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Students perception and attitudes towards pre writing activities at ngo quyen high school master’s thesis, vietnam national university, hanoi






Field: English Teaching Methodology

60. 14. 10

Hanoi, 2011




Field: English Teaching Methodology

60. 14. 10

Supervisor: Dr. NGUYỄN HUY KỶ

Hanoi, 2011














1. Rationale of the study


2. Objectives of the study


3. Research questions of the study


4. Methods of the study


5. Scope of the study


6. Significance of the study


7. Design of the study






1.1. Learner beliefs, perception and attitudes towards language learning


1.1.1. Definition of beliefs, perceptions and attitudes


1.1.2. Studies on learners’ beliefs, perception and attitudes


1.2. Writing


1.2.1. What is writing?


1.2.2. Writing approaches

7 Product approach to teaching writing

7 Process approach to teaching writing


1.3. Pre-writing stage and pre-writing activities


1.3.1. Some common pre-writing activities at high school


1.3.2. Benefits of pre-writing activities


1.3.3. A warning about implementing pre-writing activities


1.4. Previous researches on pre-writing activities


1.5. Summary




2.1 The context of the study


2.2. The “ Tiếng Anh 11” textbook


2.3. The reality of teaching and learning writing skill at Ngô Quyền High School.


2.4. Methodology


2.5 Summary




3.1 Data analysis


3.1.1. Data analysis from students’ questionnaire


3.1.2. Data analysis from teachers’ and students’ interview


3.2. Discussion


3.3. Summary




1. Recapitulation


2. Implications and suggestions for effective pre-writing activities


3. Limitations of the study


4. Recommendations for further study






Figure 1 : Students’ attitudes towards writing skill


Figure 2 : Students’ most difficult stage in writing


Figure 3: Students’ perceptions of the importance of pre-writing activities


Table 1: Students’ assessments of some common pre-writing provided by their


Figure 4: Students’ attitudes towards pre-writing activities


Table 2: Students’ participation in pre-writing activities


Table 3: Students’ most favored activity


Table 4: Students’ preferences for participating in the pre-writing activities


Table 5: Students’ perceptions of the benefits of pre-writing activities


Table 6: Students’ dissatisfactions when participating in pre-writing activities



EFL: English as a Foreign Language
ESL: English as a Second Language
ELT: English Language Teaching
IT : Information Technology
MOET: Ministry of Education and Training

1. Rationale for the study
Writing is an essential skill in both the first language and second language. It is a
means of expressing thoughts in a planned and organized way. However, due to its
complexity and high requirement of linguistic means, it is considered the most difficult
language skill to master.
Regarding the context of Ngô Quyền High School in Hoa Binh, it is a noticeable that
the writing lesson is the most challenging one to both the teachers and the students. Rarely
do the teachers choose the writing lessons to perform their teaching practice for colleagues‟
evaluation due to the high risk of failure. The students suffer from a certain amount of
anxiety when they have to deal with a writing task. In writing lessons, they usually
complain that they have nothing to write, the writing tasks are too difficult for them, they
have too little time to complete their writings but do not recognize the problem is a lack of
preparation. This is one reason why the discussion section of a pre-writing activity is so
important for ESL students. Do the students perform pre-writing in reality? Normally, when
doing a writing task, they often think in Vietnamese then translate into English, they ignore
pre-writing stage and begin writing immediately, and employ pre-writing strategies only
when being asked by the teacher. Why so? Why they are not enthusiastic about these
Pre-writing activities are essential if the teachers want to help their students become
better writers, help them feel more motivated and self-confident in writing lessons.
However whether these activities effective or not depends much on students themselves.
Research into students' perception and attitudes towards pre-writing activities can add to the
growing body of knowledge about teaching writing skill and contribute valuable data that
can be used to inform decisions regarding the implementation and exploitation of these
activities. What do the students at Ngô Quyền High School perceive the pre-writing
activities provided by their teacher, how do they response with these? What are the
implications for the teachers in teaching writing skill? These questions have drawn my
interest in carrying out the current research which focuses on the investigation of the
students‟ perception and attitudes towards pre-writing activities at Ngô Quyền High School.

2. Objectives of the study
This study aims at exploring Ngô Quyền High School students‟ perception and
attitudes towards pre-writing activities. Some pre-writing activities are proposed and
evaluated by students with a view to giving some recommendations on how to design
effective pre-writing activities. The specific objectives of the research are as follows:

Investigating what the students at Ngô Quyền High School perceive of prewriting activities in writing lessons

Exploring their attitudes towards pre-writing activities

Giving some suggestions to increase the effectiveness of pre-writing activities to
the students at Ngô Quyền High School.

