Activities for Teaching Writing to Young Learners

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Activities for Teaching Writing to Young Learners

When we learn a new language, writing is often the last skill we focus on. Listening and speaking take priority, and reading can be integrated into textbook exercises as we learn grammar, for example. Writing may be neglected because of persistent myths about what counts as writing (beliefs that only academic essays are writing) or fears about making errors (which are more visible than errors made while speaking). These misconceptions may derive from first-language literacy learning experiences. In many contexts, writing may be neglected because it is not included on state and standardized tests, whereas the other skills are. As I noted in last month’s post, when learners don’t feel like they’re writing for a real audience, they become less interested in continuing with writing. Writing becomes boring, and when it’s boring, we don’t want to practice it.

This post focuses on ways to make learning to write in a new language fun and engaging for young learners in particular, although most of these activities would appeal to older learners as well. By “young learners” I mean children under about age 12, who are still in primary school.

A key feature of young learners is that they are often still developing their literacy abilities in their first language, which means that they cannot draw on as much prior knowledge about text structure or rhetoric as older learners can. Young learners often have a shorter attention span and less awareness of their own future goals and needs than older learners. They are also still dependent on their family for guidance when they are outside of school, which means they are less likely to be able to seek out language models and practice opportunities on their own. Nevertheless, young learners are ready and eager to learn how to write in a new language.

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