Teaching Writing

Students write for various reasons. They may write inside the classroom or outside it. When writing, students have got more time to think than they have when they are engaged in spontaneous conversation. They have the chance to process the language more and to think about it when being involved in studying or in the creation of emails, stories, short stories or reports.

Writing in general can be divided into writing for writing and writing for learning. Writing for learning helps students to put into practice the language they study. They may have to write sentences using new words that they learn or new grammatical structures. This type of writing consolidates the pupils’ knowledge about the language or enables students to prepare for the next activities.

Writing for writing is meant to shape and develop the abilities of students as writers. In simple words, the objective of this type of writing is to help learners become good writers whatever they may write. The products of such writing might be represented by reports, letters, emails, stories or essays. In this case, the language itself is no longer the central point. Writers pay attention to the whole text. This means that they create the layout and the style of the piece of writing. Vocabulary and grammar patterns become part of the style of writing. Students do not write in order to study the language itself.

Teachers play an important role in the consolidation of writing as a skill. They should organize writing, offer advice and correct students’ writing only by taking into consideration the two types of writing mentioned above. Writing tasks ought to be given to students after teachers have taken into account the age, the level, the interests and the learning styles of those students. For example, we as teachers cannot ask beginners to write a complex argumentative essay in English.

The process of writing should be guided by teachers who must take into consideration the genres in which learners should write. A genre is a way of writing recognized by a community because it has specific features. Thus, poems, essays, theatre plays, stories or small advertisements in newspapers are nothing but genres. The community has seen them many times before and is familiar with their structure and construction. It is important to establish which genres are useful for students at certain levels of study. Teachers have to give their students examples and models of such genres.

At first, learners will probably imitate the construction of these models, but afterwards they will be original and creative within the framework of the models accepted by their community.

Teachers’ duty is to encourage pupils to plan what they intend to write; then, learners need to draft and edit their piece of writing if they want to be successful writers. Planning, drafting and editing may take time and may put students’ patience to the test, but these writing stages may lead to an effective final version of the written material. If we want our students to become successful writers, we should involve them in writing activites. In this way, we as teachers form our students’ writing habit and help them overcome their resistance to the process of writing.

In other words, learners need to be encouraged to write so that they could become confident in their writing abilities. They will feel like wanting to write and will realize they have a lot of things to say through writing.

Here are some writing activities which help students form their writing habit. The first activity which will be mentioned here is called „instant writing„. This activity implies the fact that students have to write immediate responses to the teacher’s request. The teacher may ask them to write three sentences about the topic of the lesson or they may be given two words so that they can write a sentence using those words as quickly as they can. Teachers could also give students half sentences to complete; for example, „My favourite colour is …….” or „The happiest moment in my life was……”.

Another activity that is worth mentioning is named „Using music and pictures„. Both music and pictures can stimulate writing. We can play music to students and then write on the blackboard the first sentence of a narrative. Students have to complete the narrative being inspired by the music they have heard. Then, we can ask learners to look at a portrait and write the inner feelings and thoughts of the person in the portrait.

Newspapers and magazines” represents another writing activity. We can ask pupils to read an article in a magazine and to analyze the way in which it is arranged and the style in which it is written. Then, they will have to write their own short article on the same topic. This task is adequate to the intermediate, upper-intermediate and advanced learners.

Brochures and guides” may constitute another writing activity. We can ask students to look at certain town guides and to analyze the way in which they are put together. Afterwards, they have to write their own town guide using the data of their analysis.

Poetry” may represent another type of writing activity. The main advantage of such an activity is that it allows students to freely express their thoughts and feelings in a manner that other activities do not allow. But learners have to be helped to write poems by being offered models of such poems so that they can get accustomed to this type of writing.

Collaborative writing” is important for the formation of the writing habit. This means that students construct texts together. For instance, we can ask them to compose a letter on the blackboard together. Each line of the letter must be written by a different student with the help of the teacher and of the class.

Writing to each other” is an important activity for learners. Pupils can write e-mails or any other messages that have to be answered, such as letters. The teacher may play the role of postal worker. Students could also be involved in Internet chat sessions under the guidance of the teacher.

Another important aspect that influences students’ motivation to write is correction of written work. It is important that correction should not become over-correction. In my opinion, teachers should avoid covering the written work in red ink underlining the mistakes; this would discourage learners from writing. There are certain techniques which avoid over-correction. One of them is to tell students that we will correct only punctuation or only grammar mistakes and another is to use symbols such as „S-spelling” and to write the symbols in the margin after discreetly underlining the mistake. Attention should be paid to both the form of the language and the content (the ideas learners write about).

In conclusion, the writing activities should be constant parts of the English lessons. These activities can motivate students very much and can encourage them to participate in the lessons.

1. Jones, L., The Student-Centered Classroom, Cambridge University Press, 2007.
2. Oxford, R.L., Language learning strategies: What every teacher should know, Boston, Heinle and Heinle, 1990.
3. Scrivener, J., Learning teaching: A guidebook for English language teachers, Macmillan, 2009.


prof. Bogdan-Mihai Măimăscu

Profil iTeach: iteach.ro/profesor/bogdan.maimascu

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