3. Research questions of the study
To achieve the objectives of the study, the thesis is designed to answer the following
1. How do the students at Ngô Quyền High School perceive pre-writing activities
provided by the teachers?
2. What attitudes towards pre-writing activities do they hold?
3. What are the students’ preferences for pre-writing activities?
4. Methods of the study
This is a survey research. To seek answers to the above research questions, a survey
questionnaire was used. Mile and Huberman (1994: 253) state three good reasons for
resorting to numbers: “to see rapidly what you have in a large batch of data; to verify a
hunch or hypothesis; to keep yourself analytically honest, protecting against bias”.
Moreover, using questionnaires in research may help participants approach the problem
more easily. For the reasons mentioned above, the survey research seems to be the most
suitable for the scope and objectives of my study.
However, this method has its own limitation, that is, the results collected may not
reflect the matter proposed precisely. In order to reduce the invalidity and unreliability, the
author will give clear instructions to the students; observe the class to make sure that the
students answer each question themselves; or ask students to check their answers.

5. Scope of the study
Due to the time and length constraint of the study, the author only focuses on
surveying 11th form students at Ngô Quyền high school to find out their perception of prewriting activities in terms of the importance and benefits, their preferences and attitudes
towards these activities in writing lessons. Although the author is well aware that the survey
statistics are not fully representative of all high school students studying English in Hoa
Binh, she hopes to propose some of the most popular facts that occur in this study.
6. Significance of the study
Pedagogically, the findings and comments of the study are believed to be relevant to
improving the teaching of writing to the students. The study may help teachers make their
writing lessons more effective so that they can help their students develop writing skill as
well as other language skills.
7. Design of the study
The study consists of three main parts:
Part One - Introduction- provides the overview of the study with the rationale, the
objectives, the research questions, the methods, the scope, the significance and the design of the
Part Two- Development- includes 3 chapters in which chapter 1 deals with the
literature review relevant to the study; Chapter 2 describes the setting of the study and how
the study is carried out, and Chapter 3 presents the data analysis and discussion.
Part Three- Conclusion- reviews what has been presented in the study and suggests
some implications for improving the effectiveness of pre-writing activities.

This chapter reviews theories related to writing skill and pre-writing activities,
students‟ perception and attitudes towards language learning which can be applied in the
teaching of writing. It also

reviews current

researches on

students‟ perception and

attitudes in this issue and summarizes some related studies that have been conducted so
far. All of these serve as a basis for seeking insight into students‟ perception and attitudes
about writing lessons employing pre-writing activities and their reflected effectiveness.
1.1. Learner beliefs, perception and attitudes towards language learning
Learners‟ success in language learning depends much on their perception and
attitudes towards learning a foreign language. Perception and attitudes shape beliefs and are
influenced by beliefs. To understand more about this, an overview of learner beliefs,
perception and attitudes is necessary.
1.1.1. Definition of beliefs, perception and attitudes
There are many definitions of beliefs, perception and attitudes. Most often,
researchers adopt definitions that suit the purposes of their own empirical frameworks and
reflect personal ideological viewpoints. In this thesis, the author will quote the following
ones because they are simple but comprehensive and she will conduct the

study on this

theoretical background.

Belief: According to Oxford Advanced Learner‟s Dictionary, belief is defined as a
thing that one accepts as true or real. Another definition of belief provided by
Horwitz (1987) is a statement that is held to be true, that affects language learning

Perception: According to Lindsay & Norman (1997) perception is the process by
which organisms interpret and organize sensation to produce a meaningful
experience of` the world. Sensation usually refers to the immediate, relatively
unprocessed result of stimulation of sensory receptors in the eyes, ears, nose, tongue,
or skin. Perception, on the other hand, better describes one‟s ultimate experience of
the world and typically involves further processing of sensory input. In practice,
sensation and perception are virtually impossible to separate, because they are part

of one continuous process. Thus, perception in humans describes the process
whereby sensory stimulation is translated into organized experience.

