Knowledge of Genres: Improving Students Writing Ability in English

As an international language, English is used mostly in every country across the world. That is why English is given a greater attention in every educational level all over the world, including Indonesia. English, then, becomes a compulsory subject needed by students.  According to the School Based Curriculum of 2006, English aims at developing communicative competence in both spoken and written English through the four developed skills of English, i.e. speaking, listening, reading, and writing.  Moreover, nowadays, writing has received the first priority to be focused. As Palmer (1994:1) states that writing is a top priority in many classroom today.  In fact, however, writing is a complex activity.

As Nunan (1991:6) points out that writing can be stated as an extremely complex cognitive activity that requires the writer to control several variables at one.  It implies that writing includes several elements such as grammar, vocabulary, sentence structure, cohesion, and so on.  They should be combined or applied by students when they deal with writing.

Moreover, Byrne (1988:3) explains why writing is commonly as a complex activity for most people.  According to him, there are problems which involved in writing, they are psychological, linguistic and cognitive problems.  First, psychological problems refer to the fact that writing is essentially a solitary activity.  Writers are required to write on their own without  interaction or  benefit of feedback.  It makes the act of writing difficult.  Second, linguistic problems occur because in writing there is no direct interaction between writers and readers, so the writers have to keep the channel of communication open.  It is done through the effort which is through choice of sentence structures.  Then, sentences are linked together and sequenced.  Therefore, the text which is produced can be read on its own.  Third, Cognitive problems are related to the fact that writing is learned through process of instructions.  Writers have to learn and master the written form and certain structures which are less used in speech but which are important for effective communication in writing.  Writers also have to learn how to organize ideas in order those ideas can be understood by readers.

In addition, Davies (2000:96) states that writing also involves basic skills such as hand writing or typing, spelling, constructing grammatical sentences, and punctuating.  To develop the writing ability, therefore, students are hoped to be able to master the basic skills needed.  Besides, students should also have the cognitive skills if they are in the higher level.  The cognitive skills are gathering information and ideas relevant to the topics and discarding what is not relevant, organizing the information and ideas into a logical sequence, structuring the sequence into sections and paragraphs, expressing the information and ideas in a written draft, and editing the draft and writing out a final text (Davies, 2000:96).

Students still get many difficulties on writing ability in English.  In Indonesia, students’ writing ability in English is still low.  A research done by Managing Basic Education from USAID in 2005 shows that writing ability of the Indonesian students is still low.  According to this research, Indonesian students only get 15% from the writing, 15% from the spelling, 15% from the writing devices, 20% from the length, and 35% from the text’s quality (http://www.mbeprojectnet/mbe56.html/retrieved on November 16th).

Moreover, the position of English as a foreign language for Indonesian students makes the subject of writing become more difficult for them.  Whereas as stated in the School Based Curriculum of 2006, writing is one of the language skills which must be acquired. So, they need to learn writing in order to be able to express their ideas, thoughts, and feelings in written language.

The low ability and difficulty of writing can be influenced by many factors.  That is why writing becomes a complex activity especially for students.  Considering all identifications mentioned above, there is one of solution that can influence the writing problems.  It is by having knowledge of genres.  Genre is a type of discourse that occurs in a particular setting, that has distinctive and recognizable patterns and norms of organization and structure, and that has particular and distinctive communicative functions (Richards and Schmidt, 2002:224).

Genre provides information related to writing that can be a solution to write the different kinds of texts better.  By having knowledge of genres, students will understand how to construct the text well because they will be trained to pay attention to some steps of writing.  There are the three elements of genres that can make the process of writing easier.  They are purpose, text organization or generic structure, and language features.

Firstly, the part of purpose provides information about the goal of writing that students make.  In the process of writing, before they begin to write, they must determine the purpose of their writing.  It means, they should identify the purpose before they begin to write.  They should consider the reason for their writing.  So, it can make them realize about the appropriate genre for their text.

Secondly, after students determine their purpose of writing, they will be guided by ‘text organization or generic structure’ in genres.  It will help them to start writing.  It is an important part of writing process, because the problem commonly occurs when students are asked to write is how to start to write.  By understanding its generic structure of each genre, they will be directed step by step to arrange paragraphs into texts.  Therefore, text organization or generic structure refers to how the text is sequenced.

The last element of genre is the language features.  In this stage, students will be guided with the knowledge of language features used in each genre that can help them to understand the appropriate language features commonly used in the type of genres that they will write.

Based on the explanation mentioned above, it can be seen that knowledge of genres can influence the writing ability.  It is considered effective to improve students’ writing ability.  As knowledge of genres consists of the three elements that will aid students in the process of writing.  Therefore, there is no doubt that understanding knowledge of genres will help students to be able to produce different kinds of texts.

Written by: Isna Fitri Prajayanti.


Byrne, Donn. 1988. Teaching Writing Skill. London: Longman.

Davies, P. 2000. Success in English Teaching. New York: Oxford University Press.

Nunan, D. 1991. Language Teaching Methodology: A Textbook for Teacher. London: Prentice Hall.

Palmer, Barbara. 1994. Developing Cultural Literacy Through the Writing Process Empowering Learners.  Massachusetts: Paramount Publishing.

Richards, Jack, C and Schmidt. 2002. Longman Dictionary of Language Teaching and Applied Linguistics. London: Longman.


6 Responses to “Knowledge of Genres: Improving Students Writing Ability in English”

  1. Writing=sucks

  2. When I was in college, writing was extremely ‘sucks’ for me. But, after I finished my micro thesis, I guess I love doing writing so much 😛

  3. yuli nur af'idah Says:

    Hallo Isnanamaxu ???? did you get the valid information??? why i can not access this web http://www.mbeprojectnet/mbe56.html/retrieved cz i need this information to support my project paper. thnk you

  4. I’m pretty sure that I’ve check this link http://www.mbeprojectnet/mbe56.html/retrieved, but it’s not bring me to the source, what’s happening, can you give the real data please!

  5. thank you very much I’ve found it by my self, you can try this link http://www.mbeprojectnet/mbe56.html, yuli nur af’idah it’s in bahasa!
    and thanks for the last, it’s very helping me!

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