Writing Workshop for Teachers
The purpose of this brochure is to provide a framework in which to use writing tools to teach English as a Foreign Language (EFL), and then apply these tools to a number of different writing activities that can be easily used for all classroom settings. The point is not to create an entire class based around writing, but to effectively use writing as a tool in EFL classrooms.
Audio Lingual: Students
write specific items only
Easy to grade
Does not promote use of
critical thinking skills
Teacher does not correct
Stresses content and
fluency, makes the act
of writing more natural
Little or no correction,
students don’t know
Students learn a formula
for writing and expand
Students learn to write
and think in a proscribed
Teacher must insist that
students follow the
Stresses the purpose of
writing, does not correct
Emphasis on the reader
and importance of
Does not always
promote logical thinking
Writing is seen as
continuous with many
Students see their
mistakes and fix them.
Also easy to use peer
nightmare for the
Although these seem like specific categories with boundaries that allow each exercise to fit into only one, most exercises can be expanded into one or more categories.
In controlled writing a student is asked to do a specific task with a piece of writing. These tasks may include filling in the blanks, answering questions or changing grammar forms. The student then makes the corrections or changes and the exercise is easily corrected by the teacher. Controlled writing is primarily for reinforcing grammar and syntactical structures that have already been discussed in class.
Mechanical copying is copying by hand a written passage. This controlled exercise is intended to make students see and recognize specific grammatical structures, syntax, mechanics, organization and word choice in a piece of writing. It does not encourage creativity, but it does allow students to see and practice how good writers write through the process of mechanical copying.
These are good techniques for beginning students to practice handwriting and word choice. For advanced students, copying may be followed by a discussion of the passage: style, wording, techniques. Why this word instead of that? Why is this sentence long and that one short? What are some examples of stylistics?
In this exercise the students are given a piece of writing and then asked to change (manipulate) it using specific instructions. By asking students to change the number of characters, the tense of the piece of writing, the point of view, questions to statements, words, clauses, or combine sentences they can review and enforce grammatical structure and other basic EFL tools.
By: The Beatles
Yesterday all my troubles seemed so far away
Now it looks as though they’re here to stay
Oh I believe in yesterday
Suddenly, I’m not half the man I used to be
There’s a shadow hanging over me
Oh yesterday came suddenly
Why she had to go I don’t know, she wouldn’t say
I said something wrong, now I long for yesterday
Yesterday love was such an easy game to play
Now I need a place to hide away
Oh I believe in yesterday
I. Change “Yesterday” into “Today” and modify the verbs accordingly
2. Change “Today” into “Tomorrow” and change the verbs accordingly
3. Discuss the changes in mood when these changes are made (i.e. if tomorrow all my troubles will seem so far away, the mood turns from pessimism into optimism)
4. Change the song from a melancholy one into a happy — angry — disappointed - careless one
From “The Hobbit” by J. R. I?. Tolkien
Hobbits are little people, smaller than dwarfs. They love peace and quiet and good tilled earth. They dislike machines, but they are handy with tools. They are nimble but don’t like to hurry. They have sharp ears and eyes. They are inclined to be fat. They wear bright colors but seldom wear shoes. They like to laugh and eat (six meals a day) and drink. They like parties and they like to give and receive presents. They inhabit a land they call The Shire, a place between the River Brandywine and the Far Downs.
1. Change “Hobbits” to “Frodo Baggins”
2. How many sentences can you create only using the information provided?
3. Write the letter that this paragraph is a response to
4. Rephrase the information in this paragraph from the point of view of a hobbit
5. From the point of view of a shocked traveler who has just come across a new species of life
Another type of controlled writing exercise is answering specific questions. This is particularly effective with a source text such as a movie, song, or written passage. In that way it can also include other skills such as listening or reading depending on how the material is presented. In the controlled context these questions will be very specific:
1. What is the main character’s name?
2. What was their goal?
3. What supplies did they bring on their journey?
4. What obstacles did they face?
But of course this can be extended to include more probing questions which could be considered free writing:
1. How does this story make you feel and why?
2. What does this piece say about the importance of friendship?
3. In what ways is the character Frodo associated with Christ?
4. Can this story be used as an allegory for World War II? How?
Free Writing (Creative Writing)
The free writing approach focuses on quantity, creativity and fluency. It relaxes grammar and syntax rules to allow the student to quickly and easily relate their feelings, ideas, and opinions in the acquired language. It is an important addition to more controlled approaches that may keep students from effectively communicating in a non-academic setting.
