Writing to learn

Here is the  handout from a writing workshop I’ve given on a few occasions here in Spain.   I’ve already blogged about the dictogloss and reformulation activities, and a step by stpe guide to one of the creative writing tasks.

Why writing is an important element in the learning process

A language is learnt, at least in part, through the students’ attempts to use it. When students attempt to communicate meanings in English, they have a chance to practise what they have learnt and to experiment with what they have not learnt.

(Philip Kerr)

Writing involves a different kind of mental process. There is more time to think, to reflect, to prepare, to rehearse, to make mistakes and think of better solutions.

(Jim Scrivener)

Writing, by its nature, requires more thought. Not only that, it exists in time, unlike speech, which, unless you record it, is elusive. Anything written, therefore, is available for review and correction.

(Scott Thornbury)

How writing helps students learn

  • it helps them focus on form
  • it allows them to make conscious linguistic choices
  • it gives them the means to reflect on these choices
  • it offers them a tangible sense of achievement
  • it can boost their confidence

Activities that aid the process

1 Controlled collaborative writing tasks (dictogloss, reformulation, text reconstruction)

Students are supplied with a specific message/specific facts to convey. Their attention is focused on expressing the message as clearly, precisely and appropriately as possible.

2 Scaffolded creative writing tasks

Students are supplied with a situation, context and a series of actions/events. They focus their attention on the voice, on creating a character and describing the events from that character’s point of view.


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