Attitude: Bem (1970) simply defines that "attitudes are likes and dislikes".
According to Eagly & Chaiken (1993), "Attitude is a psychological tendency that is
expressed by evaluating a particular entity with some degree of favor or disfavor."
For recent years, foreign language teaching and learning have shifted from teacher

directed instruction to student- centred learning. Therefore many researchers have raised
their interest in learners‟ perspectives. Numerous studies related to teaching methodology
have been carried out from learners‟ perspective because learners are the key figures in
teaching and learning process. Leaner perception and attitudes not only influence their
approaches to language learning but also affect the way they respond to the teaching
activities. If learners feel dissatisfied with the teaching method, they will lose their
motivation in learning language. According to Horwitz (1987), some students prefer having
more free conversations rather than pattern drills while some other students insist on their
teacher‟s correction. If the teacher cannot meet learners‟ need, they will soon become bored
and frustrated with learning and this may affect learners‟ motivation in language learning.
Hence, it is necessary for teachers to have better understandings of their learners‟ needs as
well as their expectations in order to help them acquire a new language more easily.
1.1.2. Studies on learners’ beliefs, perception and attitudes
Perception and beliefs play a significant role in directing human behavior. Research
and scholarship on perception and beliefs in the area of language learning has been growing
and gaining prominence in the last two decades.
Previous psychological studies into learners‟ perception and beliefs about learning
“opened a whole new Aladdin‟s cave of personal beliefs, myths, understandings, and
superstitions as they were revealed by the persons‟ thoughts and feelings about their
learning” (Thomas & Harri-Augstein, 1983, p. 338). These studies concluded that beliefs
about learners‟ own capacity and personal models of their own processes were much more
central to understanding the individuals‟ learning performances than more universally
accepted theories of learning, and that these personal „myths‟ explained much more about
individual differences in learning than such psychometric measures as intelligence or

According to Arnold (1999) learners‟ epistemological beliefs act as very strong
filters of reality. They play a central role in learning experience and achievements.
Interdisciplinary research shows that learners may be directly influenced by their perception
of success in learning and levels of expectancy (Yang, 1999; Bernat, 2004). It has been
argued, that while some beliefs may have a facilitative effect on learning, others can hinder
it. Supportive and positive beliefs help to overcome problems and thus sustain motivation,
while negative or unrealistic beliefs can lead to decreased motivation, frustration, and even
In the classroom context, the perception, beliefs, attitudes, and metacognitive
knowledge that students bring with them to the learning situation have been recognized as a
significant contributory factor in the learning process and ultimate success (Breen, 2001).
For example, second or foreign language students may hold strong beliefs about the nature
of the language under study, its difficulty, the process of its acquisition, the success of
certain learning strategies, the existence of aptitude, their own expectations about
achievement and teaching methodologies. Identification of these beliefs and reflection on
their potential impact on language learning and teaching in general, as well as in more
specific areas such as the learners' expectations and strategies used, can inform future
syllabus design and teacher practice in the course. Pedagogy has the capacity to provide the
opportunities and conditions within which these learner contributions are found to have a
positive effect upon learning and may be more fully engaged (Breen, 2001; Arnold, 1999).
In summary, studying on learners‟ beliefs, perception and attitudes seems to appeal
to researchers. Great deals of researchers are interested in this field. Most of their studies
paid much attention on the importance and the influence of learners‟ beliefs, perception and
attitudes on their language learning. So far, there has been no study on high school students‟
perception and attitudes towards pre-writing activities. Thus, this study is an attempt to
explore high school students‟ perception and attitudes towards pre-writing activities. The
author hopes that it will be useful for those who care about this field.
1.2. Writing
1.2.1. What is writing?
There are a lot of definitions of writing. "Writing can be said to be the art of
performing graphic symbols" (Byrne 1990: 1) or simply writing is like "making marks on a

flat surface of some kind". From another view of writing, Murray (1978:29) and Perl
(1979:43) defined writing as “a creative discovery procedure characterized by the dynamic
interplay of content and language: the use of language to explore beyond the known
In language teaching, writing is defined as one of the two productive language skills
including speaking and writing skill. According to Ur (1996), “most people acquire the
spoken language (at least their own mother tongue) intuitively, whereas, the written form is
in most cases deliberately taught and learned” (p.161). He added, “Writing normally
requires some form of instruction. It is not a skill that is really picked up by exposure‟‟.
Writing, in language teachers‟ opinions, is “a language skill which is difficult to
acquire” (Tribble, 1996, p. 3). It is “a process that occurs over a period of time, particularly
if we take into account the sometimes extended periods of thinking that precede creating an
initial draft.” ( Harris, 1993, p. 10).
The definitions of writing are various. However, it is characterized with some basic
features, i.e. being linguistics, creative, progressive and interactive. Besides, the word
“writing” itself may imply an act, a process, or a skill, which needs practice and study to
develop. It requires both physical and mental powers from the writers.
1.2.2. Writing approaches
There are several ways to approach writing in the classroom. It should be noted that
there is not necessarily any 'right' or 'best' way to teach writing skills. The best practice in
any situation will depend on the type of student, the text type being studied, the school
system and many other factors. The two approaches to writing which have predominated in
English Language Teaching (ELT) context are the product approach and the process
approach. Product approach to teaching writing
Originally, the product approach to writing was rooted in Behaviourist Theory: The
learner is not allowed to 'create' in the target language at all…The use of language is the
manipulation of fixed patterns;…these patterns are learned by imitation; and…not until
they have been learned can originality occur… (Pincas 1962: 185-6)
For the past decade or so, writing research has emphasized the composed product
rather than the process of writing itself. Much attention was given to the mechanics of

