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Writing for language learners: Emphasizing the process

Boy writing on paper on the grassMotivating students to improve their writing skills can be a difficult task for teachers to master. In this post, Verissimo Toste, an Oxford teacher trainer, gives some tips on making the process fun and engaging.

My students look forward to writing a text as enthusiastically as going to the dentist. But writing can be a great opportunity for students to share information and reflect on their learning. For me, the key has always been to emphasize that writing is a process, and then to break it down into manageable chunks. To do this, I ask them to write a story which they will “publish” as a book.

1. Ask students to write a story

This may not be as simple as it seems. Writing a story involves creativity and imagination, not only language skills. If your students find it difficult to create a story, discuss the latest movie they have seen; who was in it?, where did it take place?, what happened? This will help them focus on characters, plot and, setting.

Give them some time to write their story. I usually give them about 15 minutes. This may not be enough time for everyone, but they will have opportunities to continue writing in the next lessons. The key is for everyone to be writing. Encourage them to write in pencil as this is a first draft. At the end of the 15 minutes collect the texts and go on to the rest of your lesson.

2. Divide the story

concertina bookTell your students they are going to publish their story as a concertina book and show them an example. Emphasize that their book will have a cover and 7 pages. Now, return their stories to them and ask them to divide it into the 7 different pages.

Some of the stories may not be long enough to divide into 7 pages. This should encourage students to add to them. Give them some more time to write, again, about 15 minutes. At this point, encourage them to seek help from their friends, sharing the stories they have so far. Once they finish their stories, tell them to give you only the first page. This will probably lead students to re-write the first page to give you, keeping the rest of their story.

So far, you have given your students a few opportunities to improve their stories: adding content to fit into 7 pages, sharing with friends, and re-writing the first page for you. In this way, students have been able to reflect, seeing writing as a process.

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