Education - Languages
By: - at April 22, 2013

How to Teach ESL Students Writing

Learning ESLIn English as a second language classes, writing is considered the most difficult aspect to teach. With grammatical rules and their countless exceptions, writing is quite a challenge for teachers and their students. Its complexities, concepts, and demands are too unforgiving for mistakes that many teachers avoid teaching it and concentrate on other areas instead. Overlapping with reading, listening and speaking, writing requires a higher linguistic level to be able to come up with a readable piece of composition.

This skill is essential for students especially in the advanced levels. More than just improving communication skills, writing can make a serious difference in a student's future professional life. With constant practice and support from teachers, ESL learners become more comfortable putting thoughts on paper that are grammatically correct. Balanced exposure to both free and structured writing activities can be effective in helping students get started. From simpler concepts to more technical ones, students can work their way up and eventually realize that the skills gained from being an effective writer are well worth their efforts.

There are many strategies that can be utilized in composition classes. Here are some points to remember when teaching writing to ESL students.

Good Writers Are Great Readers
Kid reading a bookThough knowledge of grammar and sentence structure is demanded in composition, reading many kinds of materials widens one’s idea of vocabulary usage and sentence flow. The more exposure the students have to many varieties of writing styles, the greater chance they can encounter usage that fits their writing preferences. Additionally, this adds up to their schema which will help them write about many different topics in the future.

Let Students Write About Things That Interest Them
When learners are given the leeway to tell about the things they know best, they will strive to put their thoughts into writing. Though some may be challenged with diction and structure, topics that excite them will most likely solicit longer writing submissions and thus provide the teacher with more opportunities to correct students' mistakes. When dealing with beginners, this can be integrated with having to use adjectives, verbs or nouns discussed or introduced in class.

Require Students to Keep a Journal
Writing in journalOther than the structured writing exercises, a more personal account of things students do in their lives recorded in a journal can be very good way for teachers to track the kind of mistakes committed, the words learned, or the structures adapted. During the first few journal entries there may be several corrective marks. The frequency and kinds of mistakes present in the writing as compared with that of the previous pages would give the teachers the idea of the students’ progress in writing.

Design Writing Activities That Increase in Difficulty Throughout the Class
After simple structured compositions are attained, start giving exercises that require a much higher skill in the language. Also start from shorter writing and eventually lead to essay-type composition levels. For students to get motivated, provide quick feedback on their work and discuss the reasons behind the mistakes they have committed as you return their papers. The sooner the teacher provides the feedback, the more enthusiastic students will be to make necessary improvements. Remember feedback should be clear enough that it leads the students to the desired outcome or performance.

Develop the Over-all Language Skills
Though one may be teaching writing, it is impossible to just let students write the whole term. In class, make use of activities like games and puzzles to develop listening, reading and speaking skills. When the ESL student possesses fluency, it is easier to construct thoughts, and thus, it is much easier to write. What was heard or read can be good models for sentences in the written form.

They said that teaching writing to an ESL student is like putting a neophyte in front of the steering wheel. Some students would probably result to plagiarism or some would not even start trying. Understanding the needs and challenges faced by the ESL students is the key to giving proper help. When one is teaching writing, it should be kept in mind that the class aims not mainly to make students write, but for them to understand the nuances of the language and successfully put them into writing. When students struggle to say something, it is even more challenging for them to write it. As students make connections between what they have heard, read or talked about and what they can write, they develop the ability to express themselves in all areas and thus attain over-all linguistic fluency.





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