writing the correct form; the correct usage of words or the correct format. It was generally
believed that writers knew and preplanned what they wanted to write (Shaughnessy, 1977).
Correctness of mechanics and form influenced writing pedagogy which concentrated on
preliminary outlining and orderly writing. Learners in the writing class analyzed and
imitated the works of professional writers. Creativity and the exploration of thoughts on
paper were less encouraged.
The drawbacks of the product approach were soon noticed by many researchers. As
Escholz (1980) argues, in adopting such an approach, not only does the very nature of this
sequence provide little or no insight into the actual processes involved in managing to arrive
at the final product, but the students are also being restricted in what they can write. The
approach merely resulted in 'mindless copies of a particular organizational plan or style'
(Eschholz 1980: 24). In other words, the product approach encourages students to use the
same plan in a multitude of settings, applying the same form regardless of content, thereby
„stultifying and inhibiting writers rather than empowering them or liberating them.‟ In
addition, the entire activity of writing was seen as “an exercise in habit formation” (Silva
1990: 13). Process approach to teaching writing
The teaching of writing has recently moved away from a concentration on the
written product to an emphasis on the process of writing, which leads to the emergence of
Process Approach. Process Approach to writing came to play in the 1970s. This approach
encourages students‟ communication of ideas, feelings, and experiences. It is more global
and focuses on purpose, theme, text type, i.e. the reader is emphasized. Thus, writers not
only concern about purpose and audience but also have to make decision on how to begin
and how to organize a piece of writing.
Writing is a process, so students are given time to set out ideas, make plan, write a
first draft, revise what has been written after a peer feedback, then they can edit their
writing or write other drafts before the final version is produced.
There are different points of views on the number of stages comprising the writing
process. According to Oshima and Hogue (1991), writing process has four stages: prewriting, planning, writing and revising draft and writing the final copy to hand in. Tribble
(1996) identified four stages in writing process: pre-writing, drafting, revising and editing.
The author of this study takes the view that is close to the ways Tribble, Oshima and Houge

defined writing process − that is, the writing process comprises three stages: pre- writing,
while- writing, and post- writing.

Pre-writing can be defined as any structural experience that influences active

students‟ participation in thinking, talking, writing and working on the topic under the focus
in a writing lesson (Tribble, 1996). For other words, pre-writing stage is the “informationgathering phase in the process of writing” ( Scarcella & Ofxord ,1992, p. 125 ).
According to Gu Yue Gou (1990), pre-writing is a very important stage of the whole
writing process, and the task at this stage may include deciding on the purpose, the audience,
the content, and the general outline.
In the view of Byrne (1988), students generate ideas and also develop fluency in this
stage. Pre-writing involves activities like brainstorming, outlining, debating, interviewing,

The writer starts the while-writing stage as “composing” (Hedge, 1988), “drafting”

(White and Arnt, 1991).
According to Tribble (1996: 14), during while-writing stage “writers are in dynamic
interaction with” (1) “the idea for their writing” (2) “their probable readers‟ expectations”,
and (3) “the model of the genre they are currently composing”.
Besides individual work in this stage, group work and pair work can be used.

Hedge (1988) asserted revising and editing after composing was an integral part of

the writing process. There are two main post-writing activities. The first, mentioned by
Harmer (2004) are self-revision and self-editing. The second type of post-writing activity is
rewriting based on the feed back or comments from the teachers or their peers.
1.3. Pre-writing stage and pre-writing activities
According to Oshima and Hogue (1991:2), when we are faced with writing
assignment, we may sometimes suffer from “writer block”, that is, ideas will not easily
come to in our head, and we sit staring at our blank paper. “Writer block” can happen to
anyone , even professional writers, pre-writing activities help to generate ideas for the
writing assignments, writers can easily overcome this difficulty ( writer‟s block) and getting

