Effective Writing Instruction for Foreign ESL Students

Teaching writing to students in foreign countries can be quite difficult, especially when the school schedule allows little time for English classes. With a little creativity and planning, however, teachers can ensure that their students get a well-rounded education and become skilled writers.

One reason that teaching ESL writing can be very difficult is because of the constraints of the normal school schedule. In many elementary schools in foreign countries, the students may only have one or two English classes a week, for 40 minutes each class. This is not enough time for students to learn and improve their English ability overall, and it is an especially limited amount of time for honing writing skills, which are among the most difficult for students to learn and require a great deal of practice, rewriting and correcting.

Students need time to review what they learned and also learn new material. This means giving them a chance to incorporate new grammar, vocabulary and punctuation ideas into their writing, and they can do this by writing journal entries, formal essays, or creative stories. However, studying for a mere 80 minutes each week does not give them enough time to do this.

In this situation, teachers may find themselves frustrated, because the students will not improve quickly enough, and they may easily forget what they learn. If students do not use English often, they will lose their ability to speak English, and their writing skills may actually decline if they do not practice frequently enough.

This difficulty is especially hard to fix, as it relies on changes in the education system. Teachers, however, can take steps to improve this situation. One way is through the use of straightforward and simple ESL writing exercises. These may be in the form of a worksheet or simple journal assignment that can occupy the first 10 or 15 minutes of each class. To take one example of a useful assignment, the teacher can write six recent vocabulary words on the board, then tell the students that they must write no more than four sentences, using all of these words. This will force them to combine some of the words into a single sentence, which helps inspire greater creativity. Moreover, such creative applications of knowledge are helpful at reinforcing these words in the students' memory, thereby aiding their long-term English progress. Writing assignments such as this will not only help the students write in English with confidence, but it will also help them get better scores on tests.

Teaching in foreign countries can be very difficult, but perhaps the most important thing is that teachers work within the constraints of the education system in the country they are teaching in. With a little creativity and a bit of planning, it is possible to overcome even the most daunting limitations and churn out students who can use English adeptly and enjoy doing so!

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