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Product writing: a simple approach to teaching writing

Updated: Nov 23, 2023

Product writing: a simple approach to teaching writing
Writing lessons can be more enjoyable than you think

Some CELTA tutors will avoid giving trainees writing lessons to teach, even though it is part of the syllabus. It is true that it's difficult to get students to write a full email or essay in a forty-minute CELTA lesson, but it's not impossible and the approach we're about to discuss should make it a bit easier.

Product writing is an approach to teaching writing where we focus on the 'product' i.e. the finished piece of writing. Some people prefer an approach called process writing, which focuses on the process we go through as we draft, write and edit a piece of writing, but I think product writing is the easiest to start with.

A product writing lesson focuses on taking an example text, analysing that text, and then having students produce their own version of that text. And so, these are the three main stages in a product writing lesson plan.

1. Reading a model text

If you want students to write an email complaining to a company and asking for a refund, then the lesson will start with the students reading an email of complaint i.e. reading a model text. This stage will have the substages you'd usually expect in a reading task - a lead-in to generate interest in the text, pre-teaching any blocking vocabulary and then giving the students a reason to read, probably in the form of a gist task.

2. Analysing the model text

Students will then do some activities to analyse the model - these will typically help the students to notice features of the text you wish them to focus on when they write later in the lesson. For example, you might do an exercise focusing on formal words or phrases from the text, or on linking words. You might have the students notice the purpose of each paragraph, or some element of the text that you think is typical of the genre of writing that they've read and that they're about to read. This stage of the lesson is quite similar to the 'controlled practice' stage in a grammar or vocabulary lesson.

3. Writing

Then the students will write their own text, using the model they've read and the analytical exercises they've just done to help them. It is important that you give students enough time to write. You may also need to do something to help students generate ideas before they write, just like you would before a speaking task, by giving them prompt cards or by doing a brainstorming exercise. While the students are writing, you need to circulate and monitor. You can note down errors you see, and if you notice a student is stuck or is having problems getting started, you can suggest a starting sentence to them. When the students are finished writing, you need to conduct some form of feedback so students get a reaction to their writing. This could be where students read each other's texts. You could also go through some language feedback/error correction at the board. Finally, if students have written something, it's best to collect it and mark what they've written at home.

Even though a writing lesson can seem like a lot, if we reduce it to these three simple steps, then it is achievable, even in forty minutes!

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