures that the students are taken away from the attitude of correcting what they write constantly in terms of spelling and punctuation and helps them overcome writer impeders. Moreover, free writing ensures concentrating on producing thoughts as much as possible by leaving formal qualities aside. Thus, just like in brainstorming technique, free writing activity helps students to develop their skills for producing thoughts (Berkenkotter et al., 1988). However, while words and phrases are produced in the application of brainstorming, it is expected for sentences to be produced in free writing activities (Ülper, 2008).

Because free writing activity underlines the process not the product, Students should not be concerned about making mistakes during the activity of free writing. For this   reason,  free  writing  activity  has  no  aim  such  as forming sentences that are accurate and certainly and completely appropriate for the text. Students are given sufficient amount of time in the free writing works to gather materials regarding the subject. There is no obligation to conduct free writing works inside the classroom. Students can share with their teachers and friends what they write out of the school. The works that are done are reviewed, the subject is discussed verbally and finally the written expression works are conducted. Thus, an organic bound is formed between written expression works and oral expression works.

Some authors describe guided writing as a teacher structured activity (Tompkins, 1997) while others think of it more as the aid given to children by the teacher as the children free write or follow the writing process (Pinnell and Fountas, 1998; Williams, 1995). During a guided writing lesson, the teacher guides the students in the creation of a text that might be a classroom message, a story, or a shared experience. Children take turns writing as the text is built collectively. The goal is a product that is error-free, so the teacher spends a good deal of time engaging children in guided discussions of the ways words look and sound as well as the conventions of language (Pinnell and Fountas, 1998). Students are informed about a certain subjects by their teachers. The topic in question are discussed in different modes and assessed in the classroom environment. Students express their emotions and thoughts in writing under the light of information they obtained about the topic. In guided writing study, students are asked to use words and sentence structure they learned in a controlled manner and to form a meaningful paragraph.       

Guided writing is defined as instruction presented to small, temporary groups of students who share similar needs at a particular point in time (Fountas and Pinnell, 2001). Guided writing provides an important context for teachers’ “in-the-moment” assessment and guidance of student writing; to observe students during specific writing events and provide immediate instructional scaffolding for writing processes targeted to the needs of a specific group of students (Gibson, 2008).

To achieve this, teachers need to conduct guided writing activities and activities which will make students share their writings with each other in the classroom, and to provide feedback in the first years of their written expression works.

The writing needs to pass though certain stages and be prepared step by step for the writing act to succeed and a good written expression product to be obtained (Karatay, 2010).

All writing is collaborative. Effective writing teachers collaborate with students, creating apprenticeships for them through guided practice (Englert et al., 2006). Thus, writing instruction should include explicit teaching in which teachers step  in  to  model  and  prompt and  then step back to encourage students to make decisions and solve problems while writing (Englert and Dunsmore, 2002). Effective writing instruction should make the elements of good writing and the strategies of good writers visible and accessible to naive writers (Vaughn et al., 2000). The guided in guided writing lessons, then, refers to the essential nature of the support provided by expert teachers while students write (Gibson, 2008).

Guided writing works include three important develop-ment steps to be taken in order to develop written expression. Students cannot completely gain the power of written expression at each stage of these steps. Students are asked to make exercises of "forming and using accurate sentences" in order to teach them how to organize and order the words inside sentences and sentences inside whole thoughts. These exercises form the basis for the technique.

Guided writing is a strategy that gives students the opportunity to review a recently taught writing skill in a small-group setting and then to apply the skill through independent writing. A guided writing lesson generally follows modeled, shared, and interactive writing lessons and comes about when a teacher determines that a group of students could benefit from further teacher support to develop a particular writing skill. The guided writing group comes together for the purpose of learning or practicing this writing skill. Once the teacher feels that the group has a good understanding of the skill, the group is disbanded. In addition, students may use writing frames or templates to scaffold their writing knowledge and application of writing skills (http://www.eworkshop.on.ca/edu/resources/guides/Guide_Writing_%20K_3.pdf).

