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September 16, 2009

Put It In Writing

I have had many English learners who have had very good speaking skills but when it comes to writing...

...they have many problems. And the good thing is, as a teacher, these problem areas are much easier to define and correct than spoken problems.

There are a few exercises I have used that are instructive as well as enjoyable for students. The most popular is a writing exercise where I give the students a short time (about ten minutes) to write a piece of a story, and then each student passes the paper to another student who then writes another segment.

One format that has worked well for me is;

Ten minutes writing a description of a person (could be fictional)
Ten minutes writing a description of a location
Ten minutes describing something that person is doing.

My preference is to keep things simple. Usually a three part structure works best.

You might try any context or subject area where you could use a before, during and after sequence.

Besides helping students with their writing, this simple exercise can easily help students with their reading and study skills.

It might even help them focus and develop their listening or even movie watching abilities. For example, I tell my students that every song, every book and every movie has a simple three part structure much like this writing exercise. Every movie has an introduction (where we learn who matters and what they are doing) and the development of the story (plot line) and the conclusion (how all the loose ends come together).

My intention in teaching English is far more than mastery of grammar and vocabulary. I want my students to be equipped to comprehend and make sense of the world around them. Part of comprehending is to understand, but another important part is to make something known and part of one's self.

And of course, there are few experiences more satisfying than fully expressing one's self - especially in a learned language.

It is good to remember that we are all always learning. And it is always more fun to learn together. We can learn as much from the past as from the present.

Let me know what it is about English that you find confounding, infuriating or endlessly intriguing.

Listen, read and speak. Make your new language your own.

My best to you as you make your way through this intriguing , constantly shifting linguistic landscape.


About the author of this entry:

Morf has a B.A.from the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington and an MAT (Master's in Teaching English) from the University of Washington (Seattle). Morf prefers international and independent films, foods he can't pronounce, music no one else has heard of and riding his bicycle in foreign cities.

Posted by mmorf at September 16, 2009 03:44 PM

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