There are many ways to develop free writing skills in the classroom, but here are some examples:
Journals are a good way of using free writing in the classroom. A journal is considered a notebook that the student uses to regularly express their thoughts. They are often an external part of a classroom, i.e. they are not discussed directly in class, although they may be periodically checked by the teacher. They are a wonderful way for teachers to get to know their students, as well as for the students to get to know themselves. There are many different forms of journals:
I. Response/Dialogue Journal
In a response/dialogue journal the student is asked to write on whatever topic that they want on a regular basis, maybe once a week. The journals are then returned to the teacher who responds to the students’ writing on the next few pages in the journal and returns it to the student. Although this is a large time commitment on the part of the teacher, it is great encouragement for the student who is constantly provided with feedback on their ideas (remember, this is not a place for grammar correction). Students will become more comfortable writing to the teacher as the class progresses, and will subsequently expand their writing fluency, and the teacher will likely learn much about their students. It is important that the journal be strictly between teacher and student, and that the teacher write as much as their students do. It isn’t really encouragement if the teacher writes “good” or “thank you” or “interesting” at the end of an entry.
2. Learning Log
This is also a good way of understanding your students’ needs and desires as well as getting them to write on a regular basis. The assignment is to keep a journal where the students must write about concerns, issues, ideas etc. that they have associated with their academic life.
This is generally a topic that every student will have much to say on, and it allows you to adjust your teaching style to the concerns of your students. Unlike with a response journal, there is no concrete encouragement for length, so it may be best to have a required length of entry, with the stipulation that there will be no grading of the journal beyond length.
3. Dream Log
Have students record their dreams on a regular basis in journal form.
4. Assigned Journal (Or Collected Responses)
This is not actually a journal in the sense that the topics are not free. The teacher assigns a topic on a regular basis that the students are required to answer in a book or journal kept specifically for these assignments. Unlike essays these assignments will not be graded on grammar points, but exist to force the students to write on a regular basis.
5.. What I thought about what I saw The students draw a line down each page in their journal. On the left they write about an event that they saw. On the right they respond with their thoughts about that event. This encourages critical thinking about their daily lives as well as the benefits of journal writing.
Free topics are generally more effective at encouraging response from students, but if you would like to be more directed you may be. It is very important with journals that students feel comfortable with their audience, which is why confidentiality is so important, and why response journals are so effective at getting students to write.
Timed Free Writing
Timed free writing is an activity that is intended to encourage fluent writing, and generate ideas. There are two rules: first, the student must continue to write continuously. If they don’t know what to write, they must write ‘I don’t know what to write’ or ‘this is a stupid assignment.’ Secondly, they must write for the entire time period provided. A good limit is five minutes.
The idea behind this is to silence the part of our mind that wants to say ‘that is a stupid idea’ or ‘maybe that isn’t the best way to write something.’ By forcing students to write continuously they will open up their minds to ideas that they may not have otherwise considered and encourage their expression in their second language.
It is important to note that timed free writes can be very difficult for students that have not had this sort of activity in the past. Often students are used only to responding to questions in a controlled manner. Therefore they will automatically stop to think about what they are writing. It is the teacher’s job to prepare them for this activity and force them to follow the guidelines. Good pre-teaching ideas include spontaneous questions like ‘Gulmira, tell me what you did yesterday’ or speaking activities where they have to respond to abstract concepts like ‘which is more important for the world: bananas or apples?’
Timed free writes work best when the students are given a starting point. This can be a picture, a quote, or a line of poetry. You may also give the students a choice of starting material. After the assignment have them share what they wrote with the class or with a partner.