Guided writing lessons would also be appropriate in content area subjects such as science and technology - for example, to show students how to use precise, descriptive language when reporting on an experiment. During the first part of the lesson, students are immersed in the focus skill through examination and discussion of models (Figure 1).

How group members are selected: Through diagnostic and formative assessment during observation and analysis of student writing, the teacher identifies a number of students who are at a similar instructional level for a particular skill. These students are grouped for a specific lesson to review or strengthen that skill. Guided writing groups are fluid and temporary, with membership depending on need or ability: for example, one group may need to review punctuation, while another group may need to work on using more descriptive language. Throughout the year, formative assessment will guide the teacher’s decisions about the composition of groups and the concepts and skills to be addressed (A Guide to Effective Instruction in Writing, Kindergarten to Grade 3, 2005).

 

 

Step 1 of guided writing lessons captures students' interests for writing and allows them to rehearse their use of important conceptual and linguistic resources. Guided writing lessons provide maximum opportunities for active student engagement in their own writing, supported by the teacher's immediate guidance and explicit teaching of the strategic behaviors used by good writers.

In Step 2, teachers work to expand their students' awareness of specific cognitive strategies for writing.

Step 3 captures Students' time to write individually with immediate guidance from the Teacher. The intent of guided writing lessons is not simply to provide more time to write. Instead, lessons are structured so that students are actively engaged in their own sustained, successful writing. Guided writing instruction in a small-group con-text allows teachers to provide high levels of immediate, targeted support while each student writes his or her own short but complete text (Gibson, 2008). Understanding how best to support immature writers in the development of their understanding of the writing process is an important concern for researchers and teachers.

Purpose of the study

It is aimed in this study to determine whether or not there are differences in terms of the quality of the written expression between the compositions formed by secondary school fourth grade students using free writing and guided writing techniques and whether or not the quality of compositions differed according to socio-economic level. With this purpose, answers were sought for the following questions:

1. Are there any differences in terms of the quality of the written expression between the compositions written by secondary school fourth grade students by using free and guided writing techniques?

2. Are there any differences based on socio-economic level in terms of the quality of the written expression between the compositions written by secondary school fourth grade students by using free and guided writing techniques?


 METHOD

Topics like study model, work group, data collection process and analysis of the data have been discussed in this part of the study.

Study model

This study is a case study based on scanning model. Document examination was used as the data collection method in the study.

Work group

Work group of the study is formed of 99 secondary school fourth grade students. 99 students in question were chosen from two different socio-economic levels as required by the study. Information about the socio-economic level of the schools is requested by means of correspondence made with the Agric Department of National Education and according to the information that was obtained, O.N. Secondary School representing lower socio-economic level and ?.Ç. Secondary School representing upper socio-economic level has been chosen. 49 students from O.N. Secondary School representing lower socio-economic level and 50 students from ?.Ç Secondary School representing higher socio-economic level participated in the study.

Data collection process

99 students in the work group were asked to write compositions according to both free and guided writing techniques with certain time intervals. Subjects forming basis for the students to write compositions were found according to the opinion of four academicians and four Turkish teachers.  In compositions works, firstly 9 different subjects found for the students and then the opinions of experts in question were taken and found two subjects, which will provide alternatives to each other, were chosen for applying both techniques. Students chose one of two subjects presented to them and wrote compositions about this subject.

Applications were made inside classroom environment of every student group and 50 min excluding the explanations and instructions were given to students to write compositions. Data belonging to the study were collected in two stages. Compositions that the students wrote by using free writing technique formed the first data set. Student groups in every school were given information regarding the free writing technique in this stage and they were asked to write compositions within this scope.

Second data set were also obtained from the same student group in same schools 4 months later. The aim in leaving four months between two applications was to minimize the effect of written expression techniques on each other and to ensure that students wrote their next compositions by using the principles of only one technique without being affected by the previous technique. As a matter of fact, information needed about the guided writing technique was given to the student groups and they were asked to brainstorm on the subjects that are suggested and to write compositions by using guided writing techniques. 

