Many learners experience some kind of anxiety in relation to writing. This anxiety about writing is not necessarily all negative. A certain amount of anxiety may indicate that the learners are concerned about doing well and this may provide some motivation for their performance. But too much anxiety will inhibit performance, and this is where the teacher needs to step in.
Often learners feel anxious about their writing when they:
- don’t understand the writing assignment.
- are unsure about the guidelines or the criteria for marking the writing assignment.
- don’t know the main goal of the writing task.
- feel afraid about making mistakes both in spelling and grammar when they write.
- think that they don’t have ideas to write about.
To help learners reduce any stress they may feel about writing, the teacher needs to:
- Let the learners know that writing is a challenge for everyone, even those who are fluent and that the writing process has many stages and it is time-consuming.
- Be sure to take the time to answer any questions from students regarding what he/she is asking them to write about.
- Be sure to emphasize to learners that their writing does not need to be perfect, correct, or neat.
- Remind students that their main goal in writing is to communicate an idea and as long as they do that successfully, then they have reached their goal.
- Encourage students to focus on the message that they are trying to get across, not the spelling and the overall correctness of the writing.
- Not to use a red pen when marking the writing assignment to make corrections. Not only may this bring back bad memories, but it won’t be the most effective way for the students to learn. Instead, encourage the learners to self-correct.
- Ask the students to identify which words they think are not spelled correctly or not suitable in their place and teach them to use a dictionary to correct these spelling mistakes or replace these words with more suitable ones.
- Find praise in even the most basic attempts at writing.
Examples of praising sentences:
- I appreciate your willingness to try writing.
- You use punctuation marks well.
- You could write some amazing sentences.
- You were creative at tackling some ideas.
- Your handwriting is neat.
And here are two more techniques to build your students’ writing confidence and motivate them to write with ease and comfort.
1. Use Three-line Stories:
When you find your students can’t even begin to write, help them start producing text by giving them two things:
- A structured framework and
- Gentle verbal prompts.
For the framework, tell students to write a story in three lines. The first line identifies the main character and setting. The second tells a problem. The third gives a solution. This three-line story puts students in control of their writing and helps build their confidence.
The following is an example of the structured framework:
- A mouse (character) was in the house (setting).
- The mouse was being chased by a cat (problem).
- The mouse escaped through a hole (solution).
Now have a student read the story to you and then use conversation prompts to help expand the text. When the student reads “A mouse was in the house,” prompt with “because….” or ask, “How do you know that?” or “Why?” Have the students add the response to the story. As appropriate, interject words like “and”, “so,” “but,” or “because.”
With a little practice, it won’t take long for students to start thinking of the prompts on their own as they write.
2. Use Interesting or Imaginative Writing Assignments
Students are more motivated to complete assignments that can be classified as interesting or imaginative with a purpose. The assignments should not only be interesting or imaginative but also, they should clearly reinforce concepts and skills being taught. To create such assignments, use more fun and imagination. Also, think of students’ use more of theirs.
Some examples of writing assignments that were found successful by many teachers.
- Interview people about their jobs or hobbies.
- Think of an ideal vehicle, home, school, telling what it is like and why it is ideal from their opinions.
- Write a new myth.
- Write about their family tree.
- Interview some people about a historical event they lived through.
- Write a how-to handbook for mothers, classmates, …. etc.
- Write about a game they enjoy playing and teach their classmates how to play it.
- Write about a balanced menu of food for a week.
- Describe something they possess.
- Write about an experiment (the steps and the outcomes).
- Display a topic they research. etc.
Teachers can play an effective role in helping alleviate students’ anxiety related to writing if they plan writing activities well focusing on:
- Selecting an effective pre-writing activity.
- Using motivating prompts for the writing activity, and
- Encouraging students’ share of their writing with others.
- Using a clear way or certain criteria to assess the writing assignment.
Here is My Valuable eBook on Teaching Early Writing to ESL/EFL Learners. It is a practical guide to teaching writing in the primary stage. It gives teachers step-by-step instructions to teach basics of handwriting and tells them what to do exactly when teaching paragraph, letter and email writing. This guide enables teachers to have control of their teaching early writing to kindergarten and primary leaners.
Reading and writing are two skills that mirror each other. They should be taught in the way they complement each other. That’s why I’ve created another eBook on Teaching Beginning Reading to ESL/EFL Learners to show the teachers the main approaches to, the stages of and sample activities for teaching beginning reading in addition to some guidelines to follow before beginning to teach reading.