writing

Lesson idea: Kahoot! for capitalisation and punctuation

A few months ago I mentioned word stress games using Kahoot! This app has also come in handy recently for practising punctuation/capitalisation. I just display a sentence with various errors in it– learners judge how many mistakes there are in the sentence. That’s it really.

Why I like this Kahoot!

  • I use this as a primer before writing, rather than for error correction based on learners’ own writing. You could use it for both though. The reason I do it this way is to review punctuation rules that they usually know already
  • As the students are looking at the sentence on the board, you can see them going through the rules together (if working in pairs). This is a good way to establish features they are most/least familiar with
  • Of course, Kahoot! isn’t a necessity here, you could do a similar game on paper. It’s a pretty engaging start/stage of a lesson though…

Review: Great Writing

A couple of months ago we ran a two-week ‘Grammar and Writing’ course for teens (aged 14+). I was scheduled to teach these classes but, to be honest, the prospect didn’t fill me with excitement. I enjoy teaching teens in general, but it can be a real chore to motivate them at times. I couldn’t see developing writing skills being that inspiring, and grammar wasn’t exactly going to get them rocking up ten minutes before class in anticipation either.

Well, that was off the mark. There were only 6 students but they were pretty much engaged throughout the two weeks. They produced some excellent work and in a short time I honestly felt like they’d made quite a bit of progress. It’s so nice to actually see improvement in my context – with just two hours a week for each class you never really know what your real impact is. In this case, it seems tangible, and I think the coursebook played a role in that.

Overview

Great Writing 2 from National Geographic Learning is a densely packed 300 pages of introductory material on paragraph writing. It’s actually Book 3 of 6, in a series that covers the basics of sentence construction, spelling and composition, then moves on to paragraphs and a focus on constructing essays.

GW2 is aimed at intermediate level students. In the introduction (to the fourth edition) the authors state that ‘the language level is controlled as much as possible so that dedicated upper beginners and weak advanced students may also benefit from the instruction’. I wouldn’t exactly agree that the resource is accessible for a broad range of levels, more intermediate plus.

There are various vocab and grammar-related activities throughout the resource but the focus is very much on composition. It’s estimated that, depending on the amount of study outside class, the materials could stretch from 60-80 classroom hours. With deviations, additional grammar reviews where needed, more personalisation where necessary and ample time for freer practice (plus peer/self-editing), the book could be the main resource for a course of around 100 hours.

Contents of a unit

The general components for most units include…

Orientation to the writing focus – these are just as useful for teachers as they are for learners. Whatever the writing focus of a unit, this is made clear and fairly student-friendly explanations are provided (for intermediate level). Some of these are great as they make it easy to establish a success criteria for each skill – the list format of some mean they are a ready-made success checklist.

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writing task on Henry VIII using gradual approximation

Teaching writing is something I’ve hardly ever done. I mostly work with groups that visit England for a week or so, and want intense listening and speaking practice. During my DipTESOL I really had to think about what teaching skills and experience I needed in order to develop. How to teach writing, and how to make it interesting, was an area which I had to work on.

For a lesson plan on Henry VIII and a writing task, skip to the end of the blog. To learn a bit about writing in the classroom, read on.

Considerations when teaching writing

Spoken language and written language are very different. Whilst the linguistic elements of spoken language carry a lot of meaning, an utterance can also be supported by paralinguistic features or suprasegmental features of pronunciation (stress, intonation, etc) to further emphasise what is being said. Written language doesn’t have this luxury, so there is often more importance placed on the actual linguistic elements of writing compared to speech.

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