As a teacher you have a great deal of power and influence over the student body, and you should use this to help improve the quality of student writing. Teaching the English language is not just the English department’s job, it is the job of all teachers, and it is important to take student writing seriously, from both a technical and creative point of view. This writing guide covers things you should know and effective teaching practices.
You should see the improvement of the writing of all of your students as your own personal responsibility, no matter what subject you teach in all good colleges. If you are not an English teacher, you do not need to address all the technical aspects of writing and you don’t need to teach how to write an essay formally. It is still important however to demonstrate the uses and values of good writing, the importance of self-expression through writing, and how to write an essay in your subject.
Good writing is crucial for all subjects, and you should make clear why good writing is important for your subject. In general, writing is a learning process and not a means to an end. It is always hard work to improve writing, and do not let the students think they can make improvements without hard work. Make sure you address all key areas; spelling, grammar, punctuation, word use, sentence structure, content style, referencing, indexing and so on. Know the importance of clarity and specificity in writing, and quality over quantity. Identify students who have difficulty with English, and recommend extra teaching and online tutoring as necessary.
Every writer needs to employ many different practices to avoid confusing and erroneous writing, and these practices need to be understood. These include idea development, focusing and contextualizing an idea, planning essay outlines and writing drafts, the main writing process, revision, reorganization and expansion and finally editing.
Free writing exercise – Pause the lesson for a 3-4 minute writing exercise where the students can write about anything they like. Don’t fuss over writing technicalities – the point is to help students develop critical thinking and ideas.
End of class summary – Have the students consolidate each lesson in points, and highlight what key themes and principles were covered.
Group Discussion – Have your students write freely about a small topic for that lesson for a couple of minutes, and then arrange the students into groups so they can discuss what they have written.
Questions and answers – Write down questions on the board at the start of class for the students to answer in writing. These questions could relate to the previous lesson.
Read-around activities – When you are handing back larger assignments, let the students read the work of others. They can then vote on which paper they think is written best and discuss why they think it is best.
All students are different, with skills in certain areas and deficiencies in others. Focus on developing writing strengths and alleviating writing difficulties. Students who find the technicalities of writing difficult should focus on using dictionaries and grammar/spelling exercises, and use online tutoring and other sources of help.