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eaching an ESL/EFL Writing Course

Considerations for Teaching an ESL/EFL Writing Course provides a general guide to shaping writing
classes for English language learners. Among the topics addressed are syllabus design, techniques to help writers get started, assignment design and teacher and per responses to writing. It shows how the choices that teachers make are clues to their underlying philosophy of teaching.

A. Building Background Knowledge Steps in the model for teaching composition (The Traditional Paradigm by Hairston 1982): 1. Instruct the students in principles of rhetoric and organization, presented as rules for writing; 2. Provide a text for classroom discussion, analysis, and interpretation preferably a work of literature; 3. Require a writing assignment (accompanied by an outline) based on the text; and 4. Read, comment on, and criticize student papers prior to beginning the next assignment in this cycle.

B. Syllabus Design A syllabus should be designed to take into account curricular goals and the particular students the teacher will face. Aspects of Course Planning: 1. How much writing students are expected to complete during the term, divided into less formal work such as journals and more formal work such as assignments; 2. What the timelines and deadlines are for working on and completing papers; 3. How many of the formal writing assignments will be done in class as timed pieces; 4. What aspects of the composing process will be presented; 5. What aspects of English grammar and syntax, if any, will be directly addressed in class; 6. What will be seen to constitute progress in acquiring improved writing skills as the term moves along; 7. How much reading (and possibly which specific readings) will be covered; and

8. How the students grade or a decision of credit/no credit will be determined.

C. Techniques for Getting Started 1. Brainstorming- often a group exercise in which students are encouraged to share their collective knowledge about a particular subject. 2. Listing- a quiet and individual activity. The student is encouraged to produce as lengthy a list as possible of all the main ideas and subcategories that come to mind as he or she thinks about the topic at hand. 3. Clustering- this begins with a key word or central idea place in the center of a page (or on the blackboard) around which the student (or the teacher, using studentgenerated suggestions) quickly jots down all of the free-associations triggered by the subject matter, using words or short phrases. 4. Freewriting- also known as by various other terms such as wet ink writing, quick writing, and speed writing. The main idea of this technique is for students to write for a specified period of time without taking their pen form the page (usually about three minutes for a first attempt and then typically for about five to eight minutes).

D. Using Readings in Writing Class Readings serve some very practical purposes in the writing class, particularly for ELLs who have less fluency in the language. Reading provides models of what English language texts look like, and even if not used for the purpose of imitation, they provide input that helps students develop awareness of English language prose style. Reading helps students develop and refine genre awareness, an important criterion for being able to produce a wide range of test types. Readings is used as a basis to practice such skills as summarizing, paraphrasing, interpreting, and synthesizing concepts.

E. Writing Assignments All assignments and the topics they contain must be carefully designed, sequenced, and structured so that the teacher know exactly what the learning goal of each paper is and the student gains something by working on any given assignments. Guidelines for the preparation of successful writing assignments:

1. A writing assignment should be presented with its context clearly delineated (described) such that the student understands the reasons for the assignment. 2. The content of the task/topic should be accessible to the writers and allow for multiple approaches. 3. The language of the prompt or task and the instructions it is embedded in should be un-ambiguous and comprehensible. 4. The task should be focused enough to allow for completion in the time or length constraints given and should further students knowledge of classroom content and skills. 5. The rhetorical specifications (cues) should provide a clear direction of likely shape and format of the finished assignment, including appropriate references to an anticipated audience. 6. The evaluation criteria should be identified so that students will know in advance how their output will be judged.

F. Responding It is a complex process which also requires the teacher to make a number of critical conditions. G. Goal-Setting The teacher should focus on implementing a variety of response types and on training students to maximize the insights of prior feedback on future writing occasions. Without training, it is impossible that students will either ignore feedback or fail to use it constructively. H. Shaping Feedback Students should be taught to process and work with a teachers comments, whatever that teachers commenting style is. I. Forms of Feedback Teachers should bear in mind that feedback can be oral as well as written. 1. Oral Teacher Feedback- conferences of about 15 minutes seem to work best and can provide the teacher an opportunity to directly question the student about intended messages which are often difficult to decipher by simply reading a working draft. 2. Peer Response - simply putting students together in groups of four or five, each with rough draft in hand, and then having each student in turn read his or her paper aloud, followed by having the other members of the group react to the strengths and weaknesses of the paper to indicate where their needs as readers have not been and

addressed. And the teacher needs to provide a guide wherein short list of directed questions that students address as they read their own or other students papers

J. Error Correction Errors must be dealt with an appropriate stage of the composing process, and this stage is best considered part of the final editing phase. Teacher must also decide who will correct the errors, which errors to correct, and how to correct errors.

The how of calling students attention to their errors: 1. to point out specific errors by using a mark in the margin or an arrow or other symbolic system; 2. to correct (or model) specific errors by writing in the corrected form; 3. to label specific errors according to the feature they violate (e.g., subject-verb agreement), using either the complete term or a symbol system; 4. to indicate the presence of error but not the precise location, e.g. noting that there are problems with word forms; or 5. to ignore specific errors

Reported by: Roxanne A. Asuncion BSE IV-A