started quickly.
In “The practice of writing”, Robert Scholes and Nancey R Comley (1989) highlight
the importance of pre-writing: collecting the thoughts on paper without the pressure of
structuring expression into its final form is the most productive way of beginning almost
any writing task .
White and Adrnt (1991) briefly categorized pre-writing activities into three types:
generating which includes the activities: brainstorming, making note, role-play, using
questions and visuals), focusing (discovering main ideas; considering purpose, audience and
form of the writing) and structuring activities (ordering information, experimenting with
arrangement and relating structure to focal ideas).
According to Raimes (1983), pre-writing process involves 'getting ideas',
"expressing ideas' and 'conveying meaning”.
In short, pre-writing is an important stage in writing process, it refers to any activity
in the classroom that encourages the generation and organization of ideas. Teachers of
English as a Second Language (ESL) can use pre-writing activities at the earliest stages of
instruction to help their students acquire good language skills. Pre-writing involves
energizing students participation in thinking, talking, group interaction, and skeletal writing
activities that become components of a writing task. It helps students stimulate thoughts for
getting started. In fact, it moves students from having to face a blank page to generating
tentative ideas and gathering information for writing.
1.3.1. Some common pre-writing activities used at high school

According to Raimes (1983), brainstorming is a technique whose purpose is to

initiate some sort of thinking process. Whatever the writing assignment is based on − a
reading, picture, textbook topic, personal experience…− it can be preceded by student talk,
especially by a brainstorming activity, with students producing relevant vocabulary, making
comments, asking questions and making associations as freely as they can in a short time.
After brainstorming orally together, students can then do the same on paper, writing down
as many ideas as they can without worrying about grammar, spelling, organization, or the
quality of the ideas.


Listing and grouping
This method requires students to list all words or phrases related to the topic.

Students do not stop until they have written a large quantity and completely run out of ideas.
They will not be in a hurry to cross out the seemingly unimportant, repetitive or even
unrelated ones as soon as they put them on paper.
After listing all the items they can think of, students can begin to check the list, and
together to decide to cross out the ones which do not fit, and ones which are repetitive and
may put the list into subgroups.

Model giving

A model text is provided for students to read and analyze to find out its highlighted
features in language such as style, layout, structures, vocabulary, verb form, etc. According
to Raimes (1983) “The model should be employed as a resource for comparison rather than
for imitation”. Students base on this model to write, gather and shape the ideas and then
deal with problem that emerges in their writing process. This activity is controlled and
suitable for beginners and weaker students.

Picture using

Teacher use a set of pictures corresponding to the content of the writing text and ask
students to work in pairs or in groups pooling ideas and vocabulary. By describing,
reordering or connecting pictures students can generating ideas for their writing. This
activity is suitable when teaching writing narrative or descriptive text and is a powerful
learning device.

Rapid free writing
Free writing helps you identify subjects in which you are interested. It assumes that

you know your interests subconsciously but may not be able to identify them consciously,
and it assumes that you can bring your interests into consciousness by writing about them
(as writing equals thinking). Free writing is like stream-of-consciousness writing in which
you write down whatever happens to be in your thoughts at the moment. After you do a
number of free writings, you may find that you have come back to certain subjects again
and again. Repeated subjects are good for further development through writing, as they
obviously are important in your thoughts.


Clustering or mapping can help you become aware of different ways to think about a
subject. To do a cluster or "mind map," write your general subject down in the middle of a
piece of paper. Then, using the whole sheet of paper, rapidly jot down ideas related to that
subject. If an idea spawns other ideas, link them together using lines and circles to form a
cluster of ideas. The whole purpose here is to use lines and circles to show visually how
your ideas relate to one another and to the main subject.
A cluster or map combines the two stages of brainstorming (recording ideas and
then grouping them) into one. It also allows you to see, at a glance, the aspects of the
subject about which you have the most to say, so it can help you choose how to focus a
broad subject for writing. For example, the writer of the map above his or her writing on
time devices, leisure time, warps in which time passes, child vs. adult time or time in sports,
any of which would provide a logical focus for an essay or paragraph.

Making wh-questions
Asking questions is a versatile form of pre-writing. You can ask questions to

develop a perspective on a subject that you think you want to write about, to narrow a
subject that you have already chosen, and to determine whether it's feasible to pursue your
chosen subject. Ask Questions to Develop a Perspective on a Subject: Ask the journalist
"who," "what," "when," "where," "why," and "how" in order to get a sense of the subject's
scope and of the way in which you may want to approach the subject ─ the angle that makes
sense for you to take when thinking about the subject. Ask Questions to Narrow a Subject:
Ask questions about your subject and use the answer to activate another question until you
come to a question that is a good stopping place (a focused question that you can answer on
your own with examples and details).
For example:
Subject: Education
Education in what country?

the U.S.

