Diary submitted by Silvia O., Valencia, 2020
What should I teach my students about writing?
Writing can be a daunting task for people that are just starting to learn English and getting used to expressing themselves in a foreign language.
Because of this, these are the 3 basic advices that I give my students for writing in English:
1. LEARN THE RULES AND WHEN TO BREAK THEM
When I first started to correct my students’ writings in my third week of my TEFL internship, I realised that, for all they had in creativity and grammar, they were lacking in writing structure and proper vocabulary.
I expressed my concerns to my boss and suggested that I could prepare an intensive lesson focused only on the basic structure and vocabulary of an email, an article and a story (it was an A2-B1 class). He gave me his blessing so the following week I delivered it, keeping my notes handy to solve any possible doubts that could came up in future classes.
I reckon TEFL teachers should teach their students the rules of writing so they feel confident enough to improvise and decide which ones are more useful to them after they have mastered them.
As writer Debbie Aruta advices in her post “Writing Rules & Breaking Them”: “Now learn some rules and break them (…) Enjoy writing, write for yourself, and write without censoring yourself. Do not pick over your words before they have time to flourish and thrive and assemble into an amazing story or poem.”
2. DON’T BE AFRAID TO MAKE MISTAKES
Vartika Kashyap explains in her article “Why You Shouldn’t be Afraid of Making Mistakes” why making mistakes make people more knowledgeable “Mistakes are a great way to learn and unlearn certain things. (…) When you commit a mistake, it means that there is a right way to do that thing. (…) That’s when you ask questions, seek assistance from others and educate yourself. The entire process makes you more knowledgeable and a good learner — the two things that will take you far in life.”
That’s why I tell my students to always try something new in every writing, be it new grammar that they have learned in the previous lesson, an original style that they want to try out or a novel idiom that they have learned watching their favourite tv show.
I tell them that it’s great to make mistakes, because even if you know something makes sense in theory, you will never actually know if it holds up in reality unless you actually take a risk and try it out.
3. ENGAGE WITH YOUR READERS BY WRITING ABOUT THINGS THAT YOU ARE PASSIONATED ABOUT
Even when the topic of the writing is not something the students are familiar with; they can always find a way to make it their own. They could write about why they have never tried it or why they never will. As long as their writing is polite and respectful of the subject it’s better than it making no sense at all.
Kathy Caprino in her article “7 Essential Tips For Writers Who Hope To Engage Millions Of Readers” advices new writers that the difference between passion and indifference is noticeable: “I can tell immediately when they are just “phoning it in” versus when they are writing about something close to their hearts (…)Tip: It’s astounding how much better writing is when we write about something we care deeply about. The words flow easily, and we are much more convincing and engrossing.”
In the end, the way to teach your students how to write the perfect story is to just lay the groundwork and encourage them to never give up.
7 Essential Tips For Writers Who Hope To Engage Millions Of Readers. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/kathycaprino/2014/04/10/7-essential-tips-for-writers-who-hope-to-engage-millions-of-readers.
Why You Shouldn’t be Afraid of Making Mistakes – Thrive Global .. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://medium.com/thrive-global/why-you-shouldnt-be-afraid-of-making-mistakes-36e18690e270.
Writing Rules & Breaking Them – The Writing Cooperative. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://writingcooperative.com/writing-rules-breaking-them-95db70280eal.