Having just spent the morning marking writing from both Cambridge CAE and non-exam Advanced students, I suddenly remembered that one of the things I highlighted in my CAM action plan as an area to work on was presenting and marking writing. It seems a blog post is therefore in order…
Writing seems to be one of those areas which is quite ephemeral – a kind of ‘practice makes perfect’ for both teachers and students. Here are some of the things I’ve heard (and maybe even said) from each side of the divide:
- I don’t have time to write.
- I hate writing.
- Arghhh! I can’t write. (after being presented with a sheet of paper covered in notes)
- What [exactly] do you want me to do?
- Why do we have to write?
- Writing is boring and it takes too long.
- I don’t have time to include writing in my classes. / Students never do writing for homework.
- I don’t have time to mark writing.
- My students don’t care about writing, so why should I?
- I don’t really know how to mark [fill in appropriate level / exam] writing.
- I don’t want to depress my students by covering the page in red pen.
- Their spelling / grammar / handwriting is atrocious – I can’t read it.
So what can / should we do about it?
At the risk of over-bullet-pointing my own writing, here are some of the solutions I’ve found have worked with my students so far:
- Setting homework through Edmodo: they have a range of different ways to do the writing, and are therefore (slightly) more willing to do it. They can also send homework later if they don’t have time during the week it’s set.
- Presenting writing through a task-based approach (this will be the subject of a future blog post – watch this space), which allows students to do the writing in class in groups and produce two versions of it so they really see the difference before and after input.
- Using a writing code: students soon get the hang of this, although it takes a bit of explaining at the beginning of the year. They occasionally hand back writing if they want to know how to improve it (depends on the student’s level of motivation).
- Laptops: By asking students to bring in their own laptops, I created a language lab at a school with two computers 🙂 Students enjoyed being able to edit their work quickly. They could then reedit it at home and email it to me if they wanted to.
As you can see, there aren’t many of them (otherwise there would have been no point highlighting it on my action plan!) I will therefore set you a writing task of you own, so that you can get into the spirit of things.
Choose ONE (or TWO or THREE…) of the following to answer.
- Writing for exams: should we always mark using the criteria for the exam? If not, what should criteria should we mark to?
- How can we encourage students to correct their work and give it back, without creating a lot more marking for ourselves?
- How much marking is appropriate? Where do you stop?!?
- Handwriting: is it an issue? Does it matter if students handwrite or type their texts?
- Spelling: How can we help students to improve it? How important is spelling for non-exam students?
- Grammar: Is it possible for students to improve their grammar through writing?
- Feedback: Do you use a writing code? If not, what do you use? What kind of comments do you give the students?
- Should we give the marking criteria to the students before they do the writing? Or could this be too much for them? (thinking about exam-based criteria especially here)
- How can we teach teachers to mark writing consistently with each other when sharing a class? How can we teach teachers new to an exam to mark writing at an appropriate level? (I was new to CAE this year, and this was particularly difficult for me, although after attending a seminar in December I feel much better about it)
- How can we encourage both teachers and students to make time for writing inside and outside class?
Answers should be 120-150 words long in an informal-neutral tone 😉
Right, I think that about covers it. I look forward to marking your answers!
PS I have thought of blogging with my students – it’s a work in progress at the moment, as I’m still working out how the blogosphere works myself and computer access is scarce to non-existent at my school!