Writing Lessons

A writing lesson’s main aim is to, well, develop their writing skills! More specifically, to develop their writing for fluency abilities – the ability to write effectively in an uninterrupted flow. The primary sub-aim is usually related to feeding them language relating to the context and/or genre that would help develop that ability (to write fluently). In order to aid students to write well and in an uninterrupted flow, there are several stages that take place beforehand: establishing the context with a good lead-in, focusing on a model text to serve as an example, and doing a bit of a brainstorm during the preparation stage right before they are set to start writing.

You can scroll down to see a ‘go-to’ framework to structure your writing lessons that is a bit flexible in terms of how you time it; it could fit within a 40-60 or perhaps 90-minute lesson or even be spanned over a few days when incorporating edits, revisions, and the final publishing stages. When utilizing the framework below, keep in mind you can click the hyperlinks to get more detail about each specific stage and continue to scroll down to see some lesson plan examples following the framework:

Writing Lessons:

  • Lead-inEngage the students in the context of the lesson. Generally, a good practice for a lead-in is to elicit a keyword relating to the topic, and then give them a pair-speaking activity also relating to the topic. Try to keep the lead-in to be around 3 minutes minimum and 7 minutes maximum. It’s good practice to link the lead-in with the writing task. 
  • Introduce Model Text with Gist Question(s): In this stage, you introduce a text that will typically act as a model for the type of writing that the students will be writing later in the lesson e.g. reading a review of a product before writing their own review of a product. Note, whenever you introduce a text, you should introduce it with a gist question (a comprehension question that focuses on the main idea of the text). 
  • [Noticing/Analysis Task]: The noticing task will draw the students’ attention to the target language of the lesson (or the ‘TL’), which will be focused on in the next stage. 
  • Language Clarification/Language Focus: Here you will clarify meaning, form, and pronunciation (or MFP) of the target language (the ‘TL’). However, note that pronunciation focus is NOT mandatory for a writing lesson because the main aim is for them to write, not speak (and, therefore, do not need to clarify pronunciation, though, by all means can be done). 
  • [Preparation]: Here the students will do some sort of activity to help them for the final writing task i.e. brainstorming, writing down some notes, speaking in partners, doing a modified version of the final task etc. 
  • Productive Writing Activity/Writing 1st Draft: Students write first draft focusing on fluency development, which should be done in an uninterrupted flow without the students stopping their writing to ask questions about content organization, grammar, or vocabulary use (which can be dealt with later during the editing & revising stages). Remember that fluency focus needs to be aimed at writing at the paragraph level e.g not just notes, bulletin points, or individual sentences.  
  • [Self Editing]: After having already written in a somewhat quickly and uninterrupted manner focusing on fluency, the students then self edit their work in terms of both content (text organization, ideas etc.) and language (i.e. grammar, punctuation, accurate use of target/specific language etc.). 
  • [Revision]Students then revise their papers based on the previous editing stages.
  • [Peer Editing]Students trade their papers with other students – either in partners or maybe even in groups – and edit ideally in terms of both content (text organization, ideas, etc.) and language (grammar, punctuation, accurate use of target/specific language etc.). 
  • [Revision]Students then revise their papers based on the previous editing stages.
  • [Teacher Editing]Teacher gets the revised edition from the previous editing stages and edits the paper. Make sure that you have some set criteria of which to focus your editing on because editing every detail of an ESL students’ work can be quite the time-consuming task – and if you give too much error correction feedback, it could even be overly discouraging for your learners.
  • [Revision]Students then revise their papers based on the previous editing stages.
  • Publishing: Students publish their writing piece, which can be done either inside the classroom by sharing their papers with other students (i.e. posting their papers on the walls of the class and having other students read them, passing them around, leaving them on the table, or giving a presentation on it etc.), or perhaps even on some kind of blog or other platform outside of the classroom (i.e. WordPress site, Facebook, Yelp, Blackboard, Edmodo etc.)

Note: The stages in [ ] are optional in terms of which of them you employ depending on your classroom dynamics, size, and time schedule.

Philosophy Behind the Framework

The lead-in helps stimulate the students’ minds around the subject matter that will hopefully lead to more creativity during the writing task e.g. as a principle, you want to align the lead-in and writing task stages. The model text serves as an example of what they should write giving them ideas of structure and style. An important tip: a good model text usually motivates students to write good pieces of writing e.g. pick texts that are colorful, vivid, descriptive, and engaging. When you introduce the text, you do so with a ‘gist question’ to make sure they understand the main idea of what is being written before focusing on language (e.g. vocabulary, grammar, or functional language) that will help facilitate their writing for fluency – language that will be useful for the writing task. As they write, because you want them to focus on ‘free writing’, don’t be too involved in helping them write at this point (e.g. feeding them language or helping them with grammar). Remember: You want them practicing writing more-or-less in an uninterrupted flow to improve their writing fluency. Proceeding editing stages can be nice, but often it can be difficult to revise the edits when using traditional pen and paper in class (students would have to either edit by crossing things out or re-write on a new piece of paper, which could be time consuming). Something to keep in mind. During the publishing stage, it’s best to give the students a particular task to do as they read each other’s writings; a lot of times, it’s nice to align the gist task of the model text with this task i.e. the main idea task you give them for the model text will be the same one you give them to read each other’s writing.

Writing Lesson Plans

Here are some ready-to-go lessons for you to implement inside the classroom and/or use as examples to create your very own lesson plans.

Levels:

Upper-Intermediate

The Upper-Intermediate level has a strong control of language and is just below being ‘advanced’. Upper-Intermediate typically corresponds with the ‘B2’ scale of the CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference)  language proficiency guidelines, which you can learn more about here. These lessons are most suitable for learners at the Upper-Intermediate level; however, they could be implemented in both an intermediate as well as in an upper-intermediate classroom. 

Chocolate Review

What’s your favorite kind of chocolate? Mine? Pretty dark, though a bit sweet, and with a hint of some other type of flavor, perhaps raspberries, though, I digress…. In this lesson students will get to learn how to write a review of a product, learn some colorful words and phrases to describe their opinions, and, of course, get to eat some chocolate 🙂

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