I have recently taught a class of teenagers aged between 14 and 16. They were of a good level (B1) and were motivated to learn English. I taught them once a week for two hours on Sunday mornings. I realised early on that although their spoken output was good and prolific their ability to write was lacking somewhat.

I wanted to provide an opportunity for them to practice and also provide a sense of progress. I came up with a list of topics and in each lesson we had a 15 minute slot of free writing.
The students could choose any topic on the list or one they chose by themselves and then had to write continuously for 15 minutes. I would then mark these in different ways.
The first piece produced I marked holistically and gave general feedback on the piece. I commented positively on each individual’s piece whilst making my own notes on recurring errors.
The next week I marked the piece explicitly and focussed on recurring errors and addressed these in feedback.
The following weeks I looked to make sure the same errors were not repeated and continued to mark both holistically and explicitly.

On occasion I would select pieces of work to be displayed around the classroom and we also shared our writing with each other.

The students seemed to enjoy this part of the lesson and it was effective in improving their writing skills. It was also useful in changing the pace of the lesson.

I tried to incorporate the following maxims to aid motivation:

• Students need to be made aware of the importance of writing and how it can help
By having a record and analysing individual errors I was able to make students aware of the importance of error and how it can aid development.

• Students need to take ownership
By providing a comprehensive list of topics I ensured that student would have suitable topics that they themselves selected.

• Students need an audience
Putting work around the classroom and sharing with other students provided a reason for the students to write

• Students need feedback on errors and content
Both are equally important. I tried not to focus on only errors with grammar and vocabulary but also look at how the piece affected the audience and whether it was relevant in terms of context. When I did focus explicitly on errors I let the students know.

• Students need to see development
When looking in their notebooks from the first lesson to the last they could see a real sense of progress .

I hope this very simple idea has helped you and your students as it has me. It’s not rocket science but I often find the simplest ideas are often the most effective.

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