What kind of writing should students do?
Like many other aspects of English language teaching, the type of writing we get students to do will depend on their age, interest and level. We can get beginners to write simple poems, but we probably won’t give them an extended report on town palnning to do. When we set tasks for elementary students, we will make sure that the student have – or can get – enough language to complete the task. Such students can write a simple story but they are not equipped to create a complex narrative. It’s all a question of what language the students have at their command and what can be achieved with this language. As we shall see with the four examples in this chapter, the models we give students to imitate will be chosen according to their abilities.
In general, however, we will try to get students writing in a number of common everyday styles. These will include writing postcards, letters of various kinds, filling in forms such as job applications, writing narrative composititions, reports, newspaper and magazine articles etc. we may also want to have students write such text type as dialogues, playscripts, advertisment, or poems – if we think these will motivate them.
Another factor which can determine our choice of writing task is the students’ interest. If everyone in the class works in a bank, we might choose to get them writing bank reports. If they are all travel agents, you can imagine getting them to write alluring advertisments for special deals. But of course, this should not preclude using other types of creative writing with such groups.
When we have a much more mixed group – students, secretaries, doctors, teachers and police officers, for example – their interest won’t be so easy to pin down. At this point we will choose writing tasks which we think are generally useful but which, more importantly, they are likely to enjoy doing. Students may never have a need to write a scene from a soap opera, for example, but they might enjoy having a go, so it is worth doing.
There is no limit to the kinds of text we can ask students to write. Our decisions, though, will be based on how much language the students know, what their interest are and what we think will not only be useful for them but also motivate them as well.