Writing with objects
1. Bring objects to class and have students each choose one and describe the room it came from, concentrating on the senses — description only, no characters/action
2. Have students go outside and each find a rock. They must then write about why this rock is like their mother. You must not tell them ahead of time what the assignment is.
3. Write in the ‘voice’ of an object. It helps students to have the object in front of them, so have them bring in an object for class. You can then have them either write an autobiography about the object or write a poem from the point of view of the object (what kind of poetry would a teddy bear write?)
It is important to pre-teach the necessary stylistic devices before using these exercises: Metaphors, Similes, Cliche, Mixed Metaphors, Personification, and Sensory Description (using the five senses: sight, sound, touch, taste and smell). Otherwise students will find these activities difficult to complete because they won’t have the tools.
You should also have the students brain storm the characteristics of their objects before giving them the assignment. You can make five headings on the blackboard, one for each of the five senses, and then list characteristics under each one. Only then have the students write their assignment.
Pair off the students. Have them write a spontaneous dialogue together based on two characters, either ones that they create or that you give them. This works very well if you bring in pictures from- old- magazines, newspapers etc. for them to use as characters.
Alternatively, have one student write dialogue and the other one narration of the dialogue:
Narration: One day Albert Einstein and Tiger Woods met in the park
Tiger: “How do you do Mr. Einstein?”
Albert: “Terrible, I just can’t figure out what happens when objects move at the speed of light.”
Narration: Tiger Woods then decided to show Albert Einstein how to hit a golf ball at the speed of light...
Either form encourages both creativity and writing practice. Have the students read their dialogues when they have finished.
Read a traditional fairy tale as an example, and then have students write their own fairy tales beginning “Once upon a time...”
Alternatively, give them the beginning to a well known fairy tale, but without the ending. Have each student write their own ending to the story and then read them to the class.
Collaborative Short Narratives
Begin by writing opening sentences on different pieces of paper, one opening sentence per student in you class. It is best to mix traditional openers such as, “once upon a time an old man and an old woman were living together,” with action style beginnings such as, “I woke at dawn and immediately saw the gun in her hand.” More bizarre opening lines are also good, “Julie was the loneliest carrot in the vegetable garden.” Remember to keep things in the realm of action; the main thing is for the students to be able to continue the story easily.
Next, give each student a piece of paper with the sentence written on it. Have them add a sentence of their own and then pass it along to the student next to them. Once each piece of paper has gone all the way around the room either the teacher or the students should read them aloud to the class.
Alternative : Control this process by giving specific instructions for each line. However, make sure the students write each part with complete sentences:
Line I — A character ( a tall Kazakh man)
Line 2 — A place that character is
Line 3 — What that character is doing
Line 4 — Who that character meets
Line 5 — Where the two characters go together
Line 6— What they do there together
Line 7 — Why they do it
Variant: Have the students fold over the piece of paper after each line they write so that the next student does not know what they are responding to. This can create some hilarious results.
Narratives Based on Pictures of People
Collect pictures of people from magazines etc. and tape them to the blackboard. Have each student choose a picture, without telling their classmates which one they have chosen, and write a narrative imagining that they are that person. Instead of physical attributes, have them focus on job, hobbies, work place, children etc. Then have them read their narratives and the class should try to guess who they are talking about.
They should use the first person throughout.
Variant: You can make this competitive be dividing the class into teams and assigning points for how many they guess correctly.
Assign a word limit and have the students write a complete story using no more than that number (50 or 100 words).
Have the students write a six sentence paragraph without using ANY word twice, including contractions such as ‘are not’ and ‘aren’t’ and plurals such as ‘pig’ and ‘pigs.’ This paragraph should make sense and not just be a collection of sentences. You can also do this in groups of two, with students alternating sentences, or like the chain story with each student writing a new line as the story goes around the room.
