How can we make writing more stimulating for our students? Summary of #ELTchat 19/10/2011

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How can we make writing more stimulating for our students? Summary of #ELTchat 19/10/2011

This summary was contributed by @yitzha_sarwono 

On Wednesday evening October 19th 2011, many ELT enthusiasts joined t #eltchat to share ideas, connect and engage in this topic about how to motivate writing activities in class.

Our moderators were Marisa Constantinides (@Marisa_C), Barbara Sakamoto (@barbsaka) and Bernadette Wall (@rliberni) . These three lovely ladies led all the #eltchat  participant in a very engaging and motivating discussion. And here are the results

from #eltpics by @yearinthelifeof

Writing is one of the most rewarding yet one of the most challenging skills for English Language learners. Why so? Because writing is an accuracy focused activity as well as an act of communication where one can practice their skills of using grammar, vocabulary and also put their ideas together in a coherent fashion.  Through writing, students can express themselves

Writing involves processing, editing, and while writing, there is more time available to the students for thinking and accessing familiar language.


Classroom Writing vs Homework Writing – The Process vs Product Divide

Many teachers still think of students writing in class as time consuming and a waste of valuable classroom time, so many assign writing as a homework activity.

Others connect writing to speaking, suggesting that a written piece consolidates language used in class.

And yet, writing which is properly integrated with other classroom activities can become great way of consolidating language acquired in class. Several participants agreed with this idea, as students’ ‘ownership’ of their written work, empowers and motivates (@cerirhiannon).

Students can be motivated to write when topics are interesting and relevant to them and when teachers allow them some choice: this choice may be a choice of a topic or of how to present their topic or regarding how much they should write.

Writing can be a nice way to engage and motivate our shyer and quieter students.

That is why many think that it’s better to give the writing task in the classroom rather than giving it for homework, as when writing is done in class, teachers can guide their students through the whole process. The teacher will be able to facilitate and fix so students can actually gain many things aside from the practice of writing itself.


What topics can we use in the classroom to encourage students to write?


Image from


The simplest and easiest way is to ask them to write about themselves; later you can transfer to writing about things around them. When they feel comfortable enough and you want them to progress, free writing can be practiced. But most participants also believed that guided topics that offered them opportunities to use their imagination may be one of the best way to get our students to be more motivated and willing to to write.



So what activities we can do in class to help writing become more fun to do?


Lots of ideas were mentioned for written work both in class and out of class:

  • Collaborative writing, using, Moodle. Best used for writing activities outside the classroom or homework.
  • Continue the writing via @yitzha_sarwono ; Select a topic, then write ‘wh’ questions on board. Teachers will start with the opening of the story e.g “I had a nightmare last night” . Students then continue with one sentence based on the ‘wh’ provided for them. When it’s finished, read it out loud to hear the whole story.
  • Jigsaw writing via @cerirhiannon and @AlexandraKouk ; one begins the story and the next students continue or write up more characters for the story.
  • Re-writing a song via @kukukukuku ; choose a song, ask them to rewrite the lyric to the song based on their idea.
  • Write a biography of a certain things brought in classroom, e.g potatoes via @annehodg
  • Fairy tale dominoes via @Marisa_C ; Prepare a set of pictures, student in turns takes one then continue the story orally. Later on edit and re write it in groups.
  • Imagining what’s behind the door via @lizziepinard ; what’s the door like, what’s behind it etc
  • 5 objects mysteries via @barbsaka ; Choose 5 objects from basket and create mystery story around it.
  • Running dictation via @theteacherjames ; Stick a small papers on the wall. In pairs, one student has to read the text, runs to their partner who will then write it down.
  • Creating a poster with photos of the other group via @annehodg

Assessing and giving feedback


So, after all the fun of putting our mind in the paper, comes the important question : How do we mark and give feedback on writing? Many ideas floated around on the timeline and they were all great and helpful :

  • Peer correction : Blutaking  written works on the classroom; students walk around in pairs, read and then make comments. Teacher then collects the pieces and marks/comments
  • Using Error Correction codes; Students self-correct or peer correct; after the next draft, give more ideas-based feeback
  • Using Microsoft Office Track changes and inserting comments. For online students, this is especially useful
  • Using text highlighters to identify and categorize  problems found in a written piece; students are given the code
  • Using a collaborative onine typing tool such as typewithme which can replay the history of the creation of the written piece and show edits and corrections.
  • Focus on the content too; the students’ ideas are also important, not just their lexical and grammatical choices .
  • When marking in class together, identify the mistakes, prompting them, eliciting them then replace with the better version.

