Julie Moore, co-author of the recently launched Oxford EAP Advanced / C1 level, looks at ways of teaching writing skills more effectively. Julie will be hosting a webinar on the same topic on 26th and 27th November.
In ELT, we often talk about teaching the four skills; reading, writing, listening, and speaking. But how much class time do we actually devote to teaching writing skills?
I know that for many years in my own teaching career, my ‘teaching’ of writing skills amounted to little more than five minutes going through a homework task at the end of the lesson. The task might be linked to the topic of the lesson and there might be a bit of useful vocabulary, a few key words or phrases in a nice shaded box, but otherwise, I think my students were pretty much left to their own devices.
I’d then collect in their writing to ‘mark’, largely on the basis of their language, or more to the point, their language errors. I’d use this collected language – much more convenient than the ephemeral spoken language in class – to help decide what areas I might need to revisit in future lessons and to give students individual feedback that there wasn’t always time for in class.
On reflection, I realise that my aim in setting these writing tasks was not really about teaching writing skills, because it involved very little actual teaching and no work on any specific skills. It was really just a chance for me to capture samples of my students’ language in a form that allowed me time for analysis and reflection. Now that’s a perfectly legitimate aim, but I don’t think it really qualifies as “teaching writing skills”.
It was only when I moved into teaching English for Academic Purposes (EAP) to students preparing to study at university, who need to do lots of writing, that I really came across materials and activities that focused on teaching the skills needed to write effectively.
Some of these activities were specific to academic writing, but many are actually about skills that are applicable much more widely to writing in everyday contexts. We do activities around summarising, conveying key information clearly and concisely. There are tasks aimed at structuring more complex information in a logical way (coherence), using language that flows well to make it easy for your reader to follow (cohesion). We look at how to express evaluation, being appropriately confident or tentative (hedging), how to be persuasive, to argue your case, and to engage your reader.
We analyse texts from different genres by expert writers to see what lessons we can learn about their style and approach. I also spend time in class addressing editing and proofreading skills, because in real life, we don’t just hand in a piece of writing to be marked and graded, we use tools and techniques to check and redraft until we’re happy with the final result.
In my webinar, we’ll look at some of these practical techniques and activities that you can use to help your students become more effective writers – whatever their writing aims.
Register now to take part.
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20 November 2013 at
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