Three Ways to - encourage your students to write
Writing is often students' least favourite activity. They may find it hard and time-consuming (even in their own language) and may fear getting back a page covered in red ink. But writing can be motivating and enjoyable. Try these activities and change your students' perception of writing.
- The Writing Half Hour
- From a story to a letter
- Real Communication
The Writing Half Hour
Once a week, introduce a writing half hour when students are not allowed to talk and can communicate only in writing. It can make a welcome break in noisy classes.
1. Bring in lots of scrap paper and distribute it to your students. Make sure that every student has several bits of paper.
2. Explain that:
3. Answer any questions that students may have and then begin the half hour.
- for the next 30 minutes students are not allowed to talk but can only write
- they can communicate with anyone in the classroom and communicate about anything (within reason)
- the purpose of the activity is to give students confidence and practice in writing
- the things that they write will not be individually corrected.
4. Carry round paper yourself and write notes and questions to your students. It is a good chance to ask individuals questions that they might not feel safe talking about at other times, e.g.
- 'Hi Marcel — I noticed that you looked a bit tired today. Are you feeling OK?'
- 'Yukiko — where did you buy those shoes? I want a pair like that.'
- 'Gozde — you looked confused when we studied the past perfect last week. Do you need more help with this?'
5. Don't be surprised if students are a little bewildered at first. As you show them that they can communicate about anything, they will begin to enjoy expressing themselves on paper.
6. In later weeks you can give students tasks to perform during the half hour. For example, ask some students to find out if girls in the class enjoy grammar more than boys. Ask other students to find out what people worry about most in terms of their future.
7. At the end of each activity you can collect in all the papers and find out what grammatical mistakes students are making in general. But be sure not to tell an individual student what mistakes he or she has made, as this may inhibit their desire to communicate.
| From a story to a letter
Take a book or a short story that you are reading in class and use it as a springboard to letter writing. Students imagine that they are one of the characters in the story, writing a letter to another of the characters. (You could also do this with a film.)
1. When you reach a point of drama in a story that your class is reading, ask them to stop and think for moment. Ask them:
- which character in the story they most identify with and why
- what this character's biggest problem is right now
- who can help that character to resolve the problem.
2. Now ask students to imagine that they are this first character. Tell them that they will write a letter to the character who can help them. Ask students to make some notes about what they want to say.
3. When students have made notes, talk a little bit about formality and informality in letters and ask them to categorise some phrases as formal, informal or neutral, e.g.
- I am writing to you in order to …
- How's it going?
- Best wishes,
- Yours sincerely,
- Take care of yourself,
- I very much hope that you will be able to help.
4. Now give students some time to write the letter, either in class or for homework. Make sure that they know how formal or informal their letter should be.
5. Make a general list of positive points and mistakes that arose in the letters and go over this in class in a subsequent lesson. If students wrote to each other's characters then you could ask them if they want to exchange letters.
Nothing motivates students more than having a real reason to communicate. Below are three ideas of how to introduce this into your classroom.
- If students have access to email, set them up with epals in different countries. An epal is someone your students can communicate with by email, probably in another country. You can contact other teachers to arrange this by clicking on 'teacher talk' on the left. Just leave a message on the talk board or search for other teachers who are looking for epals.
- Alternatively, your students can use the separate student talk board to leave messages for other students from all over the world. Your students can also start up email communication with them. Direct your students to the Teens Students' site and tell them to click on 'Teen Talk'.
- If students do not have access to email, then try to set up inter-class communication with a class in another school. Get in touch with a teacher from another school (via the Teacher talk section on the Teens Teachers' site) and arrange to give each student a partner in the other class. Students can then write to each other once a week.