Point of View
This can be used with many different activities as above with the controlled writing activities. Pre-teach the different points of view (lst, 2nd and 3d), and then have the students either describe the same scene from different points of view, or one scene from a unique point of view:
1. Describe a ship as seen by a fish
2. Describe a house as seen by a woman whose disgusting and detestable husband has just died without mentioning the husband
3. Describe a lumberjack as seen by a forest
Parallel writing is a style of writing in which the writer is given a pattern or an example to follow, and then is required to follow that pattern using new information or their own ideas. It is a form of controlled writing, but the writer is given more freedom than in the controlled writing process. Parallel writing is an effective tool to use when you are teaching specific forms of English such as letters and documents. It can also be used with poetry and description.
How often do you have to fill out documents in your own language: Bills, postal receipts, important documents at work etc.? The same documents are frequently used in the English language, and can provide a good forum for teaching both specific language and practical skills. Forms also give the teacher a good reason for writing: what if you had to.. .go to the post office in America? Apply for a job? Here are a couple examples of forms that are very common:
Application for Domino’s Pizza
Name: _______ Age: _____ Sex: M/F (circle one)
What position are you applying for: Driver? Insider (cooking/phones)? Manager?
Why are you interested in that position?
What hours are you available?
How many hours are you interested in working?
List your three most recent positions:( $/hour, Reason for Leaving)
Why do you think you would be a good addition to the Domino’s Pizza Team?
When are you available for an interview?
Letters are a very common form of writing. Letters usually require a form and style depending on the situation, and are therefore excellent for parallel writing exercises. You can either show students an example of a letter and have them simulate it using a different set of information, or respond to a letter using the same vocabulary and structure. 1. Advice Column
Read the following letters to the advice column in a magazine. You are the committee known as “Big Sister” that answers the letters. Write a response to each of the letters.
Dear Big Sister, I am a student and 1am 17 years old. My friends tell me I have a drinking problem. I have a glass of vodka before my classes every morning to warm me up. It does not affect my grades. I am a top student. Then I have another drink right after school. It helps me focus on what I have to do. When I go home I have a few more drinks, but 1 am never drunk except at parties. I don‘t understand why my friends are upset about my drinking. What harm are a few drinks?
Dear Big Sister, No one likes me. I am 16 and I am a good student. I have no friends and no one speaks to me at school. I don' t know what is wrong and why no one wants to be with me. One of the students in my class gave me a toothbrush and everyone laughed. I was embarrassed. I don‘t like to brush my teeth because brushing my teeth hurts. What should I do? Regards, Dima
Dear Big Sister, I am a student at a local university. I am 18 and I live with my parents and my brother who is 15. Yesterday I saw my brother taking drugs. He doesn’t know I saw him. He was with his friends near one of the embassies downtown. Should 1 tell my parents? Concerned, Nadya
2. Following an Example:
Dear Ms. Johnson,
Thank you for your letter applying for a job as a waitress at Waterside Camp. It is important for you to know what your duties will be. First, you will have to set the tables. Second you will have to carry the food from the kitchen to the table and serve it to the campers. Third, you will have to clear the tables and take the dishes back to the kitchen. Finally, you should know that we serve breakfast at 7 a. m., so you‘11 have to be on duty every day at 6 a. m.
Please let me know if you would like to arrange an interview.
Sincerely Yours, Karen Green
Now, pretend that Debbie Johnson did not apply for a job at the camp, but instead applied for a job at the local bookstore.
Write a letter from the manager of the bookstore to Debbie explaining the details of the job. You may use the following ideas and others of your own in your letter: I. Check the orders; 2. Keep a record of all the books sold; 3. Put the books on the shelves; 4. Keep the books neat and clean on the shelves; 5. Serve food at the bookstore’s Saturday evening authors’ parties.
3. Letters Following a Concept
There are many concepts that create good beginnings for letters. You can shape the concept to provide the desired content based on the theme that you are working on.
a. Write a letter to a future grandchild to be given to them on their 16th birthday. Include a description of yourself. A description of your goals. A description of the world you live in. Advice for the future.
b. Write a letter to an author. This can be done after finishing a particular reading. Have the class address the author personally, and comment on: what they liked, what they didn’t like, characters, themes, technique etc. (use your imagination for the content of the letter). You can also have the students write a response by the author to their letters.
