Traditional Approach VS Effective Approach in Teaching Writing to ESL Students


Traditionally, the teaching of writing can easily be reduced to teaching by correction – teaching after the event. Very often, the teaching sequence will be as follows:
  • Discussion about the topic for the writing (providing ideas).
  • Independent writing, with the teacher supporting as the students work.
  • Work handed in and marked by the teacher, who identifies some spelling errors and makes helpful and encouraging comments on work.
  • Work returned to the students.

Often, when examining a student’s work over a period of time, several things become clear:
  • there is a high proportion of brief, unfinished or poorly finished work
  • the teacher’s comments and corrections seem to have had very little effect
  • the writing does not seem to have improved much.

Effective teaching emphasizes on teaching at the point of writing which focuses on demonstrating and exploring the decisions writers make as the writing happens. It is necessary for teachers to guide the students through the whole process (modelling the way a writer thinks through shared and guided writing sessions) so that the process becomes familiar and fully understood by all students.

Effective teaching will often focus on particular aspects of the writing process (e.g. drafting the thesis statement, planning an explanation, or revising a draft to change and improve it). However, the students should also have the experience of developing a piece of writing through the whole process. They should be given opportunities to plan, draft, revise, proofread and prepare a final copy of their writing. Each of the elements is important in the production of a finished piece of writing.

Many students find independent writing difficult because they have to think about so many things at once: they have to plan the content, think of the right words and sentence constructions, work out the spelling and punctuation and transcribe it all on to the page. Often, most of their attention is taken up by spelling and scribing, leaving little mental space to think about the compositional aspects of their writing. Teachers need to be creative in involving all students, providing appropriate feedback and support so that the students can engage with the whole writing process and be motivated to write.

References:
1. Guidance on the Teaching of Writing Skills (Welsh Assembly Government, 2010)
2. Grammar for Writing, The National Literacy Strategy, (London Department for Education and Employment, 2000)