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Typical difficulties of learning writing

Not only should various degrees of difficulty in spelling be taken into consideration; it is necessary to take into account difficulties of the same type. That is why the same or similar difficulties in spelling are united into groups. There are 5 groups of typical difficulties to be overcome at the junior and intermediate stages in school.

1. The 1st group of difficulties in writing words is based on the phonetic principle of spelling. Here, the number of letters and sounds in a word coincide (hot, cat, leg, pig, dog, hen etc.). This fact accounts for rapid building up a consolidated, stable correlation between a grapheme and a phoneme. Besides, words, like mentioned above, are very similar to the prevailing Russian principle of spelling. That is so because in Russian 1 letter corresponds to one sound as a rule. Thus, one syllable and two syllable words, comprising a set letter combination of consonants denoting one consonant sound, are referred to the first group, too. For example: bench, thus, shut, sock. Though there is no complete grapheme-morpheme correlation in these words, they can be referred to an easy type. The set letter combination is the major object of training in the 1st group of difficulties.

2. The 2nd group includes words in which the letter is written, but there is no sound equivalent of the letter. That is the so-called mute letters: nine, lake, rose; honour, hour; prohibition.

3. The 3rd group contains words comprising letter combinations that correspond to one and the same sound, but consist of different letters: [:] as in girl, fur, term; [k] as in Kate, kite; cat, come; quiz, question, queue. The third group of words reflects the traditional rules of reading. What can help teaching spelling in this group of words is the use of reading rules. Besides, the use of spelling, corresponding to these rules, alongside with a visible key pattern can be of much help in mastering spelling smoothly (= rapidly and correctly).

4. The fourth group includes words comprising typical letter combinations consisting of vowels or consonants, as well as combinations of vowels and consonants. The difficulty in spelling these words is as follows. These sound-letter correlation is not invariable. For instance, ‘ea’ may sound as [i:] in clean; as [e] in bread; or as [ei] in break. At the same time ‘ai’, ‘ay’, ‘ei’, ‘ey’ are read identically as [ei]. However, all these letter combinations can undergo certain regulating. ‘Ei’, ‘ai’ are written at the beginning and in the middle of words (main, eight), whilst ‘ay’, ‘ey’ are written at the end of words (May, grey). Reading rules can be applied to a great number of letter combinations possessing certain regularities: out, house, trousers’ for ‘ou’; eat, team, meat’ for ‘ea’; ‘green, tree, bleed’ for ‘ee’.Such invariable, stable phenomena, having become pronunciation rules, help students a lot, while being taught writing and reading.

5. The fifth group comprises the so-called difficult words. This group includes words spelt according to the traditional principle of writing: one, two, daughter, busy. To master their correct spelling, the students need to see these words written. Visual presentation should be supplied with reiteration in writing words that are practised by students. It is so because only reiterated operations help establishing the consolidated sound-letter correlations.

Of all the words acquired by students at the junior and intermediate stages, difficult words compose 65%. It should be noted that words of the 4-th and the 5-th groups compose the most numerous group in the school vocabulary minimum. At the same time, not all words that can be used by students in oral speech are used in writing by them. This is so, because the ability to write words requires additional knowledge and skills. Here, the true command of orthography comes first. It means that the degree of difficulty in mastering a word in its sound and written form is different. When a learner actively assimilates a word for the oral use in future, he has to know what it means, how it is pronounced, how its form changes, how it goes with other words and how to use it in an appropriate situation. To write a word requires additional knowledge and skills. These are the knowledge of orthography and script, let alone the capability to use the knowledge possessed. Words do not just exist by themselves. They go hand in hand with each other conveying our thoughts and intentions. That is why knowledge of grammar, style and many other things are required for writing. All this makes methodologists believe that notions of active vocabulary and orthographic minimum should be distinguished in teaching writing.

The difficulties of grapheme-morpheme correlation in the English language have brought to life the problem of script. Nowadays, students are taught simple cursive scriptin school. But initially the idea of teaching the so-called print scriptin school resulted in writing in block lettersinstead of link writing. Print script means that print and full cursive scripts practically coincide.

To develop a skill to explain thoughts and ideas in written form, it is necessary to learn to operate not only words and word combinations, but sentences as well. When teaching writing, therefore, there are specific considerations to be taken into account. The considerations concern organising sentences into paragraphs. The length of a written paragraph varies from 1 up to 8 or 12 sentences (from 100 up to 300 words) in Modern English. Depending on the writer’s purpose, the paragraphs are divided in descriptive, narrative, explanatory, argumentative and dialogical. Other considerations concern joining paragraphs together and general organization of ideas into a coherent piece of discourse (= a text). This means that there is also a need for communicative activities in writing.

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