What level of U.S. education?

education for children

What level of childhood education?

Head Start

What do I want to know about it?

special programs

Any particular programs?

reading readiness

How effective are Head Start reading readiness programs?

As you develop a "chain" using each answer to generate another question, your
subject both narrows in scope and becomes more complex, more appropriate.

Simple outlining
Simple outlining is an effective way to help students to write more quickly. If

students want to have a good idea in their mind of how they will begin and what major
points they plan to discuss, they need to write a simple outline to check their ideas , to make
sure that their points are well organized, and to use as a guideline to refer to as they write.
Once they have worked out a good outline for a paragraph or short essay, they have
complete 50 percent of the work. With an outline, the actual writing becomes easier because
students do not have to worry about what they are going to say. Hence, they can write more

Discussing: Talk to other students, with varying levels of knowledge on the topic,
about the piece.

1.3.2. Benefits of pre-writing activities
Pre-writing is a vital part of the writing process and activities for this stage offer
several benefits to the writer:
Firstly, they can bring a lot of fun. Anything is possible at this point. Students may
have many ideas and the ideas can be freewheeling, even idiotic. It does not matter. They
Just keep brainstorming, playing with ideas, collecting resources and notes, doing all the
other activities needed to finish this stage of the writing process. At this point, students‟
writings may go in many directions. However, they need to explore all the ideas until they
hit upon the one that feels right. “Oh! That's what I'm going to write."
Secondly, students can easily evaluate new ideas that come flooding into their mind.
Does the idea fit their present writing or not? Is it worth to use in the writing work?
Thirdly, pre-writing allows students to write the first draft more easily because they
know what they want to write at each writing session. it really is a useful tool that usually
ends up saving the writer from having unorganized thoughts, confusing structure, and the
dreaded writer's block.
Next, pre-writing increases students‟ confidence in themselves as writers. They will
be able to determine if the project has merit, and if they will be able to finish the topic and
actually write that topic.

Finally, by the end of the pre-writing process, the students will have a full outline of
the topic. With that outline, students will be able to see the whole project at a glance. When
looking at this outline, they will be able to detect: Inadequate organization of the ideas;
Gaps in ideas and content; Whether the writing has one paragraph or more; Where the
writing need cutting down in size
In brief, the main benefits of pre-writing activities are: (1) They help students
stimulate thoughts for getting started and making writing easier; (2) They help students
remove the “writer‟s block” and distraction that prevent ideas coming out; (3) They help
students write in a more motivating and stimulating way; (4) They help create a cooperative
and enjoyable atmosphere in the writing class.
Pre-writing is a crucial stage of writing any nonfiction work. It allows the writer to
be prepared, rather than stumbling around in the dark, wondering what to write next. When
pre-writing is properly done it can be a real benefit to the writer. it provides a backbone for
the paper to be written offering a logical and coherent train of thought for the paper to
follow. Therefore a writer need not worry about any sort of issues with the structure of the
paper and instead can concentrate his thoughts completely on the content of the paper. Even
if the writer does not end up looking back at the actual pre-writing itself, the amount of
thought that went into forming his pre-writing will help give the writer a better
understanding of what he is writing. Prewriting activities not only help students acquire the
target language more effectively, but they build interpersonal, thinking, and planning skills
that can be utilized in other fields.
1.3.3. A warning about implementing pre-writing activities
Though, the benefits of pre-writing activities are undeniable, there is a warning
when implementing these activities in class. That is teacher and students may become so
fascinated by this stage that they do not actually move past it to create the first draft, and
then on to revision. Like research, writers have a tendency to spend too much time planning
and never get to implementation (drafting). Consequently, teachers may run out of time in
writing lessons if they do not prepare carefully and students will have not enough time to
complete their writing assignment. Teachers should concentrate on the individual
components of a writing task ensures that students actually begin writing early but are not
overwhelmed with tasks that they cannot handle.

