Teacher in Lala land
How I think my learners will improve their writing skills and how they think they will improve is a completely different story. I ask CCQs and ICQS, but I don’t really ask them much about how they think they can improve their English.
I had a CAE writing class the other day, the focus was on writing an essay. The students were asked to suggest ways they can improve their writing skills and in particular:
- grammar & spelling
- formal/informal language
- developing paragraphs
- linking words and linking sentences together
Now, before I move on to tell you what their answers were, I would like to tell you that my learners are C1 level learners, in their teens, and they have been taking English classes for quite some time now. They have written tons of essays and we have spent hours discussing what makes a good essay and what to avoid when writing one. We have also spent time doing exercises that help improve their writing skills in the areas I mentioned earlier BUT I have seldom asked them ” How do you think you can improve?” Don’t know about you guys but I usually tell them how they can improve!
So, I gave them about five minutes to make notes and tell me what they think they can do to help them improve in writing.
Here is what I got.
Spelling and grammar:
- read books
- listen to English music
- watch TV
- go through word lists and copy the spelling
- review your grammar books
Use of linking words:
- read essays, magazines, books
- try not to write the same sentences again and again but use linking words and try to connect them
- practice writing on a daily basis (yay!!!)
Vocabulary and structures:
- read grammar books (huh?!) or in general reading books
- correct sentences that are wrong
- write your words in an accurate way so they can be easy to read
- search the internet for magazine posts/posts in general (I think she meant essay examples)
- compare formal and informal essays
- know which words phrases are formal and which informal
Now, this is the point where I pour myself a glass of wine and reflect.
What I have not been doing
- I have been telling them you need to do this and that but I have not been connecting it to the real needs and explaining why and how the exercises we do in class or at home will help them. I have not got feedback from them on the effectiveness of the tasks we do.
What I need to do
- I need to give them more opportunities for natural or native like exposure to the language and give them more books, magazines and internet posts to read and make notes. Use what they read to learn new words and use the new words.
- I should do more error correction in class with them. I think I ought to use their own material in this case to connect it with their language needs.
- I really need to help them with features of writing that have to do with layout.
Things that made me happy
- They know how to improve register and are conscious about formal and informal language.
- They suggested reading as an answer to almost every problem connected to writing. So now I can say, ” Well, we are doing this cause you suggested it as a way to improve, hehe” (I would drop reading grammar books! Who does that any more?).
- I realized that I need to ask these types of questions more often.
Where do I go from here?
This week I will tell my learners that we will try to improve vocabulary on a daily basis. Every day they will read an article from a newspaper. They will look for any new words, write these words on word cards and bring them in to class. We will practice making sentences/paragraphs with the new words. They will also keep a journal of how this is helping them improve in vocabulary and spelling. I will also make tasks and exercises based on the new words they bring into class.
Till next time….