ESL Teaching Methods: How to Make Writing Fun

Do your students greet the words “Take out your journals” with a collective, resounding groan?  For most students, expressing their ideas on paper is a challenge even in their native language, let alone doing so with creativity, style, and decent grammar.  Throw a foreign language into the mix, and writing can seem utterly daunting.

Kindergarten HandwritingBut writing should be fun – it gives your students a chance to get creative in their use of language, to express themselves, and to share their interests.  Here are some tips on how to bring out the fun in writing in your ESL class.

Don’t overcorrect their writing

Nothing is more discouraging to students than seeing a journal entry or an essay come back covered in red pen.  Instead of trying to correct every tiny error, focus more on consistent errors –  common words that they consistently misspell, grammar patterns that you notice they are struggling with, or grammar that you have recently gone over in class.

Try to have some writing assignments, such as journal entries, that you don’t correct at all.  This gives students a chance to simply practice getting their ideas down freely without the worry of writing something wrong.

Encourage them to guess at spelling

If students are worried about spelling every word correctly, it’s going to seriously impede their ability to get ideas down on paper.  English spelling is pretty arbitrary and very difficult to memorize.  Often, students will know a word, will remember its meaning and pronunciation, but won’t be able to spell it – encourage them to guess and do their best to write it out phonetically.  It’s good practice with phonetics and with thinking creatively.  Plus, they can always look up the proper spelling

Often, students will know a word, will remember its meaning and pronunciation, but won’t be able to spell it – encourage them to guess and do their best to write it out phonetically.  It’s good practice with phonetics and with thinking creatively.  Plus, they can always look up the proper spelling later if it’s going to be a polished piece.

Work together to write things

Class-driven writing exercises are a lot of fun, and can be very inspiring.  You get to build off of the ideas of all of the students in the class, and will often come up with something much more interesting and creative than any one student could come up with on their own.  Some ideas to get you started with class-driven writing include: Give them a short story and let them write the ending to it; come up with a story together as a class that they write as they go;  pass around a paper, and let them each write one sentence of a story; write a short play or dialogue together

Some ideas to get you started with class-driven writing include: Give them a short story and let them write the ending to it; come up with a story together as a class that they write as they go;  pass around a paper, and let them each write one sentence of a story; write a short play or dialogue together

Let them write about their interests

Give students as much freedom as you can to choose topics for writing, and encourage them to focus on things that they are very passionate about.  You’ll be amazed how even the most writing-phobic students will churn out pages and pages about their favorite basketball player or movie.

Avoid giving too many writing assignments

Yes, students need to learn how to write summaries of texts, how to put together persuasive essays, and how to write an outline.  But these kinds of assignments can be dull even for students who love writing, and giving too many of them can make writing start to feel like a chore.  Keep these types of writing assignments to a minimum, and focus more on writing prompts and activities that will engage your students’ creativity and interests. If you do have to write summaries or essays on a specific topic because of your curriculum, you still have the freedom to find ways to make it as engaging as possible; have them write the summary of a story from the point of view of their favorite character, or let them choose funny or unique topics for essays.

Keep these types of writing assignments to a minimum, and focus more on writing prompts and activities that will engage your students’ creativity and interests. If you do have to write summaries or essays on a specific topic because of your curriculum, you still have the freedom to find ways to make it as engaging as possible; have them write the summary of a story from the point of view of their favorite character, or let them choose funny or unique topics for essays.

If you do have to write summaries or essays on a specific topic because of your curriculum, you still have the freedom to find ways to make it as engaging as possible; have them write the summary of a story from the point of view of their favorite character, or let them choose funny or unique topics for essays.

Use Mad Libs

Whether you have students fill out mad libs, or create their own, these are a great, fun way to encourage kids to use their vocabulary creatively.  Mad libs reinforce the difference between nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. They also show students that writing doesn’t have to be taken too seriously all the time, but can actually result in a lot of laughs and fun.

They also show students that writing doesn’t have to be taken too seriously all the time, but can actually result in a lot of laughs and fun.

Incorporate drawing or coloring

Letting students do something more creative with their writing can break down a lot of writing blocks, especially for those who are more artistically inclined and for whom writing long passages may be intimidating.  Let them use colored pencils to make different words different colors, let them draw a half-page picture for every page they write in their journal, or let them replace some of the words with little drawings.

Let them use colored pencils to make different words different colors, let them draw a half-page picture for every page they write in their journal, or let them replace some of the words with little drawings.

Change what they use to write

If you have access to a computer in the classroom, or if your students have one at home, encourage them to write some of their assignments on the computer.  It’s pretty common for handwriting to be an issue – some students will obsess over forming every letter perfectly, while others will write in an unintelligible scribble that even they can’t decipher later.  Typing English on a computer is a valuable skill to have, and it can take away a lot of the stress that comes from handwriting.

Typing English on a computer is a valuable skill to have, and it can take away a lot of the stress that comes from handwriting.

Write to someone

It can be a Mother’s Day card, a letter to Santa, an email, or a note to a friend.  Whoever the lucky recipient is, having students write a letter or card that they then actually send gives them a new perspective on writing and ties it into the real world and their lives outside of the classroom.  Show them that writing isn’t just another thing that they have to do because the teacher says so, but is a real way to connect with people in their lives.

Show them that writing isn’t just another thing that they have to do because the teacher says so, but is a real way to connect with people in their lives.

 

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