Approaches to teaching

Finding a starting point

It is important to start any writing activity from the student’s needs and interests. An informal chat is the best way to discover what writing tasks students want to be able to complete. Tutors can then help students to prioritise those tasks that they want to tackle first and to decide what they can leave till a later date.  (To get started you could gather some samples of real life writing tasks such as: letter to school, holiday postcard, an application form, telephone messages.)


The Language Experience Approach

The Language Experience approach can also be used as a starting point with beginning and improving writers, for writing practice and for developing writing skills. The language experience approach uses a student’s own language and grammar to create reading and writing materials. In simple terms, you write down a piece text that they dictate to you, for example, a short note. (See the ‘teaching reading’ section for more details.)

  • Encourage students to practisewriting some of the sentences they have created through the language experience approach.  (Not having to worry about what to write or how to spell the words allows students time to concentrate on the physical aspects of writing).
  • Bring in a variety of different writing tools, in addition to the commonly used biro, and encourage students to see which they like best: e.g. hard and soft lead pencils, felt tip pens, traditional ink pens, the addition of ‘grips’ to make writing tools easier to hold.
  • Observe whether the student has difficulty with letter formation, the spacing between letters or between words.
  • When students feel confident about the words in the piece of writing generated through Language Experience, introduce additional vocabulary such as days of the week, names of family members, local place names, numbers, as well as the most common words used in writing.


Discuss with students the benefits of writing short pieces of the text as prepared dictation. This is not meant as a test but to allow both student and tutor to discover particular aspects of the writing which may need attention. For example:

  • handwriting,
  • simple punctuation rules such as where to place capital letters or full stops,
  • how to break writing into  paragraphs,
  • rules for using apostrophes, and
  • spelling difficulties.


Help students to develop spelling skills through:

  • identifying difficult parts of words,
  • noticing sequence and order of the letters,
  • noticing common letter strings (-tion,  str-,  – oo-,  -ee-, -and, -ment)
  • finding and writing the small words in bigger words, for example Information:  in,  for,  form,  mat,  or,  on,  I,  inform,  format
  • building a personal dictionary of words in an index note book (with alphabet tabs)


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