It was aimed in the application of guided writing techniques not only to make students gain tendency to writing by brainstorming inside classroom environment but also to interact with each other thus getting prepared for the subject psychologically and mentally by means of guided writing technique. For this purpose, some students among each of the classes, in which appreciations were asked to speak about the subject before the application and it was ensured for many students to present their opinions regarding the subject. Thus, students allowed with the applications to present their information regarding the subject by means of brainstorming technique, to use ideas of their friends and to establish connections between these ideas and ideas of other friends.

Data collection process and analysis of data

Grading of each composition that the students wrote with free and guided writing techniques were made by a total number of three graders one of which is an academician and two of which are teachers. Thus, objectivity and reliability of reading and grading was tried to be ensured. Texts were firstly graded by a group of four academicians according to analytic grading technique by using “Written Expression Evaluation Form (MEB, 2006)". After that compositions were graded by 3 Turkish teachers working in the schools where the applications were made, according to the analytic grading technique by using "Written Expression Evaluation Form” again. Thus, two different points have been obtained by using analytic grading technique for each text. Qualities that a written text need to carry are analyzed in certain parts in the evaluation made with the form in question and an evaluation is made by grading each of these parts separately.

In the final stage, 6 Turkish teachers working in schools other than the ones where the applications were made were asked to read all these texts and to make a holistic evaluation. The evaluation is made over the general opinions that a person has after he assessed the whole text in holistic evaluation.  Teachers graded the texts over 100 with a holistic evaluation understanding.

In conclusion, it was ensured for 198 composition papers received from the work group to be read and graded by three different people. The mean of grades given by three different people to the compositions the students wrote according to different grading techniques was taken for analyses. Obtained data were analyzed with SPSS program and t-test was made for samples related to data. 


 RESULTS

Quality of compositions formed with free writing technique and guided writing technique have been studied in this study. Arithmetic average of three points given to compositions was taken and comparisons were made over these mean values. Comparisons regarding written techniques were given separately for two secondary schools in Table 1 and Table 2. After that, grades given to the compositions written according to free and guided writing techniques by students from both schools were com-pared. Finally, comparisons were reported according to socio-economic level which were also examined as a factor that might have affected the quality of compositions. 

 

 

 

Mean scores of compositions written by students in ?.Ç. Secondary School using free writing technique was 64.59 while mean grade of compositions written by the secondary school students using guided writing technique was 53.23. The difference between the grades given for the compositions written by the students using these two techniques [t(49)=4.63, p<0.05] was found to be significant. This finding brought the conclusion that in case of ?.Ç. Secondary School composition writing technique caused a difference in favor of free writing technique. 

According to Table 2 mean scores of compositions written by students in O.N. Secondary School using free writing technique was 57.97 while mean grade of compositions written by  the  secondary  school  students using guided writing technique was 52.97. The difference between grades given for the compositions written by the students using these two techniques was found to be significant [t (48)=2.55, p<0.05]. This finding brought the conclusion that in case of O.N. Secondary School composition writing technique caused a difference in favor of free writing technique.

The mean value of grades given to 99 students from ?.Ç and N.Ç Secondary Schools written by using free writing techniques was 61.28 while mean scores of compositions written by secondary school students using guided writing technique was 53.10. The difference between grade given for the compositions written using these two techniques were found to be significant [t(98)=5.14, p<0.05]. This finding brought the conclusion that the compositions written by 99 students using free writing technique in two schools were of better quality.

According to Table 4, students' free writing grades differ between two schools from lower and upper socio-economic levels [t(97)=2.70, p<0.05]. While the mean scores of students in ?.Ç. Secondary School from upper socio-economic level was 64.59, the mean scores of students in O.N. Secondary School from lower socio-economic level was 57.97. This finding can be interpreted as there is a significant relation between writing compositions with free writing techniques and socio-economic level.

