Pedagogy

Useful habits to develop writing skills and understand other points of view

Anne Robinson

Anne Robinson is co-author of the Fun for Starters, Movers and Flyers series, as well as seminar presenter for Cambridge Assessment English.  In this article she shares some activities for helping young learners to develop their writing skills.

Writing is an activity through which students can really express their ideas and personalities. It can be a great way to change the dynamics of your classroom.  It can settle students down, or gear them up for another activity.

Writing can be displayed on walls or blogs, or kept in a folder or journal. Students can look back through their writing to see how much they’ve improved, to remind themselves of what they’ve studied. Make sure that they take pride in the writing they have produced, the projects, the illustrations, the way that they have presented their work.

One very important point which we must not forget:  It is my firm believe that writing needs to be taught.  Learners need training in:

– organising and expressing their ideas,

– laying out the content on a page,

– the use of sentences, paragraphs, punctuation.

This training should be ongoing throughout their language learning.

Asking focused questions

We can work on different features of writing by using focused questions, for example, for punctuation:

Is there a full stop at the end of every sentence?  Does each sentence start with a capital letter? 

Students re-read their writing to check that they have done this and add any missing full stops or capital letters.

From 2018, A2 Flyers have to write a story about 3 pictures in Part 7 of the Reading and Writing.  This may seem like a very challenging task, but by building up to the writing in small steps, we can help them to write their stories.  In a previous article, I suggested that a good first step is to think about words that you can use for each of the three pictures.

Writing activity

In my recent webinar: Engaging young learners in meaningful, successful (and fun!) writing activities, I presented the following activity.  For this story (which is actually 3 of the 5 pictures from a speaking story) from Fun for Flyers 4th edition, Student’s Book page 79, I wrote the following words:

activity

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

activity

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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To take part in the activity, candidates need to write some words about the pictures, as I have done above, which will get 1 mark out of the 5 available below.

5 Describes progression of events which are explicitly connected to each other and is based on all three pictures and minimal effort required by reader to make sense of it.
4 Describes progression of events, some of which are explicitly connected to each other and is based on all three pictures and some effort required by reader to make sense of it.
3 Describes progression of events and addresses at least one of the pictures or describes progression of events and addresses all three pictures but significant strain on reader who may have to read it more than once to make sense of it.
2 Includes at least one phrase that is clearly comprehensible.
1 Includes some English words discernible by the reader.
0 Question unattempted or totally incomprehensible response.

Source:  Young Learners Handbook for Teachers.

In order to move up to 2 marks, students need to be writing phrases, so we can ask them to write phrases using the words for their pictures, e.g. visiting a fire station, fire officer is explaining.

To get 3 or more marks, they need to write about all three pictures and to describe a progression of events.  So, words like first, next, then, later are very useful.  We can train students to use these.

Another interesting activity which you can do with the pictures is to get students to write stories from different points of view.  Read this story about the visit to the fire station.  Who is telling the story?

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It’s the teacher, isn’t it?

We could ask students to write the story, but this time it’s Matt, the fire officer, who’s telling the story.

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Or the girl who’s sliding down the slide.  Or the boy who’s putting on the fire officer’s uniform.

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Seeing the world and events through another person’s eyes is a useful habit to develop, so why not do it through story writing – and editing – like this?

For further ideas, catch up with the recording of my webinar on engaging young learners in meaningful, successful (and fun!) writing activities below:

Read Anne’s last two articles on engaging young learners in writing and helping young learners write sentences


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