As a university writing teacher, I wonder what is the best way to help my students see, correct and avoid writing mistakes.
Slowly, I am coming to the conclusion that the old teaching style is not very effective. The old way, for me, is a writing lesson that goes like this: the teacher gives a writing assignment, the student writes it, the teacher goes home with a bag filled with 50 papers, spends part of the weekend making corrections, hands the papers back on Monday, the students try to decode the teacher’s scribblings, the students re-write the paper, the end.
Better Writing Lessons
For a lot of reasons, the old way has to stay. But I’ll do it less. My goal is to teach students how to see, correct and ultimately avoid basic writing errors. And, the old is not the only way.
What is a basic writing error? For Korean students, most writing errors fall into six categories:
- word choice
- verb tense
- subject-verb agreement
- conventions (e.g. spelling and punctuation)
Peer review is one way for students to quickly learn how to detect and maybe avoid errors. The idea is simple. Student A writes something. Student B finds the errors. Student A re-writes. Like many teaching ideas in the ESL world, it sounds great in theory but doesn’t always work well in the classroom.
Editing exercises seem to offer more hope for student achievement. They teach the students what to look for and how to correct the errors.
So, for our next class, dear students, download these editing worksheet and try to find most of the writing errors. Then re-write the paragraphs.
Update: here are the answers for the editing worksheet questions: esl-writing-editing-worksheets.