1.4. Previous researches on pre-writing activities
Pre-writing stage and pre-writing activities play an important part in writing process.
That is the reason why many researches relating this field have been carried out.
Baba, Suria and Aziz, Zahara Abdul (2009) unveils the implementation of smart
teaching and learning strategies in pre-writing activities in Bahasa Melayu (Malay
Language). This is a qualitative case study of four smart schools‟ teachers using purposive
sampling. The result from interview, non participant observation and documents analysis
showed as follows: First, pre-writing activities include brainstorming activities and mind
mapping, reading and interpreting data from print and electronic media. The ability to
convey information helps to develop critical thinking. Second, the efforts of smart teachers
strengthen learning and teaching which inculcate analytical and critical skills to solve
problems. Third, a cyclical model is created from the interviews and observations made
during the pre-writing activities. Efforts to make smart teaching and learning a success
require teachers as well as students to think creatively. Fourth, smart characteristics are
related to the integration of brain-based learning theory.
Another study related to this field was carried out by Zhang, Liru, Vukelich, Carol
(1998) on pre-writing activities and gender explored the influence of pre-writing activities
on the writing quality of male and female students with varying academic achievement
across four grade levels. Participants were public school students in grades 4, 6, 9, 11. The
results indicated that on average, students who wrote with pre-writing activities performed
better than students who wrote without pre-writing activities. Students‟ gender and
academic achievement level has strong influence on the effectiveness of pre-writing, with
females consistently scoring higher than males.
Koh Soo Ling (1993) described what goes on during pre-writing time in a
Foundation II writing class and analyzed the pre-writing process in terms of pre-writing
strategies and pre-writing activities in an ESL composition class at Mara Institute of
Technology. The participants were 6 learners and their instructor in a composition class at
Institution Teknologi Mara. The results from classroom observation and interviews with the
instructor led the author to conclusions that (1)Learners engaged in pre-writing strategies:
namely global order-related and language-related strategies before the actual writing
task;(2)Learners found certain pre-writing strategies more useful than others due to their
abilities and what they deem important for writing compositions; (3)Learners would prefer
the class instructor to carry out certain pre-writing activities according to their abilities and

what they deem important for writing compositions; (4)The pre-writing activities carried
out by the instructor met the needs of the learners.
There have been some studies related to this field of pre-writing activities in Vietnam.
Ngoc (2008) pointed out the effects of pre-writing factors on the motivation in
learning writing of the grade 11 non-major English students at Nguyen Binh Khiem High
School, Hanoi. The participants of his study were 80 grade 11th non-major English students
and 15 teachers of English at the school. Finding from questionnaire for the teachers,
questionnaire for students in pre-writing and post-writing stage and a collection of students‟
writing papers in both pre-improvement stage and post-improvement one revealed that prewriting activities conducted by the teachers didn‟t work perfectly, they

met many

difficulties when implementing these activities and when the teachers changed their
method or activities to motivate students in the writing lessons, students write better, they
also feel more confident when writing.
Loi (2009) claimed the implementation of pre-writing activities in writing lesson,
their effects on the students‟ writing at high school. 50 students of 11th grade at her own
high school participated in her study. The results of the study showed that students‟ writing
have improves a lot. Their attitudes towards writing change positively. Students feel more
confident and more interested in the writing lessons.
In short, writing is a difficult skill both to teachers and students. Pre- writing activity
is one of the key factors that facilitates the writing tasks, but the more important one is how
students perceive these and how they response to them. If their attitudes towards these
activities are negative, these activities offer no help. Most of the mentioned studies dealt
with the application of pre-writing activities in improving writing skill. However, none
considers high school students‟ perception and attitudes towards these activities. As far as I
know, the issue of students‟ perception and attitudes towards pre-writing activities remains
under-researched in the context of High Schools in Vietnam, and this study is an attempt to
occupy this research gap.
1.5. Summary
In this chapter, the author has reviewed issues, and aspects concerning the topic of
the study. The knowledge of belief, perception and attitudes in language teaching writing,
writing teaching approaches, pre-writing stage and pre-writing activities, previous
researches which related to the topic of the study. In the following chapter, the context of
the study, the methodology, data collection procedures and data collection and data analysis
will be proposed.

