“I would love some advice on creative ways to practice writing. I find that my students simply don’t enjoy writing and often stare at the blank sheet paper for the longest time. We all know that writing is a very necessary skill, but I would love to make this a more enjoyable activity for my students.” *
Ah, the joys of writing! It happens to be my passion and one of the few things I feel I was born to do (besides teach!)
But even I understand it’s not something that everyone enjoys, especially not every ESL student. As this teacher points out, good writing is a very important skill; students understand this, so they “grin and bear it” – they try their best to get the work done. But are there creative ways to make writing tasks more enjoyable? You betcha!
Try These 7 Creative Ways to Practice ESL Writing
Make it a Mural
With all of the visual stimulation students get from websites, social media and online games, a blank sheet of paper is simply too overwhelming for some. A great way to combine the use of images and other multimedia tools is through the creation of an interactive mural, with the use of an online tool like Mural.ly. Students do their writing on different-shaped, colorful sticky notes and text boxes as they add images and videos to get their point across. It may not be the most classic example of a writing task, but it is certainly the kind of writing they will most likely have to do in the future as they use online collaboration tools.
Make it a Journal
Journal writing is a classic in any writing course and often used in ESL classrooms to let students tap into their thoughts, hopes and dreams. But an online journal, like the one offered at Penzu combines the classic writing task with the use of technology – the perfect combination to encourage inspired writing for today’s ESL students.
Make it Collaborative
In today’s connected world, people increasingly collaborate on a variety of projects across remote distances. And people increasingly collaborate on writing projects and tasks, from business reports to academic papers. Assign a writing task that students must work on after school, for which they must use a specific collaborative tool, like Skype or GoToMeeting.
Make it Paperless
Students may write a first draft, then hand it in for review, then get it back with your ideas/suggestions before they can submit a final draft, which you will return with corrections. All of this back and forth takes times, especially if you only see your students a couple of times a week. So forgo all of the shuffling back and forth with notebooks/sheets of paper and simply share documents online, like for example, with GoogleDocs.
Make it Email
We should not underestimate the importance of teaching proper email writing skills, not just for business/professional purposes, but for all types of communication. Divide your class into pairs and have them swap email addresses. Give each pair a writing prompt to get the ball rolling and have them write back and forth to each other. Give them a basic strategy they must follow, for example, Student 1 must answer the teacher’s question, then end the email with a question for Student 2. Student 2 answers this question and ends the email with another question for Student 1. This can go on for quite a while! Be sure to have students CC you.
Make it Meaningful
One of the reasons writing is so boring for students is that it is simply not the kind of writing they need. What kind of writing do they need to learn? To answer this question you must first assess your students’ needs at the very start of the course. Most ESL students don’t need to write stories or poems. They need practical writing skills! Have them write emails, cover letters for job applications, resumes, reports, product descriptions, etc..., anything and everything they might very likely have to write in English in the near future.
Make it a Notebook
Have students bring a Writing Notebook to class. This way, they can keep all of their writing assignments in one handy place and have a quick overview of how far they’ve progressed. One blank sheet of paper is less scary if they already have lots of other pages that have been filled with their writing.
There is no cookie-cutter approach to make writing practice more enjoyable for your class.
But there is one key: you must really get to know your students and find out which writing skills they need to develop. Once you know that, all the right strategies will fall into place.
If you have any other creative ways to practice writing, please do share them below!