Writing Dos and Don’ts at B2/C1

Writing Dos and Don’ts at B2/C1

Writing is not something that comes easily to all our students. When we ask our students to write in class, we are often greeted with groans and protests. However, it is an important life skill and an important part of most English exams. In this blog post we’ll look at ten dos and don’ts for writing in English and how our students can improve their writing skills and get higher marks in those tricky writing exams.

DOs

1. Make sure you answer the question

One of the easiest ways for students to pick up marks in the written part of the exam is to make sure that they answer the question fully. You’d be surprised how often this doesn’t happen. We therefore need to train our students to read the question carefully. Highlighters are a very useful tool here. When you are next preparing a writing task in class, get the students to highlight the key points in the question and then, when they are proofreading their work, make sure that they check that they have covered all the points.

2. Plan

Planning is an essential part of a good piece of written work. If you forget to plan you run the risk of your work being disorganised and difficult to read. Planning your work allows you to think about the structure of your text as well as the content and to organise it into coherent paragraphs. It is very easy to tell the difference between a well-planned piece of writing and something that is more a stream of consciousness. Planned writing is better organised, more coherent and easier for an examiner to read – so really encourage your students to do it!

3. Familiarise yourself with different writing tasks

“I’m going to write the informal letter in the exam” is something that my students often proudly proclaim. Then they get to the exam and surprise surprise, there is no informal letter to write. It is vital that students are able to produce several different types of writing when they come to doing an English exam. Firstly, you never know which writing tasks are going to come up in the exam and students can’t bank on their favourite being there. Secondly, students might not know much about the topic of the informal letter and have to choose a different task. Therefore, it’s important for them to hedge their bets and be confident in writing several different types of writing.

4. Take risks

One of the most common areas of weakness in the writing that my students produce is that they use very simple language. They don’t want to take risks with lexis and grammatical structures in case they get it wrong. This unfortunately results in texts that aren’t particularly interesting. It’s important for your students to know that in most writing exams they are actually rewarded for taking risks with language and even if they don’t get it quite right, they will still get a better mark than if they hadn’t attempted it at all. What’s more, the more they experiment and practise with complex language in their class writing, the more likely they are to produce it correctly in an exam.

5. Practise

How to write an essay or an article is not something you can learn by just doing it once. It takes time to learn the features and structures of different writing tasks and to apply these to your own writing. This means that we teachers must give our students plenty of opportunities to practise writing both at home and in class (no matter how much they protest). You never know, they might actually start to enjoy it once they begin to get better at it.

DON’Ts

1. Repeat yourself

There is nothing that turns you off a piece of writing more quickly than repetition of ideas and vocabulary. Encourage your students to use synonyms in their writing and to refer back to things they have previously mentioned, using cohesive devices such as this, them, they, etc. This will ensure that the text flows better and is much more engaging for the reader.

2. Waste time counting words

Time in exam is precious. So why would you waste time counting words. This is something I ask myself every time I invigilate a writing exam. Surely your students know more or less how many words they can fit on a page. It’s important to remind them that instead of spending time counting how many words they have written, they would be better off spending that time checking for errors and improving their work.

3. Write lists

At times, students’ writing can sometimes resemble a list rather than a piece of continuous prose. It’s important that we teach them to connect their ideas with both linkers and cohesive devices. This will help ensure that the text flows better and is much more interesting for the reader. If your students do need to list things, perhaps examples, then a rule of three is a good idea, i.e., no more than three items in a list of examples.

4. Forget to check your work

A lot of students seem to think that once they have written that final full stop, they have finished the piece of writing. The pen goes down and they announce “finished”. But what about proofreading? This is a great opportunity for students to check their work and correct or improve what they have written. Next time you do writing in class and a student announces that they have finished, try highlighting a few errors or examples of simple language in their work and ask them to improve on them before they hand it in.

5. Try and be a perfectionist

Younger learners can sometimes focus too much on their written work looking nice and try to avoid making any mistakes. This often results in them writing very slowly and not completing their written task. It’s important for them to know that it doesn’t matter if they cross something out or make a spelling error. This is all part of the learning process. If they really want to, they could also write a neat copy of their writing for homework.

 

We hope you find these dos and don’ts for writing useful. Writing is something that most students find challenging and often need help, support and encouragement from their teachers to get better at this skill. Good luck with your next writing classes!

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