One thing for sure though, don’t be too stiff! Writing is about expressing themselves so please don’t burden or discourage them with too many expectations on grammar points, though accuracy is still very important.

Some memorable tweets :


@mmgridberg: Writing is one of the most rewarding and yet on of the most challenging areas on ELT for me #eltchat

@annehodg : Writing’s not just about accuracy, also about communicating complex thought clearly. Also channel for shy people #eltchat

@cherrymp: very true. Writing is quite demanding and some students just shirk off from it cause of that #eltchat

@yitzha_sarwono : I’ve always assigned writing after every speaking activity , so what we’ve talked about will be written down #eltchat

@mmgrinberg: If writing is done at home, there always should be some kind of feedback – at least on content #eltchat

@Marisa_C :What we write becomes a record, so accuracy becomes important #eltchat

@NikkiFortova : I try to focus on the processes involved in the writing task during the lesson, and ask them to do the writing for homework #eltchat

@rliberni  Group writing activities are good as they bring in other skills too #eltchat

@annehodg: Write in class: Spontaneous reaction, on the spot summary, dictation extension; four accuracy dictogloss #eltchat

@gknightbkk  : For adult learners genre is the key. I create a corpus in specific genres for identifying recurring lexis, grammar and organization #eltchat

@theteacherjames : Writing offers students an opportunity to reflect and self correct during the process of creating , much harder than speaking. #eltchat

@campbellhowes: Given that we communicate so much online, I’d say the goal of teaching writing is to enable communication/foster relationship #elt

@gsussex:      #ELTchat writing on paper or computer/iPad? Weak spellers enjoy check facility & those with poor handwriting can feel prouder

@Marisa_C: There are many types of writing – some involve imitating, some merely manipulating,  some generating original content #ELTchat chat

@tefldust: storystarters #eltchat (a spinning wheel gives you your topic!)

@theteacherjames : Essentially, my students can write anything they want (reviews, stories, essays ) as long as it’s something that interest them. Engangement #eltchat

@kukukukuku : write raps/songs – use garage band or karaoke versions of pop songs. Help them to focus on rhyme, rhythm, being succinct #eltchat

@barbsaka: I use dictation to reinforce control strategy. I’ll repeat, slow, spell, but only if interrupted and asked J #eltchat

@Marisa_C: Correcting during class writing is a process of facilitating and fixing – lots of individualized teaching during that time #eltchat

@cunningcanis  : I think the main ones are that writing should and can be done in the classroom and also made fun, interesting and effective #eltchat

@Lizziepinard : We need to to empower the students, they ‘Can’ write, even though often, they don’t believe #eltchat

@rliberni  : Everyone now writes much more than they used too; IM, text, blog, emails, comments etc. Social media is FULL of writing #eltchat

@MaryAnnReilly: What I love about writing and social media is how it reminds us that language evolves #elchat

@kukukukuku : If you hate doing writing with your students, they will hate it too. You need passion, even if it’s forced! #eltchat


 And here are some useful links about writing



So I think we are all agreed that teaching writing is quite demanding. One thing we need to know that not everyone is born a writer, but it’s not a skill that we cannot teach them. Looking and reading at #eltchat script , I suddenly realize what a great PLN I have over here and how lucky I am to be able to share and interact with these lovely people every Wednesday. Thanks to our moderators Marisa Constatinides, Bernadette Wall and Barbara Sakamoto for the wonderful moderation and such an engaging hour. Let me end this with a quotation that will sum up all we’ve talked about by our wonderful Marisa constantinides

“Ideally if you have been doing class writing and supported it throughout, the end product should be the best student can do, so no feedback but praise” by @Marisa_C







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