It seems to be a common theme (especially teaching English in Spain) that students want to run before they can walk. Practically every student I have met always wanted to start speaking before learning how to read, write or listen in English. I can definitely understand the intention, but our students usually underestimate how much they really need visual references and how beneficial writing things down could be for them. So, how do you motivate your students to write in English?
The solution is pretty simple! First of all, make sure that your students are working together. Pair work is very important; your students brainstorm ideas and find the best way to put them on a piece of paper. It ensures high student talk time and great energy. Long silences would no longer be a problem.
On the first day of classes, I usually remind my students how important visuals are. When you hear a new word, it stays in your short-term memory for a second and then you forget it. Writing down new vocabulary is incredibly important for visual and kinaesthetic learners because, not only do students internalize the word by physically writing it down, but is also helps them recognize the difference between the pronunciation and the way the word looks. Keep in mind that it is not necessary to write the translation for the new word, they can always write synonyms, explanations or even draw new concepts.
Keeping your topics interesting
Another key factor is interest. Your students have to be interested in the topic they are writing about. While I was at university, my teacher made us write about the advantages and disadvantages of drug abuse. How do you think I felt about this topic? Pretty indifferent since it wasn’t something I could relate to. This example might seem a bit extreme but this is what a lot of course books suggest writing about.
Personally, I believe our students are usually interested in writing something they are involved in personally or professionally. Some students keep diaries, cook books, journals, etc. which gives us, as teachers, a perfect opportunity to encourage them to write an entry or two a week in English. This can provide a nice contrast to the email, reports and memos that they are used to preparing for work and in business classes.
Students love seeing results of their hard work while also exploring something new. Giving your students a little bit of freedom with their writing projects can boost motivation and creativity. Usually when I want to start writing something, I don’t know where and how to start. I have recently discovered an app that is called ¨365¨. The best thing about it is that you don’t have to write massive amounts of text at once. Each day the app sends you a reminder to write something down and a question to answer, for example, ¨If you were a character in a book, how would you describe yourself?¨Basically, now our students can type little notes on their phones and then send them to each other. I think it is a great tool to write a little book with your students. You can start with working on the main characters and then move towards designing and developing the main plot line.
All in all, the reason for not wanting to write is not lack of ability but the lack of motivation. Letting your students work together on meaningful pieces of writing or creating a book that would help create great memories for them are some simple ways to keep your students’ motivation high.
Written by Valentina, TtMadrid’s star Assistant Director of Studies