Home Forums iTDi TESOL Certificate A writing lesson A writing lesson

Viewing 11 reply threads
  • Author
    • #8823



      Describe a writing activity that went really well or one that didn’t go well at all. Why was it a success or a failure, do you think?

      Post your ideas in a reply below and comment on other teachers’ ideas.


    • #8903

      Steven Herder

      This year, one writing activity that didn’t go well was one based on watching a series of videos and writing a reaction/commentary essay. It was simply too hard for my first-year university students.

      I thought the topic was interesting enough to inspire students to work hard enough to understand the videos. However, I was wrong. While about 2-3 out of 16 students were inspired, most other students melted under the weight of the assignment.

      FYI, here is the first of 6-7 videos in this series:


      On the other hand, an essay topics that ALWAYS works well is:

      1. Write about a time when you were a young girl, and you did something bad/embarrassing/funny/strange. This should be a story that people in your family know about.

      This works well at the start of the year when I’m building a learner community. Of course, I tell a few of my own stories about bad stuff I did as a kid. Students read a number of their classmates stories and write comments/questions directly in the essay. There are many smiles, laughs, and good will in this lesson.

    • #8934

      Barbara Bujtás

      Thanks, it was reassuring to know that it happens to others too 😀 I mean I often misjudge how inspiring a video or reading text is.

    • #8935

      Barbara Bujtás

      The 10-minute writing fluency activity works really well with one of my 1-2-1 students as a homework task. She loves it and she often can’t stop after 10 minutes, once she wrote 3 different pieces after each other.
      I love to read her writing. Her level is about B1 but despite this, her topics and style are truly enjoyable. She wrote about the lift, for example. I also enjoy that (following Paul Nation’s instructions about the activity https://www.victoria.ac.nz/lals/about/staff/publications/paul-nation/my-ideal-vocabulary-teaching-course.pdf) I don’t have to correct mistakes, but interact with the meaning.
      Today, though, I tried the same activity with a younger student during the lesson, somehow she wasn’t in the mood for writing, so we ended up with 4 sentences only. But we had a chat about how it feels when you try hard but you can’t, and other times you just can’t stop writing.

    • #8940

      Rhett Burton

      Trace Writing – Trace writing is an exercise I use for teaching letter shapes and spacing. It works great because the students are always being scaffolded on the directions to move their pencils and the proper amount of spacing. The trace font also motivates students to write within the lines. Trace writing helps students focus on their writing dexterity.

      Song Writing: Students have an easier time writing passages that they are familiar with. I like to teach songs aurally then slowly layer reading and writing skills to the songs. This activity works because students can sing the song to self-correct the patterns they write.

      Character Narratives- I have done several activities to get students to write creatively through character narratives. I failed in providing the right amount of controlled patterns. The activity didn’t achieve the desired results I was hoping. I received too many phone calls from the mothers explaining that their child couldn’t finish their homework because it was too hard. I do want to add that my students were successful talking through the narratives through puppets, but couldn’t easily transfer their speaking knowledge to the written word. 

    • #8943

      Rhett Burton

      I have had many experiences of taking too much time to produce too little content with my young learners. I usually blanket my short-comings with an age-appropriate error.

      These days, I also take an approach that Paul Nation talks about – Writing from Experience. Instead of the students recalling what they did out of my school, I have them write what we did during our class. I have found writing about the shared experience allows us to enrich our group writing.

    • #8948

      Besides 10-minute writing fluency activities, which I’ve had similar mixed results with (as per Barbi), I like to use ‘Running Dictation’ and have a lot of success in both kids and adult classes of 3, 4 or more (and done with a maximum of 27 EFL uni students in Japan, with 9 teams of 3 and rotating roles).

      Here a good introductory article to running dictation that also highlights how to make it work and pitfalls to avoid. It’s mostly been a success because it involves 4 skills, is genuinely communicative, requirest teamwork but can be competitive, too, and offers a change of pace/dynamics in class.

    • #11574

      Masatoshi Shoji

      In writing class, I always ask the students to write their draft in 10 minute by asking them to set up their smartphone timer.
      Before they write their draft, they need to choose a topic, always try to do paragraph writing. Title, topic sentence, supporting sentences, and concluding sentences are prepared by themselves. After they write their draft, I ask them to put the number of words they write. In fluency writing, I ask the students not to refer to a dictionary and to write as many words as possible.

      • #11602

        I like how the students are supported to write paragraphs by getting them to come up with a topic sentence supporting sentences, and concluding sentence.

