• LINCS Topic 1: What are your thoughts about implementing a process approach to teaching writing? 

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(This posting includes a handout which you are welcome to use with your students.)

This posting is a more detailed response to my interview question on Day 1.LINCS Discussion: Student-Centered Approach to Teaching Writing Skills. .

Below in blue, you’ll find the details that I’ve added to the Day 1 LINCS’ posting.

The key to a productive process approach is to have a clear purpose for each of the drafts. Here is the process that I’ve found to be the most effective, time-efficient, and user-friendly for the students and teacher. And it involves only three drafts.

Before starting the writing process, the teacher briefly introduces the type of writing that the students will be working on, for example a mode like Narration or Exposition.

Step 1. Preparation for 1st draft. The teacher gives students a list of 5-15 topics to choose from. It works well to include topics that they’ll be able to think of details to write about and also ones that would be enjoyable for others to read. If a student has a topic not on the list that they’d like to write about, they first have to have it approved by the teacher. Each student chooses one of the topics.

I knew a teacher who was under the assumption that process approach meant students needed to find their own topics. I found out that many of those students spent a lot of time trying to come up with a topic or would write about topics that they had written about in the past. Also, some would decide on a topic only to discover that it wasn’t appropriate for that assignment.

After they have chosen a topic, they write a list of ideas. It’s important to be flexible about how many details to expect in this step. I know some native-speakers who are great writers but actually hate to write an outline in advance. They discover what they want to write as they are writing. However, I think that without us requiring a list, student will just start writing and miss the opportunity to see how helpful a list can be, especially considering that they may be working with a pattern of organization that is different from the ones in their own culture.

After they write their lists, the teacher briefly looks them over and, if necessary, makes some suggestions. This usually takes less than two minutes per student.

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• Discussion: Student-Centered Approach to Teaching ESOL Writing Skills

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During the week of March 6-10, I was interviewed online (in written form) about teaching writing skills in the LINCS’ “English Acquisition” Discussion Group.

LINCS (Literacy Information and Communication System) is a division of the U.S. Department of Education. In addition to discussion groups, it contains many resources for teachers.

Each day of the week, the interview was focus on a different aspect about teaching writing to ESOL students, including how to motivate students and how to provide meaningful feedback.

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• The Writing Workshop: Countless Benefits for ESL Students and Teachers

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This posting includes sample lessons of a Writing Workshop that give students a lot of autonomy.*

This posting is an update of my February 1, 2019 post:  Most Important Motivator of Students: How You Can Do It

Since posting this back in 2019, I’ve heard from teachers who decided to try out a Writing Workshop with their ESL Writing classes even though they were skeptical at first. Their hesitation seemed to be doubtful that their students would actually be productive without more direct teacher control. However, they reported that their initial skepticism was quickly dispelled after seeing the same great benefits that I had described in the post below. Almost all of them stated that they couldn’t imagine teaching a Writing class in any other way in the future.

Here is that posting.

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• Memorizing: Not the Optimal Approach to Learning ESL

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(This posting includes a handout which you are welcome to use with your students.)*

This posting is an update of a post from September 2019: Mistake: He surprised to see it snowing. (Adjectives that look like verbs)

Back in my high school days, learning my first foreign language, French, I remember often hearing the teacher say, “You’ll just need to memorize this.”

Fortunately, the art of teaching foreign languages, including ESL, has come a long way from those “just memorizing” days. We understand the importance of comprehensible input and the effectiveness of engaging with new concepts and vocabulary in multiple contexts.

To illustrate this, I’d like to refer to a posting from 2019, in which I discussed a common mistake that ESL students make with adjectives that look like verbs. Instead of telling students that they need to memorize these words, we lead them to internalizing these though a series of four exercises. By the end of these, students tend to remember because the words“sound” right rather than wracking their brains searching for what they had been told.

When students see an –ed at the end of a word, they tend to automatically assume it’s a verb, and this assumption can lead them to grammar mistakes.

(* mistakes—These sentences are missing a verb.)
*Kai embarrassed during his speech.
* Rumi interested in horses.

To help students in the most efficient manner, I will sometimes paint with a broad brush.  So I simply tell my students that these words are adjectives: surprised, embarrassed, confused, interested and shocked. They need a verb with them.

(correct): Kai was (v) embarrassed (adj) during his speech.

Avoiding unnecessarily complicated information

It’s true that those words can be can be used as verbs, for example:
– It embarrassed (v)  Kai that he forgot some of his speech.

But in all my years of teaching writing, I rarely see students use them that way. They almost always use them as adjectives, so I don’t waste their time/mental energy talking to them about using these as verbs. Instead, I just generalize and tell them that they are adjectives.

Four-step exercises to teach these to students (Handout included.)

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