How can students improve their writing skills?
Diary submitted by Tom B. Valencia
What should I teach my students about writing? How can I help write what they want to write, in a way that their readers can understand?
Students often have trouble when writing essays in a foreign language, because they try to translate what they want to say from their own native language, and they do not convey their ideas in a way that an examiner or reader is able to understand. In this journal, I shall explore how students might be able to improve their writing skills.
A couple of my students, who were preparing for examinations, at the end of our lessons would ask me how they could improve their writing skills, and as we went over and discussed their written work, there were errors that came up time and time again. The most common example was a lack of good connectors, which meant the essays seemed disjointed and relatively confusing. A word that I introduced to my students that caused further problems was ‘nevertheless’, so I have avoided using that in an effort to avoid confusion. Another common mistake would be when a student would write ‘I want that you…’ as in Spanish, they would say ‘Quiero que tu…’ They insert or leave out words how they would be written in Spanish.
I found that the simplest way to improve their essays was to find the most common mistakes, and to make sure that the student improved both their vocabulary and grammar and corrected these errors, so they might avoid making the same mistakes in the future. However, there are other methods that are useful to improve writing skills. For example, reading English texts is a very easy way to see how the English language should be written and offers a wide range of vocabulary. Another method that I found to be useful was for the students to practise by writing about topics, which interested them, so they had a lot to say. Furthermore, I encouraged them to learn phrases and connecting words that can be used in all situations, and as we went over the different topics that could come up in the exam, I asked them to learn specific words that were relevant to the topic, and make detailed essay plans.
Following these methods, I encouraged the students to follow the basics for writing, for example, making sure that their introductions set the context for their essays and they were able to signpost the reader, and in their conclusions, they made sure to summarise key points. Finally, I suggested that a good way to make sure that a piece of writing can be understood is for the student themselves to make sure they read their work and practise by reading it aloud.
Furthermore, I have found it incredibly useful to ask the opinions of other teachers and seek their advice in how they would correct a piece of writing and help the student improve, as ‘corrective feedback often depends on the differing viewpoints and perspectives of different teachers’.
- Anonymous – Grin VERLAG, The Significance of learners’ errors for English as a Foreign Language