Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Writing Instruction & The Internet

by AJ

As I've begun to explore the (relatively) new phenomenon of teaching English on the internet, I've discovered that writing instruction, in particular, is ideally suited to the medium.

Speaking & listening are certainly possible on the web... utilizing Skype or other internet communication software. And, of course, there is plenty of reading material on the net... some with corresponding audio as well (see previous post re: ESL Pod).

But for my purposes, writing instruction is the simplest and most effective internet subject. Email makes written communication quick and easy. Students send me writing samples at their convenience. A high speed connection is not required. Nor is a headset or web camera.

Since writing correction and instruction usually does not need to occur in "real time", time zone differences are no problem. Scheduling Skype calls with students in Europe, Japan, Thailand, and South America, while Im living in San Francisco, can be quite a challenge. However, its no problem at all to receive writing from students anywhere in the world.

Usually I use two techniques to teach writing over the net (as I've mentioned in a previous post).

First I do rewrites. Rather than simply point out errors, I rewrite the piece using standard (and concise) written English (which is certainly more strict and formal than the loose writing used on this blog ;) Rewrites, in my opinion, are much better than simple corrections because they provide correct, comprehensible input. In other words, they not only show what is wrong, they also show what is right.

The second thing I do is record myself reading my version of the written piece. I use Audacity and convert the recording to an MP3. I then email the student, attaching the original piece, my rewrite, and the MP3 of the rewrite. I encourage students to compare the two text versions often. I also encourage them to listen to the audio of the rewrite as much as possible, to help them absorb the phrasing, vocab, and grammar of standard written English.

Overall, my goal when teaching writing is to go beyond finding errors and focus instead on providing clear (and comprehensible) examples of standard written English.

San Francisco, CA