    • #11594

      Masatoshi Shoji

      Thanks for your sharing your experience with a video.
      I wish if we have more language teaching-oriented videos covering various topics and issues.

      • #11603

        Yes, videos give us great insights into our teaching and other people’s. I would really encourage you to share more with your colleagues and do peer-to-peer observations for professional development. This was really encouraged by my trainer in the first language school I worked at so I consider myself lucky to have had that experience from the beginning of my career 20 years ago. Later as a part-timer a uni, I only had a few opportunities to observe other teachers or be observed. Now, with teachers recording classes online, you may find this easier to do especially within the same institution.

    • #13785

      Rhett Burton

      A How-To-

      The other day I had my student write the rules to a game. The student taught me how to play the game as we played. The student gained a lot of awareness of what was essential and explained it by teaching me how to play. I believe this process helped her write/draw out more useful instructions. We wrote the first draft before comparing notes. Then, we compared our notes to the instructions in the box.

      I like it when the students write from experience while learning from others’ writings (me and the manual). The writing from experience provides insight into how the students tackle the writing activity. The modeling from others and the manual allowed the student to adopt alternative strategies into their writing.

      By the end of the writing task, the student’s thoughts were more organized, and they could explain how to play the game more quickly and effectively than before. I had her keep the instructions in the box to teach others (in English) through her self-made rule sheet. I hoped it would motivate her to continue to create higher-quality content.

      • #13788

        scott gray

        I really like that you compared it to the instructions in the box. That is great! Were you able to compliment her on some good pieces of writing and show her how she was close to or matched the box instructions in any place?

        Also, great to have students make sheets that you can use with other students to get it in from the side instead of top down style. What I mean there is students tend to respond more or at least believe they can do it easier if another student has done it rather than just a teacher saying its been done.



      • #13795

        I really like this sequence of activities rooted in their experiences; from the negotiation of meaning through a real-life task (i.e. explaining how to, clarifying, etc) to writing it down then finally comparing it to printed instructions.

        For students less familiar with instructions, I get them to read and work with familiar or simple recipes or instructions for machines, games, etc so they can match the English to their existing knowledge before getting them to notice the use of commands and sequencing devices, for example.

        For older students, cultural exchanges provide great opportunities to explain things to a real audience, from making origami to preparing tea.

    • #13787

      scott gray

      Since the national English test, Eiken is used in Japan for among other things getting into university we teach towards the test at times. Currently, at the campus, I am at we haven’t started the full-time International course yet so I just sneak in some writing activities after school for those taking the Eiken or in a class where the majority who will take the class is there.

      So, in one short class, I gave them a short talk about just putting some order into their sentences. Gave them a few sample questions from old tests, just the writing section, and told them to write the first sentence whether they agree or disagree with the question in a sentence. Then the next two or three sentences will give support or why they believe their point (the first sentence). Last was to restate in the typical Eiken fashion (ex: For those reasons above I …) and say the same first sentence in different words.

      Then I had them share their sentences with another student who answered the same question and talk about what they thought of their partners’ answers. I expected more trouble and boredom but for once they seemed to see the value in it and things went smoothly for the most part. The students really did peer review and talked over (I let them use L1 but encouraged L2) what they thought with attention.



      • #13796

        When preparing students for tests, providing frameworks and sentence starters as you did for your students can be very empowering and consistently pay off (even if criticised at times for their generic qualities). They are also often transferable from writing to presentation/speeches.

        And I like how you further increased opportunities for S-to-S interaction with peer review.

    • #13808

      Jessica Sohn

      With my foundations class, I do writing activities just focused on the handwriting skills. I feel it is quite successful since they are learning together with the sounds. I see them develop all four skills at the same time and think it’s a good practice for them.

      With some of my higher level students I did exercises with writing short paragraphs(7-10 sentences). Writing class was once a week.
      It was more a controlled activity but seemed as a free writing. They first read a paragraph, then practiced brainstorming ideas about a given topic, made it personal, came up with topic sentences and practiced writing detail sentences. I saw some kids struggle and some not. I strongly agree, students need a lot of practice to improve their writing skills.

      • #13810

        Good to integrate the four language skills and link (hand)writing to reading from a developmentally appropriate stage of learning. What kind of things do they write (e.g. letters, words, simple sentences)?

        Structured paragraph writing is a tried and tested approach yet you observed that some kids struggle. What did they struggle with and why? What made the others more successful? How can/did you help?

        Note that free writing, however, is quite different and has a strong focus on fluency. Here’s a short article to introduce an approach to extensive writing with EFL high school students:

Viewing 11 reply threads
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.
Content © iTDi TESOL. All rights reserved.