Teaching and Testing Writing

As well as speaking, writing belongs to the category of productive skills which are the result of the receptive skills (listening and reading). It is well known that when a foreign language is being learned, students first acquire and then reproduce. The process of writing consists of three main stages.

1. Pre-writing: first of all, to write something, students must have a background which has to be based on listening to audio/video materials, native speakers, or even the teacher, and/or reading different types of texts (stories, articles, essays, descriptions, etc.); second of all, students must be taught the points that are taken into account when writing something: topic, genre, grammar and vocabulary, spelling, layout and punctuation, style. Once all these concepts have been introduced to them and they have become aware of them, we can proceed to the next stage.

2. The process of writing: when dealing with it, teachers should point out the following steps:
• Brainstorm various ideas which will be put down both by the teacher on the board, and by the students in their copybooks;
• Select the best ideas together;
• Decide upon the number of paragraphs, their order and the topic sentences;
• Decide upon the supporting sentences and the linking words;
• Write out a rough version (draft);
• Check the writing for unnecessary repetitions of words or information;
• Check the language (grammar and vocabulary);
• Check the spelling, punctuation and layout;
• Write a clean and neat copy of the corrected version.

3. Post-writing: refers to the evaluation of the piece of writing which can be:
• Done by the teacher;
• Self-evaluation;
• Peer-evaluation.
When evaluating, the following methods can be taken into account: the error-count method (ignores content), analytic method (tests content and language), and impression method (teacher’s total impression).

Other aspects concerning writing

1. Writing and genre:
Pupils have to study, in advance, texts in the genre they are going to be writing: creative writing (stories, plays, poems, short-stories, tales) or academic writing (letters/emails, essays, articles, reports, proposals, reviews). They have to be very well familiarized with the type of writing they must focus on.

2. Writing based on images:
Students are asked to write a description based on an image or a set of images representing an object, an animal, a person, a scene, a landscape, etc., or to compare two or more pictures focusing on differences and similarities, or they can be given a set of images which they have to arrange in a certain order and then write a story.

3. Writing as a cooperative activity:
It implies either pair-work or group-work. This is very motivating because the students can share the tasks between/among themselves. They have to do some research before starting writing, then there is the peer-evaluation which enables them to behave like teachers, the group discussion and, finally, if their task is excellent, there is the group pride –the satisfaction for having completed something together. And, last but not least, the best mark possible!

4. Using the computer:
Typing the text has way more advantages than hand-writing it. It removes the problem of poor writing, difficult for others to understand, it helps them edit the material at a greater speed, there are spell-checkers which correct their mistakes, there are word-counters which make them “stay” within the given limits and the text is more visible to the others. Eventually, the piece of writing can be uploaded on a platform (like google classroom) so that the whole class should have access to it.

The roles of the teacher in the process of writing

1. Organizer: the teacher organizes the pupils for the activity. She/he gives them the necessary information, the instructions, puts them in pairs or groups, sets the timing.

2. Motivator: the teacher motivates the pupils by creating the proper environment, by encouraging them to be aware of the usefulness of their work so that, in the end, they can get the maximum benefit out of it.

3. Resource: the teacher should always be ready to offer extra information, advice, suggestions and language if necessary.

4. Assessor: the teacher should provide an encouraging and positive feedback to their pupils’ writings so that they would not be discouraged and would keep up with their work.

Harmer, Jeremy, The Practice of English Language Teaching, Longman, 2002
Ur, Penny, A Course in English Language Teaching, Cambridge University Press, 2012
Evans, Virginia, Jenny Dooley, Lynda Edwards, Upstream C1, Express Publishing, 2019


prof. Daniela Ciubotariu

Liceul Teoretic Miron Costin, Iași (Iaşi) , România
Profil iTeach: iteach.ro/profesor/daniela.ciubotariu

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