Tips for writing tasks

It just so happens that students usually do not like doing writing tasks. There are several reasons for that: assignments are not challenging or interesting; they’re time-consuming; students don’t have enough scaffolding or prompts for ideas; they just don’t like writing. Below you can find some tips on what you should work and focus on to make writing more engaging.

What should you consider for writing tasks?

  1. Do a proper pre-writing work to set the context for your assignment.
  2. Make sure the tasks are culturally relevant and applicable to real life or at least close to something you’ve discussed in the class, there must be a real reason to communicate. Students are more engaged when they are writing about things they know and when they see the point of actually writing it. You can assign an essay and explain what you expect, but relate the assignment to the real world round them with concrete examples of how the topic can be relevant to their lives.
  3. Assignments must be engaging and essential for students.
  4. Remember to avoid PARSNIP topics (Controversial taboo topics in the English language classroom: P stands for Politics, A for Alcohol, R for Religion, S for Sex, N for Narcotics, I for “isms” (eg communism, atheism…), P for Pork).
  5. Tell students what grammar and/or vocabulary you want them to use. Revise essential target language if necessary.
  6. Provide students with a model. Brainstorm ideas on the topic open class so that every student has an idea what to write about.
  7. Emphasise main points and the structure.
  8. Set the word limit.
  9. If you do the task in class, set the time limit.
  10. If it’s a task to be shared with others, check all students agree to do that.
  11. Provide a follow up activity — to discuss (which author students agree with), choose the best (e.g. a contest of advertisements) etc.

What else should you pay attention?

  • The content

Focus on how well students fulfill the task, if they cover all the points; if their writing is relevant to the assignment and if the target reader is fully informed. There shouldn’t be any misinterpretations or irrelevances of the task.

  • The second point is the achievement of the communicative aim

Check how appropriate the writing on the whole is and how well the conventions are used: genre, format, function, register. Students are supposed to be able to communicate complex ideas in an effective way and fulfill communicative purposes. For example, a report should not be written as a personal letter. It should have an appropriate structure and students should use the right tone.

  • The organisation of their piece of work

There’s supposed to be a variety of linking words (e.g. and, but, because) and cohesive devices (e.g. furthermore, compared with, for instance, on the contrary, as far as, however, etc.).

  • The language

The use of language should be appropriate (e.g. “heavy rain”, not “strong rain”), accurate, precise (e.g. difference between “sensitive” and “sensible”) and effective. Errors can be present, but they’re usually slips, i.e. not systematic and do not impede communication.

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