#11 Teach English Writing Fluency

Teach English Writing Fluency

Main Idea

Writing fluency is an important skill that students can develop with frequent practice. ESL students, especially new writers, sometimes hesitate to write for a variety of reasons including lack of practice and fear of errors, among others. Like any skill, the teaching of writing needs to be approached from a variety of angles. This activity – sometimes called Power Writing – takes on one specific objective: developing the ability to produce more output through structured practice involving repeated, timed writing tasks that focus on quantity rather than quality.

A Definition

Writing fluency is the ability to create text without relying too much on memory (Lenski & Verbruggen, 2010). When the performance of specific tasks (e.g. spelling, punctuating a sentence, or ensuring subject-verb agreement) become automatic, ESL students are able to focus their attention on higher order activities such as idea organisation, paragraph cohesion and better word choices. Automatcity is a teaching principle often addressed in the development of speaking and listening skills, but might be overlooked in terms of writing.

Lesson Overview

The idea is to run a Power Writing activity (at least) once a week. Each activity takes about 10 minutes, though the first time it is introduced to the class may require more time to explain the tasks, rationale and outcomes.

  • Step 1. Write a word or phrase on the whiteboard; it should be related to material recently covered in class.
  • Step 2. Tell students, “Write as much as you can as well as you can in 60 seconds” on a topic related to the given word/phrase.
  • Step 3. Call time after one minute. Students stop writing and count the number of words they have written. This number is written down on a recording sheet. Students then read their text looking for errors; errors are circled.
  • Step 4. Students repeat the 60-second writing exercise with the same prompt, errors corrected. At the end of one minute, they count and record the number of words; read again for errors.
  • Step 5. Repeat entire process one last time.

Like most fluency activities, this one can yield benefits when performed regularly. Students need to dedicate a place to collect and save their growing number of short texts. In addition, they need to keep a recording sheet for word counts, organized by week.

Some people suggest that word/phrase prompts should be repeated at least once, perhaps two weeks after the initial usage.

Benefits for the Teacher

If run over the course of a semester, students will produce a body work which can be used by the teacher to gain insight into student progress. Indicators of progress might include the number of words written per minute in the first and third iteration. In addition, it might be possible for teachers to compile a list of universal errors that students miss as they edit their own work. These insights could be used to inform future writing lessons by targeting specific needs.




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3 thoughts on “#11 Teach English Writing Fluency”

  1. This is very similar to Paul Nation’s fluency writing – a 10 min Quckwrite that I’ve been using. I like this version as it is shorter and could use it with my 60-min classes. Just to be completely sure: is it the same prompt for all 3 writes? Are they supposed to write the same thing or different texts on the same subject? if the prompt is, say, “comic heroes” I’d presume they’d be writing about three different comic heroes, each time for a minute? Thank you very much:-) Kamila

  2. Hi Kamila,

    Thanks for the great question. In my class, I ask students to rewrite the same text with the same prompt. As I tell my students, fluency development is like learning how to hit a baseball. You have to take many swings to get it right. That’s why rewriting the same text (with the same prompt) makes sense in these short activities – practice makes perfect.


  3. Oh I get it now. Writing the same text makes perfect sense! Thank you for caring to respond. I’ll give it a try soon.

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