How to teach ESL writing
The ultimate goal of an academic ESL writing course is to help students develop the tools that they will be able to use in writing assignments in mainstream academic class like English composition, psychology, history, business etc.
The job of the ESL writing instructor is not, contrary to what some might think, to lead students to write deep or complex ideas. That is what mainstream instructors will do. Our job is to help them develop the tools or techniques that they can use to clearly organize and explain their ideas, no matter how simple or profound those ideas might be.
The success of this approach
At our college, we’ve based our academic ESL writing courses on teaching those tools. To determine the effectiveness of our approach, we’ve track the success rate of students who have completed our academic ESL program. Over the past 15 years, approximately 95% of those international students received an “A” or “B” in English 101. In the years prior to using this approach, when the focus was on deep ideas and research papers rather than clarity of expression, only about 75% got an A or B.
What writing skills do students need?
The foundation of our writing courses is constructed on what skills mainstream instructors would like their in-coming (first-year) students to have. To find this out, I interviewed over 50 instructors at two universities and a community college.