Poetry is a wonderful resource for parallel writing exercises. It is also good for working on creativity and
gives the students a chance to share this creativity with each other, therefore making it communicative.
Here are some examples: Color and Senses Poem
Have the class choose a color. It can be a typical color like blue or red, or if you want to teach them more advanced colors something like magenta, mauve, violet, indigo. The color that the class chooses becomes the title of the poem. The poem then follows this form:
It smells like ____________
It tastes like________
It feels like __________
It looks like ____________
It sounds like __________
It makes me feel like ___________
After writing one as a class, you can have students do their own individually. It is helpful to stress creativity in this exercise by encouraging answers like ‘red smells like a sunrise’ instead of ‘red smells like a rose.’ By encouraging creativity you can also adapt this exercise to more advanced classes.
Have the students read the poems out loud and then discuss how each conveys a clear picture, distinct emotion, or spiritual insight. Since these may be difficult, after the students understand the form have them work in groups of two to create and then by themselves.
For beginning students can use simple descriptive forms for parallel writing such as giving them a description of London, and then having them use the form to describe their own city, or a description of a fictional Mr. Jones followed by a description of themselves, or directions to a restaurant followed by directions to a mall. What topic you use can be shaped by what themes you are covering, such as directions, physical description, or descriptions of buildings. For example:
Calcutta is a port in India. It is situated on the northeast coast, on the estuary of the River Hooghly, which flows into the Bay of Bengal. The population of the city is six million. The distance from New Delhi, the capital of the country, is about one thousand miles.
Then have the students write a similar description about New York using the following information:
New York — the USA — east coast — River Hudson — Atlantic Ocean — eight million — Washington
D.C. — two hundred and fifty miles.
This is a very controlled exercise. However, it could be done with varying degrees of information given for the second paragraph, therefore making the exercise more difficult.
The communicative approach to writing is using writing as a tool to communicate ideas. Therefore the audience is the key element to this approach. The communicative approach is used in many of the above activities and likely in your classrooms as well. But it is important to remember that even simple activities can be shaped by the communicative approach to get the students interested in their writing activities.
Imagine the following assignment: Write a review of your favorite movie. This could either be a homework assignment or an in class assignment, but the point is to produce a short description of the student’s favorite movie. Now imagine the following variation: You are a film critic for the New York Times. You have been given the assignment of writing a review of a recent movie for the newspaper’s upcoming ‘Best Films of 2003’ feature. Or alternatively: Tell your fellow students about the best film you have ever seen and why it had such an impact on you. The second two variations encourage the student to write for a specific audience, while the first focuses simply on the act of writing, perhaps to be graded by the teacher. The last two will make the students interested and excited about the topic while the first is less interesting because there is no goal involved.
By taking simple assignments and giving the student a sense of purpose and audience a writing assignment will become more real and interesting. This method can be applied to most assignments, but here are some examples:
Create an assignment in which the students have to describe how to do something. Good examples are:
‘how to cook plov,’ ‘how to ride a bike,’ ‘how to organize a newspaper’ etc. Then come up with a forum for these ‘how to’ guides. For example: Tell the students that you want to create an English language cookbook. Have them brainstorm their favorite food and who makes it (mother, grandmother, aunt...). Then have them interview that person in order to find out how they cook it: what ingredients, how they are put together, how the whole thing is cooked.
Have them write up a recipe using this information and then bring it to class. In class you can then have the students share their recipes with their classmates, with the classmates correcting grammar, offering suggestions on how the recipe should be organized, and asking questions. Have the students rewrite the recipe, including the relevant suggestions, and then collect them in the next class and compile them into a recipe book, or have the students do this themselves.
With this assignment you create an audience for the students, a specific topic to communicate (their favorite recipes), and you also include other important skills like revision, interviewing, and organization of information.
Our Family Tradition
Using topics that students know personally will always make assignments more interesting to them.
Family is therefore a feature of most beginning language classes. However, it is possible to take this method and make it more real to the students by giving them a specific audience.