 

 

 

According to Table 5, being students in schools from two different socio-economic levels; lower and upper socio-economic levels did not cause significant difference in guided writing grades of these students. [t(97)=0.11, p>0.05]. While the mean scores of students in ?. Ç. from upper socio-economic level was 53.23, the mean scores of students in O.N. Secondary School from lower socio-economic level was 52.97. Considering this finding it is concluded that there is not a significant relation between writing compositions with guided writing techniques and socio-economic level.

 

 

 


 DISCUSSION

Although both national and international literatures have many publications regarding free and guided writing, there are only a few studies making comparisons especially between "free writing technique and guided writing technique". In the study conducted by Calp (2013), in which he aimed to determine whether or not there were any difference between the quality of expression between compositions written by eleventh grade students using free and guided writing techniques and between the quality of compositions according to socio-economic level, it was found that writing techniques and socio-economic level affected the success rate of students. This situation brought along the conclusion that the socio-economic level and writing techniques affected the quality of written expression.

In their study, Aksan and Çak?r (1997) asked one out of two students groups to write compositions by giving them only the subject topic while they asked the students in the other group to write a compositions by providing them with targeted, communicational scenarios (by telling them about what and for whom they will be writing) and evaluated the compositions written by these two groups in terms of relevance, coherence, being informative, formation of topic and consistency. As a result of this evaluation, it was found that there was a difference in terms of being informative in favor of the student group to which composition topic was provided as targeted and with scenarios. This study conducted by Aksan and Çak?r not only shows the need for a technique that will guide students methodically while making them gain writing skills but also draw attention to the necessity of providing students with new concepts as content.

Langer and Applebee (1987) reported their findings from more than 3 years of which they investigated the effects of various writing conditions on student learning across studies, including extended analytic essay writing, note taking, summarizing, and studying with short-answer comprehension questions. In the control condition, students were asked to read and study but not to write. On the basis of their findings, Langer and Applebee (1987) concluded that writing contributed to student learning. However, the nature of the learning effects varied according to the genre of writing assignment. Analytic essay writing led to narrow, but more in-depth processing, whereas writing answers to short-answer comprehension questions, writing summaries, and note taking led to broad, but superficial processing (Wong, Kuperis, Keller & Cull-Hewitt,2002).

As Langer and Applebee (1987) stated further research is necessary because there are innumerable kinds of writing that teachers can assign and researchers can design. Empirical support for the role of writing in learning would contribute to (a) our understanding how writing enhances students' learning, (b) our enlightenment on the mediators/mediation of such learning, (c) researchers' development of theories or models of the writing-learning relationship, and (d) validating the increased use of writing in school. (Wong at al.,2002).

Our findings suggest that guided journal writing may be one instructional route that English teachers can take to increase understanding of a literary work. However, as Langer and Applebee (1987) pointed out, teachers have many instructional goals, and interested researchers should strive to devise various writing tasks to support teachers in their work and to help them reach their instructional goals. (Wong at al., 2002). In another study, Dilidüzgün (2013) found that knowing the characteristics of text genres and the rules of writing are not enough to improve writing skills of teacher candidates and to acquire necessary strategies for teaching how to write.

The findings obtained in the studies, in which written expression skill levels of students in different grades of secondary schools are examined Temizkan, 2003; Bayram and Erdemir, 2006; Ar?c? and Ungan, 2008) showed that primary school students could not reach the level targeted in the programs in terms of written expression skills. Y?lmaz (2012) stated “it is a fact that primary school students have problems in terms of writing compositions”. When it is asked if these problems result from the students or the teaching that is applied, it can be said that most important reason for this problem results from teaching because so far students have focussed on formal qualities such as page layout, spelling and punctuation in their composition works rather than on content including mental activities such as listing, classification and planning. Planned writing model means a student should allocate 70% of his time for writing to preparation works. This fact expresses he is looking for new and different models and techniques for organizing written expression activities.

