Take the first EFL coursebook you can reach. Pick up a random unit. Find the writing task of the unit.
Now, where is it placed within the unit?
If this was a bet I would surely go for the last page.
I feel that writing is always the last thing in a unit! Is that true?
If it is, what [insert your adverb of frequency] happens is:
- There’s not enough time to cover it.
- It’s assigned as homework – which means students have little guidance while doing it, and receive feedback on product rather than on process.
- Everyone’s fed up with four lessons on the same topic and then you skip writing.
- Amid all there is to learn, teacher and/or students think writing is not so important.
- The writing task of coursebooks are lame.
- Students say: I’m not creative!
- And a thousand other excuses.
These are all poor excuses and a real negligence on everyone’s part in my opinion. Writing is very important and should not be treated as an isolated skill, nor as the last skill or the homework skill. You do improve many other skills through writing, unlike some people may think.
Also, learners’ writings are one of the best raw materials any teacher can have. With half a page by each learner you’ll find material to work for a whole week on grammatical accuracy, vocabulary range, word choice, clarity and tone, coherence and cohesion, and what have you.
So, take the time and prepare a great lesson whose core is writing, and I bet everyone will enjoy it. Here are some ideas I’ve tried:
- Start a new unit from the last page! – It can work amazingly. For some reasons, it still believed that if you do all the grammar and vocabulary by using reading, listening and speaking activities, in the end of the unit by following a simple prompt the students will write a text using all the grammar and vocabulary seen in the unit naturally. Well, at least this is the impression coursebooks give. Yeh, right… — So turn it on its head, and start from the writing. See what learners can produce and there you’ll find the real gaps they need to fill.
- Write a cover letter. This is a great exercise even for those who are not job seekers. The main point is being able to write about yourself; to sell yourself without looking like a boastful beggar; believe me, it’s a very hard task. The framework I give students to use here is CAR (context-action-result), in which they write about their competencies using evidence from real experience.
- If you have computers available, set up a private chat room using http://tinychat.com/ – Pose a question and let everyone chat for 3-5 minutes. After that, go back and review it. Highlight interesting sentences, take a look at abbreviations, netspeak, mistakes and slips, typos, etc.
- Design, write, and improve a couple of Power Point slides. This is a killer, everyone enjoys it. Find a slide that’s poorly designed (very easy) with wordy sentences and a dozen bullet points and make it better.
- Practice writing headlines – Particularly useful for Business English students who still title a report: Report. Remind them there’s no book titled book and not a newspaper article titled newspaper article. Being able to give a clear message of what the text below can tell you is a bonus to everyone.
Just a few ideas to try and place writing on the priority list of TEFL.
And a gentle reminder: don’t wait until coursebooks change, change it yourself.