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Improving students’ writing skills

Diary submitted by Darija T., Valencia, 2020

How to teach your students to write properly in English?

   When it comes to learning English, or any language in general, we normally talk about four skills students have to develop in order to master the language. The skills are: listening, reading, speaking and writing. Normally, the first two are considered as passive and latter two as active. Due to the fact they are active skills, it is implied that it takes more effort and time for students to master them. In this diary I will focus on writing in particular. I will reflect on some of the common mistakes my students made and strategies I used in order to enhance their writing skills. 

   One of the first mistakes I would like to point out here is trying to write in English by translating the exact words and expressions from first language. Spanish speakers tend to do this often because they just didn’t develop the habit to think in the spirit of the target language. For example, they would start the sentence with please when giving the argument (because in Spanish they normally do it with porfavor). Another mistake is related to phrasal verbs. Since this grammatical item does not exist in Spanish and Spanish does not have as many prepositions as English, Spanish speakers tend to make a lot of mistakes in this area. For example, they would write focus to (instead of on), consist in (instead of of), depend of (instead of on), etc. They also mix the usage of say and tell. For example they would write the sentence like She said me (instead of she told me) or She told nothing (instead of she said nothing). Another common mistake is related to collocations with frequent verbs, such as make, take, do, have. Students often confuse them and write for example do an error (instead of make), make research (instead of do), etc. Last, but not least, they make mistakes with organizing their written work and not using linking words properly or not using them at all. 

   In order to raise their awareness about the mistakes they made, before every writing task, I schedule a short repetition of writing tips. In that class I tend to refer to the most common mistakes my students had made. For example, I would repeat phrasal verbs and collocations with them. I would do that by drawing a column with four verbs (make, take, do and have) and list the nouns so they have to place them in a proper column. As for the phrasal verbs, I would prepare tasks where they would have to fill in the gaps by either verbs or prepositions. When it comes to the difference between say and tell, I would write a few pairs of sentences on the board with gaps and they would have to fill it with either say or tell and, of course, explain the difference. In this repetition class, I always stress the importance of structuring their written work. I emphasize the fact that the text (either formal or informal) should have introduction, main part and conclusion. I often ask students to repeat the difference between formal and informal writing and ask for some of the ways they would start their writings. Furthermore, I list linking words in categories, such as those used for giving examples (for example/instance), adding information (and, also, too, moreover), contrasting ideas (but, however), summarizing (to conclude, to sum up), etc. 

   I have noticed that having these repetition classes influence students’ writing positively. They are more aware of the mistakes they made previously and more eager to think in target language instead of translating words and expressions literally from their mother tongue. 

Source

 https://www.englishclub.com/learn-english/language-skills.htm Taken on 26th of February 2020

 https://www.englishcollege.com/how-improve-english-speaking-written Taken on 26 of February 2020

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