Fun Ways to Teach Writing to English Language Learners

Fun Ways to Teach Writing to English Language Learners

Over my time in the ESL / ELL industry, I've heard many teachers complain about teaching their students how to write. To me, this always surprised me as teaching writing was something that I really enjoyed. A lot of people think that it's boring, or hard to evaluate or limited in what you can do with your students. This blog entry will hopefully show that teaching writing doesn't have to be these things. Teaching writing to your students can be fun and a rewarding experience for you and your students.

Think outside the box
A lot of people who teach writing only pay attention to the fundamentals of learning how to write and use traditional writing lessons / activities in class. They start teaching writing in a very systematic process. Sentence structure - paragraph structure - essay structure...with some grammar and punctuation lessons in the middle. Of course, these skills are important, but the process that students learn these skills doesn't have to be so rigid, structured and ultimately boring.There are so many other ways to engage your students in writing. So instead of walking into class and telling your students "Today we are going to learn how to write complex sentences" you could say "Today we are going to...
- write a poem
- write lyrics to a song
- write a story
- write a script for a TV show or movie
- write a blog entry
- write some tweets
- write an email
- write an advertisement for a new product
- write a newspaper article

The list goes on and on, and while you are doing these activities, you can start to teach about the fundamentals of writing. Also, after you have your students engage in these types of activities, don't forget to try to bring their writing to life. Have them read their poetry to the class, out act out their scripts, or create a newspaper with their classmates articles.

Encourage Creativity, not Perfect Spelling and Grammar
Nothing kills creativity and eagerness to write faster than the fear of making mistakes. As teachers, we can really eliminate this fear or increase it by our actions. Some students have so much to say or write about, but are too worried about errors in their writing, and nothing gets accomplished. A teacher's desire to correct every mistake only adds to this anxiety. Instead look for larger patterns of errors that your students are making and address those. The worst thing you can do to your students is hand back an assignment that is covered in red pen marks that are pointing out every error.

Have Students Write about their OWN interests
If you want to get students writing in class than nothing works better than getting them to write about what they are interested in. So many times, teachers use their textbooks to come up with ideas that students should write about and guess what....this is boring to them. Instead you should get them to focus on what they like or on their own lives and have them write about that.

Writing Doesn't Have to Been Done Alone
If you walk into most writing classes you'll see the same thing. Students sitting by themselves quietly doing writing exercises....and probably looking bored or sleepy. Writing does not have to be a solitary activity. Pair or group writing can boost creativity, encourage participating, and give students the opportunity to provide and receive meaningful feedback with classmates. Also, it can be a lot of fun too. Writing stories, plays, TV/movie scripts can be great activities that students can do in groups or pairs.

Try Teaching Multi-Skilled Lessons
Another great way to mix-up your writing lessons, is to teach more than one skill at a time. Of course, reading and writing skills often go together, but you can also teach listening skills and communicative skills at the same time you teach writing.  I used to teach listening and writing together through the use of music in the class all the time. For example,  I would cut up the word lyrics to a song and hand them out to students, they'd first try to put the lyrics in order before hearing the song based on their knowledge of sentence structure, then I'd play the song, and they'd have to put the words in the order they hear. Another great way to practice listening and writing at the same time is through dictations.

Writing Games and Contests
A quick Google search will lead you to literally thousands of quality writing games and contests you can do in your class. Using games in your class can increase motivation, eliminate writing anxieties, encourage spontaneous use of the language, help to build a cooperative learning environment and they are student centered.

As you can hopefully see from this blog entry, teaching or learning how to write in English does not have to be boring or difficult for your students to get into. There are so many ways to have your students learn writing skills, while having fun or using the language in a meaningful way. I'd love to hear your feedback on this entry and also some of your ideas about teaching writing.


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