2.1 The context of the study
Ngô Quyền High School is one of 5 High Schools in Hoa Binh city. The school has
12 classes in which there are 4 classes 10, 4 classes 11 and 4 classes 12. The number of
students in each class ranges from 35 to 45 students. The total number of English teachers is
four (1 male and 3 females), in which 1 teacher has Master‟s Degree, the rest all graduated
from Vietnamese National University, Hanoi. University of Languages and International
Studies, regular training. The average age of English teachers is 38.
The school shares common features with classrooms elsewhere in Vietnam: large
size, poorly equipped, students sitting in rows of four each, unmemorable furniture. In
recent years, the school has been equipped with many modern facilities for English teaching
and learning like computers, videos, projectors, etc. However, the use of these modern
facilities in teaching is not frequent due to the limited basic IT ability of some teachers.
Students‟ learning and their real English ability should be taken into account. Facts have
shown that the majority of students have not high results in English because their level of
English is still low. In addition, the students themselves do not consider English to be as
important as other subjects like Math, Physics or Chemistry, etc. Therefore, they do not
spend much time in English learning.
As in many other high schools, English is a compulsory subject. The text books used
for students are English 10, 11, 12 (new series of text books − Basic programme). Students
have three English lessons every week with 45 minutes per period. With the limited time in
each period and the high number of the students in each class, it is difficult for English
teaching and learning to be effective.
2.2. The “Tiếng Anh 11” textbook
2.2.1. Grade 11 writing objectives
The textbook used to teach writing skills to the grade 11th non- English major
students at Ngô Quyền high school is English 11 by MOET.
In the textbook, reading, speaking and listening lessons are divided into three parts:
pre-task, while-task, post-task. In contrast, 30% of the writing units consist of one topic and
some prompts. On this textbook, there are a wide range of types to practice writing with

narrative, writing letters, describing statistics from a chart or a table or writing a report or a
The objectives of the course is to equip students with English writing skill for basic
communication. For grade 11 students, the objective is to develop students‟ abilities to
provide 100 - 130 word paragraphs on familiar topics.
2.2.2. The writing lessons in the “ Tiếng Anh 11” textbook
In order to realize the course objective, the writing section focuses on daily and
popular topics. The required competences and objectives of the writing lesson in each unit
are detailed in the following table:

Required tasks

1. Friendship

Writing about a friend

2. Personal experiences

Writing a personal letter to describe a past experience

3. A Party

Writing an informal letter of invitation

4. Volunteer work

Writing a formal letter expressing gratitude

5. Illiteracy

Describing information in a table

6. Competitions

Writing a letter of reply

7. World Population

Interpreting statistics on population from a chart

8. Celebrations

Describing a celebration‟s activities

9. The Post Office

Writing a formal letter to express satisfaction or dissatisfaction

10. Nature in danger

Describing a location

11. Sources of energy

Describing information from a chart

12. The Asian Games

Describing the preparations for the coming Asian Games

13. Hobbies

Writing about a collection

14. Recreation

Describing a camping holiday

15. Space Conquest

Writing a biography

16. The Wonders of the world

Writing a report on a man- made place

2.3. The reality of teaching and learning writing skill at Ngô Quyền high school.
ESL learners face difficulties writing and expressing themselves in a different
language. Learners at Ngô Quyền high school are no exception. While teaching writing at
Ngô Quyền high school, I realized that majority of students dislike writing. Writing in

English is mainly done within the classroom as a must. When faced with a writing task,
most students will react with comments like, "oh no not again" or "this is so boring", “I
have nothing to write”. What do students actually mean when they say "boring"?. The
possibility is that students are actually expressing their insecurity and lack of confidence in
completing the task. Writing is a skill that has not been accorded the attention it deserves in
high school education. Students have not been taught to make their ideas flow on paper
properly. Many of them don't know how to write, feel stupid when they can't find the right
words, fear criticism and want to avoid the emotional turmoil experienced when faced with
a topic and a blank piece of paper. Teachers do not understand much about process
approach of writing, however, they are trying their best to follow this approach in teaching
writing. By observing the writing lessons and having informal talks with the teachers and
students the researcher finds that the pre-writing activities the teachers often give their
students are: generating ideas through brainstorming, asking students to make outline, using
a model essay and analyzing it, questioning and answering; listing, rapid free writing,
describing pictures, using other aids (maps, music, reading texts). Studying the reality of
teaching and learning writing at the school provides information on the relevant points and
issues for the questionnaire of the study.
Though, the teachers have used a lot of pre-writing activities that takes the student
from insecurity to success. It seems that this stage hasn‟t conducted effectively. Students are
very passive in writing lessons. Their writing competence has not improved much. In order
to create an atmosphere that encourages students to write, the students‟ perception and
attitudes towards teacher's use of pre-writing time and also the pre-writing activities needs
to be looked into.
2.4. Methodology
The methodology conducted in the research including the participants,
instrumentation, data procedures, data collection and data analysis will be presented in the
2.4.1. The participants
The subject of this study was drawn from two sources divided into two groups:
The first group includes 80 11th form students randomly selected among 165 11th
form students at Ngô Quyền High School in Hoa Binh. The proportion of schools girls to

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