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Suggestions for teaching the writing process

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Last updated 30 January 2013 11:14 by NZTecAdmin
Suggestions for teaching the writing process (PDF, 71 KB)

These suggestions can be used with all learners, or with those learners who require support with one or more progressions only.

Purpose and audience

Writers need to ask, “Why am I writing this piece?” Although the immediate purpose may be to fulfil a course requirement, the learner needs to consider the broader (or more specific) purpose of the task. Some common purposes for writing include:

  • to express personal views or feelings
  • to explain, report, describe or recount
  • to narrate or tell a story
  • to entertain or amuse
  • to inform, request or question
  • to persuade or convince
  • to clarify a point
  • to demonstrate the writer’s knowledge or understanding.

Many of these purposes overlap and one piece of writing can have several purposes. The important point is to know why we are writing.

Writers also need to ask “Who is my intended audience?” Although the audience will often simply be the tutor, writers need to consider who else might be interested in the writing or who else the writer might want to read it. Many learners may write for audiences that include:

  • family, friends, peers (familiar to the writer)
  • people in the community, others in the student body, local media, tutors (known but less familiar to the writer)
  • a wider range of media, potential employers, organisations, public bodies, government organisations (mainly unknown and unfamiliar to the writer).

To write in a way that acknowledges purpose and audience, the learners need to explore the different styles and registers of writing and choose the most suitable in terms of their purpose and audience.


(see Suggestions for teaching spelling)


After identifying the intended purpose and audience, the learners could think about and list the kinds of words, terms or expressions that are typically used in the kind of writing they want to do. For example, if they wish to sell a used car on an auction website, they will need to have the vocabulary used to describe cars and sales terms. Vocabulary can be everyday or more specialised. For example, although we may say a car “runs sweet as” when we are talking to a friend, we would need to consider more precise words for the advertisement, such as “runs smoothly, in good mechanical condition”.

Once learners have decided how specific the vocabulary needs to be, they can use a dictionary and/or thesaurus to find alternatives to words they use for everyday speech. Learners can work in groups to decide which words with similar meaning (synonyms) would be most appropriate in terms of formality and specificity for the specified purpose and audience. See also the “Clines” activity.

Language and text features

When learners need to write using a specific text type, spend time examining good examples of the text type and helping learners to identify the features. Identify the ways in which the purpose, vocabulary, and the language and text features are shown in the examples. For example, if persuasive writing is the focus, discuss how best to persuade an identified audience. Support learners to identify the level of formality required and whether this type of writing requires particular sentence structures.(for example, instructions may include simple bullet points that use the present tense). By doing this, learners can activate their background knowledge and anticipate the features of the writing.

Depending on the learners’ needs, you may need to spend some time exploring different sentence types. Many adult learners need support to develop their skills at writing sentences that are interesting or informative as well as grammatically correct.

Planning and composing

Brainstorming, discussion and exposure to related reading material all help to develop learners’ background knowledge before and during writing. When the learners are ready to construct their own texts, time should be set aside so learners can compose independently with a tutor available to help, clarify and consult.

Revising and editing

Peer reviewing is a good way to help learners become aware of writing for an audience other than you, their tutor. Learners who may not have the skills yet to review and edit their own work will benefit from being peer reviewed, as long as you have established a safe, supportive environment for this. Start by focusing on one or two aspects of the writing only, for example, “Did you understand my meaning?”; “What is the best feature of the writing?”; “What could I do to improve it?”

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