Either in small groups or as a class have the students discuss the things that their families like to do together, call them ‘family traditions.’ List these things on the board and have the students compare their different family traditions. Then have the students choose their favorite tradition and at home write a description of it for a student from another country who knows nothing about their culture. Make sure that they include how this tradition brings their family closer together. As with the how to assignment, you may have the students revise each others’ work before the final assignment is collected.
Again, this assignment gives the students a practical goal for their written work and, by making them think about why their family traditions are important, adds an element of introspection.
Process writing, like the communicative approach, is an element of writing that can be included in all different writing assignments. The basic idea behind process writing is that writing does not begin and end by writing an essay or description or narrative. Writing is a process that all writers go through in order to create a polished finished product. Here are the steps of the writing process:
I. Identify a topic
2. Identify an audience
3. Gather material through pre-writing activities, looking through source material and taking notes, talking to others
4. Organize the material
5. Write a first draft
6. Read the draft critically and make notes
7. Revise the draft
8. Repeat steps 6 and 7 until satisfied
9. Write a final draft
Although not all of these steps are always followed, and not always in this order, these are the basic points that writers follow when preparing a piece of writing. These steps can be used in the classroom in a variety of different activities, and all of them can be used to learn and reinforce EFL skills.
Pre-writing activities are intended to help a student identify a topic, expand on that topic, and gather ideas for their writing.
Free Writing Free writing is not simply a technique for volume of writing. It can also be used to generate ideas.
To use free writing as a pre-writing device, sit down with a piece of paper and write the general topic that you would like to write about at the top. This can be anything from ‘freedom’ to ‘family’ to ‘cars.’ Then take five minutes or so to write whatever comes to mind about that subject. Remember, with free writing there are only two rules. You must keep writing, and you may not stop. As soon as you stop to think about your subject, you have lost the advantage that free writing gives you. Often the wildest tangents... where you go from thinking about politics to hamburgers can be relevant to your eventual piece of writing. The point of this exercise is to get down as many thoughts as you possibly can. Here is an example from Ilona Leki, Academic Writing:
Indonesia is not as popular as other places such as Thailand, Philippines, etc/ - don’t know the reason why — maybe it’s not publicized that much — especially in America, almost nobody knows what or where Indonesia is. Sort of aggravating experience — feel embarrassed. Lots of interesting sights — Australian people go to Indonesia very often but seldom see American tourist. Bali is often visited — most popular place, often called Paradise Island because of its beautifulness - many beaches — clean and refreshing. Java has many points of interest too. Yogya often called tourist city because of its many temples and again it has three beaches. Jakarta, capital city is metropolitan city — filthy side and beautiful side all together - island of Sumatra - mostly contains forests but on North side, Lake Toba — beautiful scenery.
And then the finished product:
Although many people in America have never been to Indonesia, I think Indonesia is a place they must visit at least once in a lifetime. Part of the reason the Americans seldom visit Indonesia is because they do not know much about the place. Another reason is that they do not think there is anything worth going for. But they are wrong. In fact, there are many beautiful places in this country. For example, on the island of Bali there are two beautiful, white and sunny beaches. Kuta is especially beautiful when the sun sets and Janur has a spectacular view when the sun rises. Another example is on the island of Java, where there are two cities that are very popular for their beautiful sits; they are the cities of Yogya and Jakarta. In Yogya, there are many ancient temples and in Jakarta there is a big playground similar to Disneyland. 18
The last example of a tourist attraction is on the island of Sumatra; there is one most particular point of interest there and that is Lake Toba. When we see Lake Toba from the mountains surrounding it, it creates a breathtaking view. These are just three of the many beautiful places in Indonesia and I think it is a shame that more tourists don’t know about them.
Pradanita N. Soepono (Indonesia)
Notice that not all of the material from the free writing exercise was used in the final draft, but the free writing clearly shows how the student used freedom to put down on paper many of her ideas about Indonesia.
Listing operates on the same general principle as free writing, but uses only words or phrases in a list form instead of a paragraph structure.
