How to Create Enthusiasm for Writing in Teaching EFL and ESL Students
Minions Used for Writing Prompts
The Need to Create Enthusiasm for Writing
Writing is beyond all doubt the most difficult of the four acquired language skills. That is because it is an active skill requiring a lot of self-confidence. EFL and ESL students, in particular, have a hard time writing. Many of these kids are hesitant to write because their lack of self-confidence has made writing boring and difficult. Writing assignments on topics which don't stimulate student interest will more than often be done very poorly, copied, or not turned in at all. While teaching fifth and sixth grade EFL students during the past few years, I have come up with eight strategies to create enthusiasm for writing which I share with you in this article.
Eight Strategies to Create Enthusiasm for Writing
1. Keep a Diary
Students are more interested in themselves than others. For this reason, kids will jump at the chance to write about themselves. One of the best ways to do this is through a daily diary. In a diary, I have my girls write as much or as little as they choose about themselves. The important thing is for students to write about at least one thing special or different that they do each day.
2. Write Captions and Speech Bubbles for Comic Strips
Many kids test my patience during class by either sketching pictures or reading non-English comic books and strips when I'm not looking. God knows how many of these I have confiscated during classes! The sketched pictures and comic books, however, can work to the teacher's advantage during writing classes. All the teacher has to do is to have students write captions and speech bubbles in English for the sketches they are drawing and comics they are reading. This exercise is best done by having students work in groups of no more than four, and by also choosing the comic strips or pictures they are going to write about. At least one or two weaker students should be included in each group.
3. Write Recipes, Directions, or Instructions
Writing recipes, directions, or instructions are good activities for students because they stimulate the use of all of the senses. In previous writing classes, my kids have written recipes for making spicy shrimp soup, given directions for cooking shrimp fried rice and given instructions on how to transfer photos from a cell phone to a notebook computer. Before doing these written assignments, students have demonstrated all of these activities in spoken exercises with appropriate props or visual aids. These exercises were also done in small groups of four composed of both stronger and weaker students.
4. Write Emails From Guided Formats
Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter have been extremely popular with students over the past few years. When I told my fifth and sixth-grade students two years ago that I was on Facebook, I attracted about 200 followers who were all students. All of them wanted to communicate with me in English. After exchanging a lot of two to three sentence short texts, I decided it would be best for all my kids to learn how to write emails from guided formats. I first introduced sample emails between friends, and then had my students work again in small groups to compose emails to their friends. One of the students' assignments was to compose and send an email to my Hotmail account.
5. Report on School News Events or School Trips
School extra-curricular activities and especially school trips are extremely popular among students. Every school year at my school there are colorful events such as Sports Day, a Christmas Fair, and a special English Day in addition to a school trip for all classes. In a writing exercise on a school trip, for example, students will choose a trip in the past that they went on, and then answer the basic journalistic questions of who, what, when, where, how, and why in their report.
6. Write a Play Script with Lots of Dialogs
In the past, I have had sixth-grade students write play scripts with lots of dialogs. These play scripts were spin-offs of well-known fairy tales like Snow White and Jack in the Beanstalk. After students in small groups wrote the dialogs with guidance from the teacher, the kids got to perform the short plays in class with costumes and props.
7. Whiteboard Competitions
Most of my students like competitive games. Consequently, I employ them in my classrooms often to stimulate student interest. When practicing headline writing with sixth graders, I would have at least three teams of two to three students each come to the board to write news headlines. After ensuring that all the girls understood a good headline included answers to the questions who or what, when, and where, the teams would have a maximum of five minutes to compose a headline. The team completing the task the quickest with fewest errors was the winner.
According to Wikipedia, acrostics are poems or other forms of writing in which the first letter, syllable or word of each line, paragraph, or recurring feature in a text spells out a word or a message. As an example, look at the following acrostic:
By examining the above, we can see that acrostics can be used as a spelling aid. They also can be used to practice correct placement of parts of speech in a sentence. In the example above, we can readily see that adjectives come before nouns, auxiliary verbs precede the main verb, and that an adverb may be placed between an auxiliary and the main verb.
If we want our students to be enthusiastic about writing, it must be made interesting and appealing to kids. One way to do this is to identify student interests and channel them into enjoyable learning activities.
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© 2013 Paul Richard Kuehn