According to Ülper (2008), compositions written by students generally have problems in terms of planning, consistency, coherence, text structure (introduction, body and conclusion) , formation of sentences, spelling and punctuation etc. and one of the important reasons for such problems is the method used in teaching of writing. The fact that students start to write before being able to use their preliminary information about the subject is shown as one of the most important reasons why they have little success in writing compositions (Co?kun and Tiryaki, 2013). As it is seen, literature agrees about the thought suggesting one of the most important reasons for having difficulties in all stages of education in terms of writing compositions is the teaching method that is followed.

In his study, in which the researcher examined the relation between the composition writing successes of sixth grade students and their gender, their tendency to write, education of their parents, summary writing and note taking variables, Tüfekçio?lu (2010) found that there was a weak relationship between the writing tendencies of the participants, education level of their parents and their success about writing compositions. A relation between gender and success was found in this study.

Conversations in the classroom environment are important for the written expression activities done by using free writing technique. The mentioned conversations can be about the content of the text. Having the conversation on the content and structure of the text allows the students to understand and interpret the text, to be able to chat about the text and to form structures for their own writings (Tompkins, 1997). 

Mistakes made by students in terms of consistency, coherence, spelling and punctuation in the texts should not be pointed out since free writing aims to improve creativity and fluent writing skills. Teachers become a "writer blocker" for their students if they point out such mistakes and this will lose the purpose desired with the activity of free writing. Writing activity in such an environment turns into  an  activity  of  grammar  teaching greater than an activity of producing thoughts (Ülper, 2008).

Writing is a challenging and demanding task for student writers and is the language skill that demands the most self-regulation as “writing activities are usually self planned, self-initiated and self-sustained” (Zimmerman and Risemberg, 1997, p.76). Historically, researchers in the field of composition have focused on the processes in which writers engage as they compose a text (Faigley, 1990; Hairston, 1990). Cognitive aspects have received particular attention, as investigators have attempted to understand the thought processes underlying the compositions of students. A number of researchers have explored the relationship between students' self-efficacy beliefs about writing, other motivation variables related to writing, and various writing outcomes (Pajares, 2003; Zimmerman and Bandura, 1994; Pajares et al., 2000; Pajares and Cheong, 2003). However, the author did not mention the motivational variables on writing in this study. He focused on the relationship between writing performance and writing techinique.


 SUGGESTIONS

Scores regarding the compositions that students wrote by using free writing technique are higher than the scores they obtained with the compositions they wrote using guided writing technique. This finding led to the conclusion that writing compositions techniques caused a difference in the quality of composition in both schools in favor of free writing technique. According to the findings that were obtained, a significant relationship was found between composition writing according to free writing technique and socio-economic level while there was no relation found between writing compositions according to guided writing technique and socio-economic level.

In the light of the results that are obtained, the following suggestions were made:

- Teacher candidates, who are having education in the departments of universities in which teachers are educated should be informed about new methods and techniques in addition to technique such as free writing, creative writing, guided writing, brainstorming etc. Also, in addition to providing teacher candidates with theoretical knowledge, applications for making teacher candidates gain skills should be concentrated on in lectures of written expression and special teaching methods given in these departments.

- It is thought that methods, strategies and techniques followed in the activities of teaching written expression can affect all the stages and types of written expression. In this respect, different methods, strategies and techniques should be used to make students in schools gain skills regarding this area.

- Students should be made to feel that succeeding at written expression happens with “knowledge and effort” rather than skills. It should be inspired to the students that the act of writing is not something that can be randomly done without making any effort and it has a discipline including certain rules, forms and techniques.

- The subject of which methods and techniques can be effective in the development of students' written expression skills should be tested with studies to be made at different grade levels. Studies should be made on both the techniques discussed in this study and other writing techniques and methods such as "creative writing", "controlled writing", "narrative writing", "cooperative writing" and "artistic writing".


 ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

This study was supported by the University of AIC.



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