ESL classroom tools for writing skills

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For the trainee or novice ESL teacher, teaching how to write well is a very important skill that has to be mastered; for the students, this is probably the most difficult aspect of ESL learning because they will require a good knowledge of grammar, a competent vocabulary, and an understanding of how to use the correct register for the various pieces of writing.

Good writing depends on good grammar: if the grammar is weak, the writing will also be weak; hence, the ESL teacher should make sure the students have a good mastery of the grammar at the relevant ESL level. Here are three useful tools for improving writing skills: the simple sentencethe cloze testoriginal texts. Working on the premise that the students have been taught the relevant grammar, one good tool for improving writing skills is the simple sentence. This tool can be used with classes of all ages, and it is the building block for all other forms of sentence construction, namely: compoundcomplex, and compound-complex sentences.

The simple sentence contains a single subject and a single predicate, for example: ‘Mary is watching TV’. Additionally, the simple sentence can be converted easily into a compound sentence by using coordinating conjunctions, e.g. ‘Mary is watching TV, and she eating a pizza’. Try to encourage A1 and A2 level students to write with simple sentences first and later with compound sentences. Another good tool for improving writing skills is the cloze test/cloze deletion test: this can be objective (the words are provided, and the student selects the correct word) or subjective (the student has to provide the words), e.g. ‘I haven’t __ him. (see, saw, seen)’ – objective; ‘The handle has to _______’ complete using no more than four words’ – subjective.

Cloze tests need not be limited to a single sentence: a complete article can be written as a cloze test. Furthermore, cloze tests can be written using classified vocabulary: if you want to teach the class how to write about, say, ‘cooking’, first give them a cloze test using the words and expressions that are relevant to cooking. Finally, in order to teach B2 and higher-level ESL students how to write in the correct register, you should consider using ‘original texts’: use newspaper articles, extracts from novels, formal and informal letters, scientific articles, poems, etc. By exposing the students to the different types of writing, they will start to recognize the different registers and the required writing style for each register. If you use these simple tools, your student’s writing skills will develop rapidly; nevertheless, don’t forget to provide your students with a classified list of words whenever you give them any writing tasks.

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