Introduction to C2 Proficiency (CPE)
- Cambridge English
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When I teach writing, I like to quote Blaise Pascal: ‘I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time’. In my view, this seemingly paradoxical statement perfectly describes the process of writing. Being one of the productive skills, it’s often considered challenging by learners due to its creative and unpredictable nature.
First thing first, while planning a writing lesson, we should be aware of what the main aim of the task is. Let’s say, it can be a diagnostic test where we simply want to check the learner’s existing skills. In this case, there’s no need in thorough planning.
Yet, setting a task and expecting the learners to complete it isn’t sufficient if we actually want them to become better writers in English. It is important to go through the preparation stages with the students, however time-consuming it may be. Here are some stages very well described by J. Scrivener .
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Lead-in is an essential stage that must be included in the lesson plan. Learners can have a discussion, read a text, or play a game – anything that could activate their knowledge and raise interest. This stage normally takes 5-10 minutes.
Learners need to be aware of the genre conventions, the purpose of writing and the target reader. Go through these points together. This information should be accessible to the learners throughout the whole process of writing, so it could be written on the board if they are doing the writing in class, or on paper or digital file if given as homework.
When you are in the process of choosing the task, make sure it’s relevant. Ideally, something that learners would actually need to write in real life. It could be, for example, a letter of complaint, a film review, a job report, etc. Naturally, in exam preparation class, it’s better to practise exam tasks as much as possible.
This stage is supposed to help the students to come up with the answers. It’s especially helpful for those learners who aren’t good at writing even in their own language, let alone a foreign one. They need lots of scaffolding from the teacher or their peers. This part of the lesson can be done as a pair-, teamwork or an open-class discussion.
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It is time to rule out ‘bad’ ideas and focus on the ones worth attention. Students can do it individually first and then, if time allows, share it with their partners.
Students discuss which ideas from the previous stage they can use in their answers. They make sure what they are writing is relevant to the task.
You can also demonstrate to the students various ways of making notes: it can be traditional listing with numbers or bullet points, or a mind map.
If time allows, analyse some text samples during the lesson. It can be a good one as well as a less successful one, or even both. Highlight the main points in the text, discuss organization and useful language. This way, learners will be feeling more confident if they lack ideas or don’t have much experience in writing.
Learners will benefit a great deal if they see the structure of the text on the board. Of course, it is possible to make changes to it while writing, but the initial plan should be presented to the students so that they will be aware of the division into paragraphs, coherence, and cohesion.
Now, depending on the length of the lesson, you could include some other steps mentioned by J. Scrivener:
Naturally, if you can’t squeeze it into one lesson, it is possible to do the following:
Remember that there are different approaches to teaching writing, so if you prefer one to another or have your own ideas that have proved efficient, don’t be afraid to experiment and amend your lesson plans.