It is a productive skill, which is more difficult to acquire than its partner speaking, as a large number of writing and spelling conventions need to be learnt. Furthermore those students who come from cultures which are not familiar with Latin alphabet will have additional difficulties with writing inEnglish.
In addition, it is not a "natural skill" in the way that listening and speaking are. Both listening and speaking are acquired naturally by (almost) everyone, whereas reading and writing are learned skills.
Types of writing
Writing does not have to be limited to traditional paragraphs, short stories, essays and so on. Some students who may be proficient at writing formal texts such as reports may feel uncomfortable having to adapt to the sometimes more informal registers used in emails or the special syntax used in PowerPoint slides. They can get a strong sense of achievement in practising preparing and writing emails, PowerPoint slides and labelling other graphics such as diagrams, charts, graphs and flow charts.
Some activities may overlap in their format or aims, i.e. they may be similar activities under different names.
- Cloze test
- Expressing certainty
- Expressing contrast: on the one hand/other hand; in theory, etc.
- Expressing uncertainty
- Describing processes
- Labelling diagrams
- Linking ideas
- Organizing a text
- Writing descriptions and definitions
A typical layout of a writing/reading activity might include the following sections:
- 1. Preparation, pre-teaching of vocabulary; discussion
- 2. Main reading passage
- 3. Comprehension exercises
- 4. Development
- 5. Further reading
- 6. Writing practice
See main article Assessing written texts.
Teachers will have differing correction styles. Some will wish to correct most or all errors, while others will wish to concentrate on specific items. Additionally the size of the group will influence matters.
Teachers should, however, avoid providing the correct answer when marking text. While this has long been considered a traditional role for teachers, and is certainly necessary in other contexts outside the language teaching world, most students ignore such corrections and passively count the number of red marks on the page. Teachers should therefore encourage students' active participation in the correction process by Correction codes flagging the mistake with a correction code, and at most, pointing out the type of mistake, that is, vocabulary, grammar, register, and so on. The student himself should then supply the correct from.
One to one
It is not unusual for students in one-to-one classes to have to produce real English texts in the course of their regular daily work. Using these real texts as the basis of a class can be useful. However, if the student is going to have to actually use the text in their work, then teachers will probably have to be more rigorous in their correction than they might otherwise wish to be.
If you have a small number of students you will be able to carry out "hot correction". That is to say you wait for the student to write two or three sentences and correct them in class before assisting the next student. This has a number of advantages:
- The student receives guidance as well as correction.
- The teacher can ask the students what exactly they are trying to write and make suggestions about structure and formatting and vocabulary.
- The student receives this guidance and correction instantly - not as red ink on a homework assignment some days later.
- From the teacher's point of view there is no homework to mark.
- The teacher can be confident that the work was actually done by the student.
Traditionally students carry out writing tasks as homework for subsequent correction by the teacher, perhaps in their own time. Some teachers simply have students correct each other's work. This has a number of advantages:
- It makes students think about the nature of the mistakes which may be made thus giving two teaching opportunities for the price of one.
- The student gets relativity rapid feedback on their work.
- If a teacher has a number of very large classes then they do not have to spend a vast amount of time correcting homework.
- Assessing written texts
- Correction codes
- Correcting mistakes
- Signpost word
- Summary writing
- Technical writing