Technologically and linguistically adventurous EFL teacher, trainer, writer and manager

I am currently preparing for my third Delta observed lesson, which will be on the topic of writing. One of the things that has been mentioned again and again in my reading is the importance of writing for an audience, preferably a real one. 

Yesterday I took my students to St James Park, the home of Newcastle United football club. We had a fantastic tour, taking us all over the stadium, including into the dressing rooms:

Shared by @sandymillin on

This afternoon I worked on formal and informal emails with my upper intermediate class. They had the choice of three tasks to consolidate our language work:

  • write to a fictional language school asking for information about their courses;
  • accept a fictional wedding invitation;
  • write to our tour guide from yesterday to thank her, including saying what you enjoyed and suggesting any possible improvements for the tour (which would be emailed to the tour guide).

3 students chose to write the thank you email, 1 the reply to the invite, 1 a completely different email (confirming that he would be attending the Nobel Prize award ceremony!) and the other 6 wrote to the language school.

I find it interesting that, given the chance to write to a real person, most of the class chose not to. I wonder why?


Comments on: "A brief thought on writing for an audience" (9)

  1. Marian Hemsted said:

    Sandy, do you think they were worried by the thought of their comments going to the Guide? They didn’t want to seem ungrateful or critical? Keep up the good work, love reading your blog. M x


  2. A little thought, do you think their reaction would be the same if the service had been bad and they had wanted to complain? There is a famous saying that when a person receives good service they might tell one friend. When it is bad they are guaranteed to tell 10.

    Other than that I’d also suspect fear of bad English and actually having to send it!


  3. How many tours have you been on where you have subsequently penned an obsequious missive commenting on the experience? One or two as a child maybe? Providing a real person to write to is not the same thing as providing a real reason to write. Their reason for writing is to practise their English, and for that any tour guide, real or imaginary will do. I do admire the tefly instinct to bring the language to life, but I find most students (myself included) cannot suspend their disbelief sufficiently for this kind of thing. Any of them got pen friends?


    • True, but then, why can they suspend their disbelief enough to write a fictional reply to a fictional invite? And I think there is a current lack of penfriends, but facebook messages might be filling that gap!


  4. […] I am currently preparing for my third Delta observed lesson, which will be on the topic of writing. One of the things that has been mentioned again and again in my reading is the importance of writ…  […]


  5. Hi Sandy,

    Very timely post. I just wrote a first draft for a new post (as I cram for the dip TESOL, sometimes I feel I’m living my life in parallel with you) on…audience. I remember having to write letters as an elementary school student. My teacher called it “learning the art of letter writing.” But having to write a letter at the teachers direction stripped it of some of the fun and made it decidedly less artistic than my own ideas of art at the time. I guess by writing to a fictional person about a fictional event, students are playing with the language and finding a degree of freedom. And maybe there’s something about putting a letter out there, or a blog post, or even a facebook comment or update which is threatening. If a learner isn’t comfortable with their own language use and sees public exposure as a chance to be embarrassed as opposed as a chance to communicate, it makes sense to me that they would head off to fiction land.



  6. I agree…. they might have felt afraid of making mistakes that would be known to everyone! Perhaps writing to one of their own classmates (who are at the same level as their are roughly) would be less of a challenge in their minds 🙂 Good luck with your LSA3!!!


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