Audience and Purpose: Teaching ESL Students to Write

Image courtesy of nuttakit /

Image courtesy of nuttakit /

As many of you know, I teach writing to English majors at Ming Chuan University in Taiwan. I am actually considered crazy by many of my colleagues because I teach a LOT of writing–by choice!

I have actually sought out writing courses because, in spite of the work, it is one of the ways I can make a difference. Most students enter my writing classes just wanting to pass. No one expects to like writing; or at least, very few do. So I love the opportunity to change their minds about it. I start by shaking up their ideas and beliefs about writing. If you want to see my first post about such things, you can visit 10 Things I Want My Students to Believe about Writing.

But now, we have a new challenge. Sadly, many most students see no purpose for writing an essay (or anything else), other than getting a grade and passing a course, preferably as simply and painlessly as possible. As someone who reads lots and lots of student papers, I can tell you what the results of this mindset are anything but interesting.

My daughter and I were discussing this situation a few months back, and she offered to give my students an audience in addition to me. From each of my four writing classes, 15 students could submit an essay. She read them, made notes, and acknowledged winners in three categories: Most Informative; Most Appealing; and Best Utilization of the Language (mechanics and grammar).

The winners were then announced in blog posts that she did in January, while my students were on semester break. As you can see in her posts (see links below), she gave examples of what she liked about the essays she chose for the honors.

Now that the second semester has started, the results will be announced in each class next week. Winners will receive a certificate and a small token of accomplishment.

This is only one step in the process of teaching my students about audience and purpose, but it has created an experience in which they can understood that their writing can go further than their teacher’s grading pile.


The Award Posts:

Monday 8:10 am Writing II class:

Monday 10:10 am Writing II class:

Wednesday morning Writing I class:

Thursday morning Writing II class:

17 comments on “Audience and Purpose: Teaching ESL Students to Write

    • Thanks! It helped them to visualize some reason to write beyond simply fulfilling the assignment. I also gave them the link to her blog before the project so that they could “get to know their audience.”

    • My daughter loves writing as well. I was really pleased with the encouragement she gave my students in her comments.

      As for your question, no, I speak only very basic words and phrases. I am working with a tutor starting next week to take me a little further, but the reality is that with all the projects I’m involved in, I find it a better use of my time to keep working with students rather than learning the language, if that makes sense.

  1. A certificate and a small token of accomplishment seem like a good way to get them motivated. 😉
    Maybe with each 5 or more tokens, they can get something in return? XD

  2. Pingback: Embracing Exploration: AtoZ April Challenge | Container Chronicles

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