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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Efficient Ways to Improve Student Writing

General Strategies

  • View the improvement of students’ writing as your responsibility.
    Writing is an essential tool for learning English and helping students improve their writing skills is a responsibility for the teacher.
  • Let students know that you value good writing.
    Stress the importance of clear, thoughtful writing. In the syllabus, on the first day, and throughout the school year, remind students that they must make their best effort in expressing themselves on paper (of course it’d be great if they did it in an electronic form.) Back up your statements with comments on early assignments that show you really mean it, and your students will respond.
  • Regularly assign brief writing exercises in your classes.
    To vary the pace of a lesson, ask students to write a few minutes during class. Some mixture of in-class writing, outside writing assignments, and exams with open-ended questions will give students the practice they need to improve their skills.
  • Provide guidance throughout the writing process.
    After you have made the assignment, discuss the value of outlines and notes, explain how to select and narrow a topic, and critique the first draft as well.
  • Don't feel as though you have to read and grade every piece of your students' writing.
    Ask students to analyze each other's work during class, or ask them to critique their work in small groups. Students will learn that they are writing in order to think more clearly, not obtain a grade.
    Find other teachers who are trying to use writing more effectively in their courses.
    Pool ideas about ways in which writing can help students learn more about the subject matter. See if there is sufficient interest in the topic you give to write about. Provide alternatives. Students welcome handouts that give them specific instructions on how to write papers for a particular purpose or in a particular subject area.
  • Remind students that writing is a process that helps us clarify ideas.
    Tell students that writing is a way of learning, not an end in itself. Also let them know that writing is a complicated, messy, nonlinear process filled with false starts.
    Help them to identify the writer's key activities:
  • Developing ideas
  • Finding a focus and a thesis
  • Composing a draft
  • Getting feedback and comments from others
  • Revising the draft by expanding ideas, clarifying meaning, reorganizing
  • Editing
  • Presenting the finished work to readers
  • Explain that writing is hard work.
    Share with your class your own struggles in grappling with difficult topics. If they know that writing takes effort, they won't be discouraged by their own pace or progress.
Give students opportunities to talk about their writing.
Students need to talk about papers in progress so that they can formulate their thoughts, generate ideas, and focus their topics. Take five or ten minutes of class time for students to read their writing to each other in small groups or pairs. It's important for students to hear what their peers have written