Clustering is another form of organization that uses a visual pattern that is very common for our human minds. Start by writing a topic or phrase in the middle of a piece of paper. Then write down all of the words that you associate with that topic, connecting them to the topic with lines like the spokes of a bicycle wheel. Then take each of those subtopics and think of all the words that you associate with them, following the same procedure as before. Keep going until you run out of associations. Then look at what you’ve written and organize it into an essay.
Cubing involves looking at a subject from six different points of view (the six sides of a cube). Each point of view stems from a question as follows:
I. Describe it (what does it look like? What do you see?)
2. Compare it (What is it similar to? What is it different from?)
3. Analyze it (What is it made of? What are its parts?)
4. Associate it (What does it remind you of? What do you associate with it?)
5. Apply it (What can you do with it? What can you use it for?)
6. Argue for or against it (Take either position. Give any reasons, even crazy ones)
Organizing your thoughts from pre-writing activities is an important part of the writing process. After you have gathered ideas, it is useful to figure out in what order you would like to present them. The easiest way to do this is simply by writing each concept down, and then numbering them in the order that you think your audience needs to hear them. For example:
Present materials (3)
Outline writing theory (2)
Give examples (4)
Present questions about how to use writing in the classroom (I)
It is useful to have students follow this step so that they have a concrete idea of how their writing will be organized.
After your ideas have been organized, they should write them in a draft form. This is not a final draft and students should know this ahead of time. Tell them that this is just their first attempt and does not need to be perfect. It is more important that they write everything that they think they want to include instead of agonizing over grammar. By doing this they will be able to write more freely and introduce more of their ideas.
This is the most important part of process writing, both for the teacher and the student. Revision should not be seen as a place where every grammar mistake is corrected, but at first simply a place to suggest improvements. Grammar should be left for the end of the writing process. Often the best reviser is another student. Some suggestions
1. After students complete a draft, have them exchange these drafts with other students, who will read them and write down their comments. Then have the students return the papers with their corrections and comments on them
a. This is a great way for students to get ideas, and also as part of the EFL process, for students to see others’ mistakes and apply them to their own work. Students will inspire each other to be better writers.
b. However, revising written work can be difficult, especially for students whose English is weak. You can give them guidelines before you have them revise each others’ work. For example: What is the main idea of the paper? What is the writers’ purpose? Who is the intended audience for this paper? What parts of the paper stand out for you? Name them and explain why they seem important. Identify parts of the paper that seem confusing or out of place.
c. More simply, you can just have the students say what they liked and what they did not like. Maybe three things that they liked and three things that they disliked.
2. Instead of having students exchange papers, simply have them discuss them in small groups. Have each student read their paper, and then allow the other students to offer comments and suggestions. Again, the focus is not grammar but content. Make sure that the students write down comments about their papers.
3. This same activity can be conducted as a class and give the teacher more control, but if the class is too big many students will lose interest and the activity will be very long.
4. The teacher can also revise drafts. This can be a take a long time, but will give the teacher control over the writing process and the comments that are made. However, this takes away from the communicative benefit of peer revision, students don’t learn from others’ mistakes, only their own.
This is the draft that the teacher will use to give a grade. Grammar should be corrected, sentences in the correct order, and all of the ideas in the right order. Although this is the final product, in teaching EFL this is simply one step in the process. The students will probably learn more from the process of writing than the final comments that the teacher puts on their paper. Therefore don’t rush through the pre-writing and revision parts. Have students work together as much as possible, and make the process fun and interesting.
Some Final Suggestions
Writing is a tool that can be used to expand and reinforce a student’s study of a foreign language. Although some activities have been suggested above, they are but a small amount of the ways that writing can be used in the classroom. With any one subject, many of these writing methods can be used. If you are doing a unit on food, for example, have the students start with some controlled writing exercises, move on to parallel writing, and then finish with a short essay using process writing. Also, try to employ the communicative methods of audience and purpose as much as possible. Students will always be more interested in writing for someone in particular than simply completing an assignment that their teacher has given them. And, above all, have fun with your writing assignments. Have students write about things that you are interested in, or that you want to hear their opinions on. If you aren’t interested in it, chances are that they aren’t either.
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