Oxford University Press

English Language Teaching Global Blog


How to get students writing: an insight into writing

Young woman writingZarina Subhan-Brewer is a freelance teacher trainer and has been working in the field of English as a Foreign Language (EFL) for over 20 years. Here she previews the upcoming webinar How to get students writing which takes place on Wednesday 18th June and Friday 20th June.

Do you see more and more people whip out their smartphones to take a note of something instead of a notebook and pen?

With the advent of technology, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the act of writing is dying out. I don’t know about you, but I still like to scribble ideas down on paper. I think better with a pen in my hand, and even while using technology, that circumnavigates the need to write, I have a pen and paper to hand, or even a pen in my mouth!

In ELT, writing is a skill that tends to be developed later, once students become confident in listening, speaking and reading skills. This makes absolute pedagogical sense of course – immediate communication skills are strengthened in order to give students the ability to react and respond in real time to each other. These skills also lend themselves well to more fun-filled activities in the classroom, which can keep the learner engaged and motivated. As language teachers, however, we are also obliged to facilitate the learning of writing skills.

Writing in English is no longer simply something students have to demonstrate in order to pass exams. It is a skill which affects employment opportunities and is actually put to practical use in the global village we now occupy. It is a skill that can open many doors and can be the deciding factor between one person being promoted and the next. Therefore we need to ensure that even though writing may be a skill that is taught and developed last of all of the four skills, it is not one that is ‘half-heartedly’ taught.

So how can we get our students to spend time on writing activities that can make lessons less fun and more ‘serious’? In the webinar How to get students writing, we’re going to look at what constitutes writing, the difficulties students have with writing and the subsequent problems that arise for teachers and what can be done to overcome them.


Webinar: Leading a horse to water and making it drink!

Olha Madylus, a teacher and teacher trainer specialising in both primary and secondary education, introduces her upcoming webinar entitled ‘Leading a horse to water and making it drink‘ on 5th and 7th March, where she will explore ways to motivate students to read and enjoy doing so.

How do we motivate our students to read long texts in course books and how do we ensure that students understand and enjoy what they read?

To our students a long text in a course book can be very off-putting. Not only does the length put them off but it may contain a lot of vocabulary they are not acquainted with and the tasks they need to do, e.g. answer comprehension questions, may seem too difficult.

Using examples from the Insight series, my webinar on reading aims to address these issues by answering the following questions:

  1. What is reading?
  2. What makes a text difficult and off-putting for students?
  3. What can we do before looking at the text to increase motivation to read and to prepare students for potential difficulties like a lot of new vocabulary
  4. What strategies can students employ to get a ‘feel’ of the text when they first meet it, putting into to context, to make reading easier
  5. How can skimming a text effectively help students understand text organisation in order to better navigate it
  6. What do students need to know about syntax, discourse markers and cohesive devices that will make reading easier
  7. How can students deal with new vocabulary within a text?
  8. How can students be encouraged to ‘read between the lines’, identifying implications in order to make inferences
  9. How can we personalise response to texts, to ensure that students do really think about its meaning, rather than just try to get to the end of the activity.
  10.  How can reading be more rewarding and more fun?

So, if you teach reading skills and want some ideas on how to make your teaching more effective and reading lessons more motivating for students, do join me in this webinar.