Classroom Practices

Improving Writing Skills: 5 Things You Forgot to Tell Your Students

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Passion is what makes good writing but only practice is what makes good writing real. Walking into the classroom with a bunch of blank papers, pencils, and big expectations is not the best approach to enhance writing skills of students. The writing skills nurturing should develop gradually and turn into steady practice environment where each student has own reason to write. If you want your students to turn into enthusiastic writers, you need to let them understand the basics of the clear sentence construction and support them on every stage of the writing session.

Professor R. Kellogg in the “Psychology of writing” book suggested several principles of the writing practice based on the conducted research. According to the book, the good writing habits are based on efforts and motivation, repetition and attainability (the level of skills already attained by the students). In this topic, we will discover how to raise the level of writing attainability, learning the components of the balanced sentence and using practical exercises to support the skill retention.

Planning the writing

Our mind doesn’t always think logically, in such moments the sentence may turn out little messy. In order to avoid it is important to plan the writing process beforehand. There’re 5 stages of the writing process and the first one starts with prewriting.

Prewriting.  Some teachers call it a brainstorming phase when the student outlines the general ideas. On this stage, it is important to determine the type of writing, whether it will be a reflective, argumentative, expository or analytical writing. After the teacher familiarizes the student with the style requirements. The student should independently determine the topic to focus and the subject. After the ideas are gathered on the paper the student can start accumulating the information and facts to uncover the idea and draft the structure.

Drafting. After the structure has been determined and information gathered the student can begin the drafting. On this stage, it is important to revise if the language is appropriate for the assignment. Do not make students care for grammar, the main point is to teach them how to write what they mean. Make them write with new words and sentence structures using the exercises in this topic.

Revising. Make students reread what they wrote to make sure the flow is logical and the main point is achieved. Make them fix the sentences that bear the same meaning or just restate the information over and over or add the parts that are missing.

Proofreading. The final stage when the students independently fix the grammar, spelling, punctuation, and capitalization.

Exercises for the class:

1) Provide the students with information about writing style requirements. Assign them to gather the main facts and brainstorm the ideas.

2) Ask the students to assemble the information, outline, and structure it, creating the plan.

Now let the students get down to the drafting stage supporting them with words, verbs and sentence structures to apply when learning how to write.

Choosing the correct verbs

A verb is one of the strongest parts of the sentence in English that is able to express the emotions in the story. Making the question or the sentence construction is impossible without using it. The verbs describe the action, a state of things and any kind of activity.

Oftentimes the difference between the good and the bad prose is the difference between the active and passive voice of the verbs. The passive verbs can weaken the meaning, as a teacher you should cultivate the active verb usage. The next element of persuasive essay writing is using the strong verbs.

Here are some of the examples of strong verbs:

support produce decline clarify
reveal portray illustrate allude

The strong verbs are evoking the emotional response.  A verb along with an adverb or a both with an adverb and a preposition create phrasal verbs. Such kinds of verbs are used to make the sentence sound less formal, they are also often used in informal speech. The figurative or idiomatic meaning makes them good to use for the essay.    


They put up together pretty well

The plane takes off high in the sky

These conditions may lock out local companies from their domestic market.

Exercises for the class:

1) Give your students the excerpt from the story and the selection of verbs. Suggest them to fill the gaps.

2) Tell the students to work on one body paragraph in the essay. Identify all passive verbs and replace them with strong or phrasal ones.

Fixing sentence fluency with transitions

Transitions are phrases and words that are used to connect the sentence parts or the ideas. Transitions are essential links that help to create a smooth flow from the idea to another idea. Cultivate using transitional words among students to feature the relationship between paragraphs and sentences. There are transitions that express agreement, opposition, purpose, support, effect, conclusion.

Agreement Opposition Purpose Support Effect Conclusion
equally important but in order to certainly in effect after all
in the light of in contrast for the purpose of indeed as a result in the long run
not to mention in spite of because of truly in that case to summarize
in the same way whereas notably as shown above
similarly albeit as shown above
coupled with

1) Give the story to your students and let them fill in the gaps with the suitable transitions.Exercises for the class:

2) Give the students two subjects (f.g apples and pears) and ask them to connect them into the sentence to create a meaning. The same approach can be applied to the paragraphs.

Enhancing critical thinking

Thinking critically means thinking originally. In order to generate own ideas, a student should understand the subject deeply. If the ideas or words belong to someone else they should be referenced and cited according to the format and source. Let the students use the authoritative opinions and views in their writing and appeal to various concepts, citing and referencing them. To support the critical thinking ask the students to agree or disagree with cited material and provide the reasoning behind it, let them explain what fuels their own point of view.

Exercises for the class:

1) Give the students a piece of writing, ask them to analyze it and provide their own rendering of the idea.

2) Give the students a piece of writing, ask them to paraphrase the paragraph and provide the proper references to it, using the format’s guide to citing and referencing (APA, MLA, Chicago, etc).

3) Let the students run the paragraphs they wrote through the Unicheck plagiarism checker and fix the plagiarized text parts if the checker finds such.

Developing own writing style

Sentence fluency is an important component that makes a piece of writing compelling. Some of the greatest writers believe the writing craft is just the matter of technique.

The science of the good writing shows that the most compelling and interesting texts are created when the author uses various types of sentence structures in turns.

This way the student can significantly improve own writing style using simple, compound, complex and complex compound sentences in one paragraph.

The sentences also have patterns and structures and some of them may sound especially attractive to the reader’s ear. As a teacher you may incorporate the sentence writing schemes to the assignment that are used by famous writers:

Alliteration. Alliteration is a sound repetition at the beginning of the words. F.g Katie’s kids kept kidding.

Consonance. Repetitive sounds that are made with consonants. F.g Spike likes his new pike.

Assonance. Repetitive sounds that are made with vowels. F.g Betty bought butter but the butter was bitter.

Anaphora. Repetition at the beginning. F.g Every day, every hour, in every minute, I am getting better and better.

Epistrophe. Repetition at the end. What’s challenging? Math. What’s confusing? Math! And what’s puzzling? Math!

Exercises for the class:

1) Provide the students with information featuring the above mentioned literary sentence construction schemes. Ask them to write the sentences using them.

2) Ask the students to write the paragraph using 4 sentence structures: simple sentence (one independent clause), compound sentence (several independent clauses), complex sentence (subordinate clause and independent clause) and complex compound sentences (at least 2 independent clauses and at least 1 subordinate clause).

Wrapping it up

No matter how much information your students might have learned about the art of good writing their essay or the story will not be good enough until they plunge into practice. The writing skills have the tendency to strengthen in the environment of the good discipline, constant practice and the basic awareness of how to build the good sentences and paragraphs. Utilizing the literary devices and certain article construction approaches the students will be able to reach the writing depth and make the narration sound more vivid, interesting and moving.