Building Writing Skills

On a daily basis, I engage in more written correspondence than I do spoken exchanges. It’s the nature of my teaching. I provide more asynchronous instruction than synchronous. This is probably one reason why writing skills are a big focus in my work. Even the students I meet for live instruction usually submit written assignments between lessons. And although they may get some oral feedback on homework, I’m still focusing on their written expression.

How exactly do writing skills develop? The simplest answer is over time. There has to be regular practice. That’s no big revelation. Any skill gets mastered the more one does it, provided there’s opportunity for correction and evaluation. My son complained the other day about the length of his math assignment. Why did he have to calculate the area of sixteen different trapezoids? Wouldn’t it be enough to figure out the area of one? Probably not. Repetitive application of the formula reinforced it and made it familiar. Only a high percentage of correct answers would confirm that the formula was applied consistently.

In a similar fashion, writing structures need to be used repetitively before they become second nature. A language learner might not have the time or desire to write sixteen sentences a day, but one is certainly possible.

I’ve been asked recently about teaching sentence structure. A lesson on simple, compound, and complex sentences could be useful, but students will fully master those sentence types only though extended practice. One suggestion is to provide a short task per day: a single sentence that requires correction. It could be shared on the board at the start of class, on a private Facebook page, or via a group email or text. Encourage discussion: first discuss the changes to the sentence and then discuss the idea presented. View my list of 10 suggested sentences: correction-and-conversation_handout Each sentence is a short error correction task that could lead into a short discussion. Hopefully, my sentences will inspire a list of your own!


Photo credit:

Dos Piezas (Dec. 8, 2011) by Raul Hernandez Gonzalez. Retrieved from the Creative Commons on Flickr.


8 Comments Add yours

    1. Thank you for sharing it, Mister Paul!

  1. English Expressions says:

    This is a great blog post! Thank you!

    1. Thanks for checking it out. Happy teaching to you!

  2. JJS Language says:

    Nice post. I have to watch myself to start to write more often in English. I must kick out the laziness!!

    1. It certainly takes some effort to establish a new routine or a new study habit. 🙂 Good luck! You could gain a little practice if you joined me on FB or Simor. (Rooms > Languages > English)

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