Why improve your own writing?
Literacy is a tool for daily life in modern society. From writing a text message to your friends to creating official letters and requests while applying for a job. Literacy tells about us more than, sometimes, we can tell about ourselves.
You and your students are completely safe and sound if your subject is English and all you do is read novels and compose essays while discussing the novelty of Camus. But you may find it difficult to ask the students to write a short paper on Science or other technical subjects since they might not be prepared for working with a specific content and expressing their own thoughts on paper. Not having a degree in English might make this task look like it’s never going to happen, but fear no more.
The difficulties might occur when some ‘technical teachers’ are quite demotivated about their own writing skills saying ‘I’m not the best speller’ or ‘It’s been a while when I had to compose a paper myself’. That’s because they are expected to be a ‘fit’ for teaching and, in particular, explaining to students how to express themselves freely orally and on paper. These statements can be undermining, but they definitely shouldn’t knock you down off your teacher’s feet. The reasons for this are quite simple:
- Your main task is to develop students’ background knowledge on a subject and give them an insight in your content area.
- Apart from this, when there is a writing task given, your job, for the most part, is to evaluate the knowledge of a subject, not punctuation or grammar.
What Strategies Can You Use?
To set the ball rolling, let’s consider 7 things that you personally can implement in your classroom to support the students’ basic and advanced writing and reading skills.
- Knowing how writing works. Back in the days when writing was considered as a given skill, students would start composing a paper on the spot or do it at home, which would end up in grading. Nowadays, teachers (all of them) know that writing is a process containing stages such as prewriting (creating an outline), drafting (making a plan), revision (marking major mistakes) and editing. Get a hang on these four fellows and you’ll do better.
- Modeling. If you assign a task to students, which includes writing, then you have to give an example of how it’s done. Go through all the stages with them and work together, which does not deprive you of being already prepared to work on this when the time comes.
- Providing keywords. One of the biggest issues you might encounter is the students’ unpreparedness to use the academic language. Give them hints on how to build sentences and what terminology they should use.
- Taking responsibility. The easiest way to deal with such an assignment is to send kids home to do it, which takes the burden of dealing with the writing process off your shoulders. But it’s wrong and you need to be ready to offer your assistance. Ask students to start writing right away during the class and walk around the desks glancing at their progress and helping them along.
- Reading aloud. This is useful for revising work since students (a) learn how to perform and (b) can get help from others with their spelling and grammar mistakes.
- Grading together. In order to show the fairness and adequacy of your grading – do it with your students by taking an abstract of a work and explaining them the mistakes.
- Giving the second chance. There is a great way of encouraging students to work better next time by simply allowing them to redo an already assessed composition. This will increase your credibility as a teacher and help students predict their own mistakes in the future.
All in all, teaching students proper writing skills while being a non-English degree teacher is challenging. But this helps you (a) develop your own teaching skills, (b) become versatile and proficient, and (c) simply be a great guide for students.