Timed Essay Writing and the Value of Checklists

What I love about writing is that you usually have the chance to form and tweak ideas through multiple revisions. Unlike real-time conversations, you can carefully choose your words and delete mistakes. You can also reorder ideas into a more logical sequence. Some of these opportunities for improvement are taken away from us when we’re…

TESOL 2015: Supporting and Developing Academic Writing with Corpus Resources

Back in Portland at TESOL 2014, I learned how a group of teachers were using online resources with students to support and develop vocabulary skills. This year in Toronto, I was fortunate to learn how two teachers from the Intensive American Language Center of Washington State University were making use of free academic writing corpora to build…

Rethinking Coordinating Conjunctions: Are You a Fan of FANBOYS?

A colleague recently caught a mistake of mine on a slide. It was part of the first lesson in the series Improve Your Writing, which I host on my website. I needed to switch dependent clause with independent clause when I defined “complex sentence” (= one or more dependent clauses and only one independent clause). So sorry! The…

The Power of Paraphrasing

In searching for new activities for my own lessons, I sometimes forget the value of tried and true forms of language practice. Last week I threw out a brief paraphrasing task to a private student, and he responded positively to the challenge. In fact, he requested that we do this more frequently and in greater…

How to Develop Good Writing Skills: Authentic Editing

A buzz word in language instruction is “authentic practice”. Materials writers strive to include authentic sources in their works, and teachers try to maximize students’ communication for real purposes. Authenticity coupled with frequency can make an approach to language instruction very effective. In the writing classroom, frequent practice with authentic texts can develop students’ understanding…

Academic Writing: How to Teach Mechanics

(Continued from previous posting, “Academic Writing: When to Teach Mechanics”) Structures used to express contrast or opposition often create a high degree of confusion among English language learners. But seems easy enough to master; it’s adverbs such as although, despite, and however that are commonly misused. Here are some ideas to help you build a…

Academic Writing: When to Teach Mechanics

Just as a conversation class shouldn’t be nonstop group discussion, writing class shouldn’t be nonstop independent writing. Students’ writing skills will improve not only through creating compositions, but also through studying model texts, practicing reflection, doing controlled exercises, focusing attention on grammar and vocabulary, and receiving feedback and correction. In short, most writing mechanics don’t…