Writing is probably the hardest skill to master when learning a foreign language: this is because good writing requires a good vocabulary, a thorough knowledge of the grammar, and an understanding of the correct register that is required in the target language.
How can you, as a novice EFL teacher, improve your student’s writing skills?
Writing is inextricably linked to grammar: if the student’s grammar is poor, his writing will also be poor; therefore, you, as the teacher, must ensure that your students fully understand the grammar. Assuming that the students have covered the prerequisite grammar, a good strategy for developing writing skills is to take the simple sentence as the starting point.
The beauty of the simple sentence is that it contains one subject and one predicate, for example: John killed the lion. A further advantage of the simple sentence is that it can be made easily into a compound sentence by the use of coordinating conjunctions, for example: John killed the lion, but the lioness killed him. Once these sentence structures have been mastered, the student can move onto the complex sentence, and the compound-complex sentence. It should be noted that beginner EFL students will obviously start off slowly with just the simple sentence; they will be able to construct sentences such as ‘My name is David’, ‘I live in a big house in the city’, etc.
In choosing what to write, you should select topics that are relevant to your class, e.g.: beginner EFL students could be given topics on subjects such as ‘My house’, ‘My family’, ‘My school’. Intermediate EFL students could be given topics on subjects such as ‘How I spend my free time’, ‘Is living in the country better than living in the city?’ etc.
In assigning writing tasks, you must ensure that the students have been given the necessary vocabulary in order to do the work: don’t expect the students to spend ages looking through a bilingual dictionary for the right word. A good idea is to provide your students with lists of classified vocabulary: each list can deal with a different topic.
Students should also be encouraged to recognize different registers and their associated vocabulary: in this way they will learn to use the correct register in the appropriate situation. Finally, don’t forget that writing is a difficult skill: it will take time before the student becomes good enough to write well.