Writing tips and ideas for Advanced students

When we teach writing for Advanced students we are often lack of ideas and tired of typical essays and letters. Below I share some writing tips you can set for Advanced students to make writing more engaging.

First of all consider the following things about writing tasks:

1. Advanced students are supposed to use reference pronouns, ellipsis, substitution, repetition. There also should be some organisational patterns, such as parallelism, rhetorical questions.

2. The language. Advanced students’ writing tasks should include a wide range of simple and complex grammatical forms (e.g. relative, adverb and noun clauses, passive forms, subordination, tense contrasts, modal forms) and vocabulary, including less common lexis, collocations, fixed phrases, idioms, phrasal verbs.

3. Advanced students have more flexibility to adapt the task conventions, so they can avoid using the same pattern, tense or form over and over again. It shows better control and wide repertoire of the language.

4. To learn more about writing techniques check these books that focus specifically on writing assignments and skills: Writing for AdvancedWriting for Advanced Learners of English, Inside Writing.

Writing Tips:

1. For Business students it would be quite useful to write: job applications, CV, covering letter, reply to a complaint, a report, etc. What’s more — if your students have business corresponding in English, you can ask them to write answers to real emails they receive. This will personalise the task and students will see how they can apply the language learnt in their job.

2. Watch the video. Ask students to write what they think about it, if they agree or disagree, what comes to their mind.

3. If you have a book or movie lesson, you can set the task to write a review on the last book/movie students have read or about their favourite ones. Then you can share the reviews in the class and students can read and rate them. You can create your own IMDB chart.

4. Give students a captivating question, statement or a quote, e.g. “Do smartphones really improve our lives?”, “Using animals in medical research helps people” or “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people”. Provoke and facilitate the discussion, collect some ideas and arguments in favour and against, and tell students to write an article or a discursive essay on the topic. Check for some ideas on these websites: 163 Questions to Write About, Spark conversation, Good reads.  

5. You can organise a group or interactive writing in class. For instance, each student writes a problem on the top of a piece of paper. The problem can be real or just invented and hilarious (e.g. My cat doesn’t let me sleep). Then they give their piece of paper to the student on the right and get a “problem paper” from the student on the left. They write advice for the student and pass round. It continues until all the students write advice for all the problems and each receives their “problems” back. They read comments and can choose the best/funniest/most unusual advice. Then you can see whose recommendations are the most popular. This student is the best advisor 🙂

6. Another personalised and quick activity you can do in the class. You may ask students to share an interesting vlog/blog/social network post or news they’ve read recently. Set the discussion in class and encourage students to write a comment. Then you can stick all the comments on the wall and invite student to “like”. As an option they can think of hashtags for this post.

7. Give students a short story or a comic strip to read, but leave the last paragraph/picture left. Let them create their own ending of the story! You can do the same task with videos or GIF. Show a part of the movie/video clip or GIF. Provoke the discussion what the story can be about, what happened before, what’s going to happen after that. Check different ideas in the next lesson, vote for the most extraordinary and show the real ending for comparison.

8. The next idea can be used for different topics. Each student writes a description of their holiday/dream/favourite pictures. You stick the descriptions on the wall in random order. Students walk around and try to guess whose each description is.

9. Watch an Ad commercial or show a picture of an advertisement. It’s better if it’s compelling and evoking interest. Split students in pairs or in groups of three-four. The task is to think of a slogan for this advertisement. After discussion show the real one and compare all the slogans, choose the best one.

10. From time to time you can ask students from several groups to create a newsletter for another group. You can decide on what they can write: what happens to them, what they do at the weekend, how they spend their holidays, some funny stories from the lessons, what Ad campaigns they think of. It’s better if groups are of the same level.

11. Watch and discuss a talk show or an interview with a famous actor or singer.Divide students in pairs and ask them to think of 2-3 questions for this famous person or for their favourite star.

12. One of self-reflection tasks is to write a letter to yourself in the past, e.g. what would you say to yourself when you were 10 years younger? Or, students can write a letter to themselves in the future. Another similar idea is to create a bucket list. Moreover, if you continue teaching this group, you can read these bucket lists in a year and see if anything has changed.

13. Read some 50-word stories in a lesson and ask students to write their own 50-word story. Share their pieces of writing. Create several nominations and organise a poll.

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