Want to Teach Writing? Here are Some Helpful Tips!

Every semester, my teaching load would include at least one writing course.

Teaching in a classroom where you have students who do not share a similar English writing background is downright challenging.  For some of my students, their writing experience is confined to a sentence, but there are also those who come with paragraph- or essay-writing experiences.  

What do you do when you have students with differing writing abilities?  Obviously, expecting everyone to be at the same page, and at the same pace, would be silly.  Another aspect that you may want to think of is how they had learned writing.  Some of my students memorized essays in high school.  Some of them just copied off from a 'model essay book'.  Some actually have a discussion or debate about what to write about before actually writing.  This is a problem for me too as I have grown accustomed to having the freedom and liberty to discuss anything under the sun.  However, for many of my students, discussion is difficult to fathom.  So what do I do?  Do I lower the standards?  Do I send everyone off for remedial English? (I've done this a couple times).  

First, get them into the habit of writing.  Assigning regular writing tasks may help students develop the confidence and habit for writing.  These writing tasks are useful as they can show you how they are doing with grammar and how big their lexicon is.  

Second, decide on a topic for them, especially those that they are familiar with.  In cultures where it is common to be told what to do, students do appreciate a more explicit guidance from their teachers.  I'm not saying that this is the best way, but perhaps giving them the liberty right at the beginning would terrify them.  If and when you give a topic, make sure the topic is something that they will have words to describe.  

Third, have multiple drafts.  This allows them to really see how they progress.  Having multiple drafts could be time-wasting too if not done properly.  I have noticed multiple-draft essays containing the same mistakes found in earlier drafts.  Perhaps a more rigid evaluation can follow the progress of newer and 'improved' drafts.  

Fourth, do not kill yourself by giving too many long-written assignments.  You should know why you shouldn't do this.  

Fifth, do not kill yourself by giving too much feedback.  Feedback may be valuable for a basic class, but as writers, especially EFL ones advance more in their writing proficiency, teachers can lessen their feedback to just general comments, or comments about content.  We need to encourage our students to take initiative to assess their own work.  

Or you could just send them off to remedial English.  Seriously.  :P

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