Friday, March 20, 2009

Motivate Your Language Learners with These Passionate Writing Assignment Ideas

Motivating Language Learners with Passionate Writing Assignments

No Native Writers

“Not again”, the students whined. “Teacher, we don’t like to write. Especially not in English.”

Oh, how true, how very true.

It’s difficult enough to get your language learners to read – they don’t like doing THAT either. But with interesting, relative material they can usually be easily persuaded to breeze through short passages before expounding and commenting on them. Writing though, is a totally different matter. You see, while there can be native speakers of a language, there are NO native writers of a language. Everyone, native speaker or not, must learn to form sentences, then paragraphs and finally coherent expositions, compositions or articles, often to their dismay. An academic paper? Are you kidding me? It’s the area where learners of virtually every college major “cheat” (and plagiarize) the most extensively. How about a book? Again, even most native speakers of a language absolutely cringe at even the suggestion of attempting such a feat. Hey, I don’t exactly “chuckle with glee” about it either.

Motivating Your Language Learners to Write

Motivating your language learning students to write – and now in a foreign language – is indeed a challenge. That is, up until now. Here are some English as a second language classroom-tested writing assignment types that frequently tend to motivate learners to perform their best. As we’ll delve into further on in this article, your learners must be encouraged to write with “passion”. “What I did on my Summer Vacation” simply won’t cut it unless you had a hot date with a movie star. If so, then - Gosh, who was it? Tell me everything. I want details!

1. How - To or “Teaching” Writing Assignments

Everyone knows how to do or make something. Not only that, but they’re usually quite proud of their knowledge, skill or ability. They’ll require little encouragement to get the ball rolling to talk or write about it. Your language learning students should also feel free to attach an image or series, drawings or step-by-step illustrations to their piece too. This will add visual and graphic support to the text as well as increase the interest in their writing assignment.

2. Expound on a News Event

Any news or current event that stirs the fires of your language learners’ imaginations is ripe fodder for a writing assignment. Okay, so YOU may not be particularly enthralled by a daring bank heist, a new community center or a severe storm that destroys property and causes destruction locally. Your learners however, may be personally vested in such events and be able to weave a spell-binding composition related to such events. Imagine: “Teacher, there was that really bad storm last month that was in all the papers, but you know, it tore most of the roof off our house, so …” Sometimes the events may not exactly be positive ones, however, the learner can then elaborate of the effects and solutions to create an interesting, informative dialogue on the events.

3. Writing Up Reviews

Who hasn’t read, seen or experienced something that they truly loved, were stirred or moved by – or hated with a passion. That’s the key, you see – passion. With passion you can drive almost any endeavor in life from a hot date to a breakout career or from a cold shoulder to the departure from a negative lifestyle. So, let your English as a second language learners write about any topic they are truly passionate about. That is unless it’s taking drugs or the like, in which case I’d recommend a change of subject – and passions.

Make the Language Learning Writing Experience Engaging

Everyone, native speaker or not, must learn to form sentences, then paragraphs and finally coherent expositions, compositions or articles. Why not make the writing experience an engaging one for your English or other foreign language learners? You can quite easily do this by incorporating these writing assignment types into your language learning classes. We'll continue with more passionate writing assignment ideas in the next posts. Stay tuned ...

Prof. Larry M. Lynch is an EFL Teacher Trainer, Intellectual Development Specialist, author and speaker. He has written ESP, foreign language learning, English language teaching texts and hundreds of articles used in more than 100 countries. Get your FREE E-book, “If you Want to Teach English Abroad, Here's What You Need to Know" by requesting the title at: If you need a blogger or copywriter to promote your school, institution, service or business or an experienced writer and vibrant SEO content for your website, blog or newsletter. Then E-mail me for further information.

1 comment:

Ric Morris said...

Good ideas. Also you can ask students to write a short paragraph or two sentences as a warm-up. Where text books typically ask students to discuss a topic (usually as an introduction to a new topic), it can be done on paper instead. Short bursts of writing (although they may not exercise the students in discourse structure) can get them in to the habit of regular painless writing.