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  • Writing and the Young EFL Learner

    Facilitator: Sarah Coutts

    Objectives: This workshop aims to:

    1. provide an overview of essential points to consider when teaching

    writing to elementary EFL students, and

    2. provide a toolbox of activities for teachers to use from beginner to

    low-intermediate students.

    Why Write?

    Writing helps students to solidify the grammar and vocabulary that

    they are studying.

    Writing lets students create their own meaning, which has longer

    benefits in memory and application.

    Both the students culture and classroom environment have a

    significant impact on students development as writers.

    Writing develops essential linguistic and critical thinking skills that

    can be transferred between languages to some extent.

    Where to Start?

    Obviously, knowing the alphabet and basic words is an essential first step

    towards being able to write longer tasks. However, this does not mean

    that its necessary to spend several weeks on teaching the alphabet only.

    It is, however, essential to ensure that students make important

  • distinctions in the language such as capital letters and punctuation, which

    are extremely important in English.

    Also, remember that the four core skills in language (reading, writing,

    listening and speaking) are interdependent and should be taught as such.

    After youve chosen a phonics system (e.g. Letterland, Jolly Phonics, Zoo

    Phonics, etc.), group the sounds according to their frequency of use.

    The following is one example of how to group sounds when teaching them

    to new students. This does not mean that you will teach all of these letters

    in one lesson, but rather that you will sequence your letters in this order1.

    1 http://jollylearning.co.uk Date Accessed: 14 December 2013

    http://jollylearning.co.uk/

  • Consider the following lesson to introduce new sounds/letters to students:

    SAMPLE LESSON STRUCTURE

    Introduction

    Warm up with an alphabet song or chant that the students know well. As students learn more letters and sounds, have them make random letters with their hands or bodies. Call out letters in non-alphabetical order to test their knowledge of the alphabet and sounds.

    Presentation

    Introduce the sound with a short story and place a slight emphasis on the sound to be taught. For example: Sammy the snake likes to explore. His friends that

    he is silly to explore by himself because it is dangerous but Sammy doesnt listen to them. Sammy knows what to do when he is scared. He says, Sssss.

    Ask the students what sound they heard the most in the story. Prompt them if necessary. Have the students imitate the sound. Ask the students what Sammy says when hes scared. Let them move like a snake while practicing the sound.

    Practice

    Introduce the students to other words beginning with /s/. Start by saying the words so that they learn to recognize the sound by listening before reading. For example: Teacher: Listen to these words. Do they start with

    Sammy Snake? sun star sat step Teacher: Can you tell me other words that start

    with Sammy Snake? Now that the students can hear the /s/ sound, its time to show it to them and to trace the letter. Once they have practiced tracing the sound, they need to practice writing the sound by themselves.

    The

  • Production

    After practicing writing the sound, give the students 8 10 pictures (of objects for which they have already learned the vocabulary) and ask them which words start with /s/ - at least half of the words should start with the letter being practiced. Also, remember that the words must start with /s/ - words that end in /s/ or have /s/ in the middle should be done as a separate exercise. Give students a worksheet with pictures of items and tell them to write the letter /s/ under each picture that starts with that sound. You can then move on to worksheets where the /s/ is left out of words like sun. Next, students will practice tracing then writing whole words that start with the target sound. Then progress to three word choices with a picture in which students have to identify the correct word for a particular picture. Ex. Give them a picture of the sun with the words run, fun and sun. Students must then identify the correct word for the picture. Move on to pattern sentences such as I like. and ultimately writing their own sentences.

    Conclusion

    As a homework task, ask students to find pictures of things that start with /s/ or have an /s/ in them. You can also assign short sentences or words. This can then be extended to them finding words based on a theme and ultimately writing sentences using their vocabulary as it increases.

    Notes

    Once all of the individual sounds, including vowels, have been taught and students can write short sentences like The sun is hot. And The dog sits in the sun., move on to blends, diagraphs and diphthongs before moving on to rhyming words.

  • The

    Alphabet Review

    Write the letter in the circle that comes next. The first

    one has been done for you.

    d a y m

    h r b v

    c u w r

    s j t x

    q e g p

    i f k

  • Young Writers

    Asking students to write may seem more intimidating for teachers than

    children. Its true that some students will really struggle to complete

    writing tasks, but its equally true that every child can complete these

    tasks in some way if theyre given the right encouragement. How they

    complete the task is less important than that they try and are encouraged

    to write regardless of their ability. Its also important that they not be

    taught to fear writing.

    As students progress from specific structural patterns to create sentences,

    organize descriptions, and layouts of specific types of writing, it becomes

    increasingly important for teachers to provide opportunities for students

    to have a specific context and audience to write for. Developing a sense of

    audience is an essential part of communicating in writing and it is possible

    even at an early stage of writing.

    In the initial stages of writing, a sense of audience can be created by

    encouraging students to write sentences that other student have to

    decide are true/false or guess the answers to. Older or more confident

    students can be encouraged to experiment with different text types, such

    as:

  • A Day in a Cavemans Life Letters

    Advertisements Menus

    Autobiographies My New Jellybean

    Birthday Cards Opinions

    Cartoons and Comics Personal Ads

    Crosswords Picture Prompts

    Daily Routines Poems

    Descriptions Postcards

    Dialogues Potions and Spells

    Directions Puzzles

    Emails Ransom Notes

    Extraordinary Jobs SMSes

    Finish the Story Stories from the Past

    Fortune Telling Story Frames

    Gap Fills (Mad Libs) Thank You Notes

    Instructions Tongue Twisters

    Invitations Wanted Posters

  • Modelling Writing Examples for Students

    Regardless of the style of writing you plan to do with your students, its

    essential to provide them with several examples of the structure of the

    target writing. Provide them with an outline of the structural components

    and practice, as a class, identifying the structural components of each text.

    Once youve done this, consider writing a text together as a class or in

    groups for the students to practice further especially if the students

    have basic to intermediate language skills. Even advanced or more

    proficient students may need more modelling than anticipated.

    Writing Activities

    Writing activities can be divided into those which are guided and tend to

    encourage some form of copying, and those that are a little freer and

    encourage more creativity. Guided copying is often used to practice

    handwriting, spelling and new grammatical constructions. The support

    frameworks you choose give learners guidance on producing written work

    within clearly defined constraints. The use of a substitution chart, for

    example, can provide a simple sentence pattern such as Jack likes hot

    dogs, but Jane likes hamburgers. Students then adapt this sentence using

    information on the chart provided.

    To keep students motivated, make sure you adjust the practice level of the

    writing tasks. Freer tasks not only encourage creativity, but help students

  • to develop independence while practicing planning, organizing ideas and

    understanding text types. Guided writing activities are a necessary

    foundation for more creative writing and help students to develop

    confidence in their skills. Examples of writing activities at word-, sentence-

    and text-level are provided in the following table.

    Purpose

    Wo

    rd-l

    eve

    l

    Labels for Pictures/Diagrams

    Crosswords

    Anagrams (words with scrambled

    letters)

    Word Puzzles

    Picture/word Dictionaries

    Charts for Surveys/Questionnaires

    Classifying Words into Word

    Families

    Concept/Word Webs

    Menus/Shopping Lists

    Learning new

    vocabulary,

    handwriting and

    spelling

    Sen

    ten

    ce-l

    eve

    l Captions for Pictures

    Speech Bubbles for Characters

    Writing Information from Charts

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