Here we analyze the skills involved in writing a good composition and suggest some activities to develop them.
Teaching teenagers writing skills
Students find writing compositions very difficult because:
- It is often a solitary task, often given as homework and therefore unsupported.
- They find composition titles boring.
- They often feel failure when they have writing returned to them covered in red ink.
- It’s not communicative.
- It’s not fun.
- Writing compositions is usually a requirement of formal examinations like FCE, which teenagers usually perceive as stressful, linked to failure and unmotivating.
- Writing is a difficult skill even in our mother tongue – consider how often we have to write continuous impressive prose in our lives, especially when texting and emails encourage short abbreviated text.
There are many skills involved in producing good compositions. Don’t expect students to be able to write well without breaking down the skills and practising them separately. Footballers practise shooting at the goal, dribbling, tactics etc. They are not simply asked to turn up at the match and play the game!
Skills needed to produce good writing:
- Correct grammar
- Range of vocabulary
- Accurate punctuation
- Correct layout
- Correct register
- Accurate spelling
- Good range of sentence structures
- Proof reading
I am sure you can think of more!
The activities in this section are some classroom activities which aim to develop some of the skills above. They are meant to be achievable, for there is nothing more motivating than success!
Writing strategies for teenagers
A composition returned to a student covered in red ink is very demotivating so here are some ways to make correction more positive.
Play a game of consequences to practise writing skills with your students.
An activity designed to practise grammar and proof reading.
An activity with a focus on communicating meaning and using correct grammar.
Thinking of good ideas and vocabulary is often not something students do well, especially in exams. This skill can be developed in class. It is a good warmer before students do some writing on the topic.
Students sometimes get register confused when writing. This activity helps them to recognize style/register.
Using pictures to focus on a logical sequence of events.
Students often start writing a narrative before planning where it is going, This activity encourages them to ‘see’ the entire sequence of events before starting writing.
Some activities that foster real written communication.
In this lesson by Karen Richardson, students work collaboratively to produce a class newsletter.
In this lesson focusing on writing, students learn to write comments on a blog and how to agree or disagree by giving and responding to opinions.
In this lesson focusing on writing emails, students learn to spot differences between formal and informal emails, and pick up useful phrases in an interview exercise.
In this lesson focusing on writing reports, students learn how to summarize information, and to compare and contrast the information in tourism reports.