Today’s guest post has been written by Robert Morris, an online tutor for ESL (English as a Second Language) students, writer and educator from NYC with a keen interest in education. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve always believed writing (and by extention, reading) is pretty essential when learning a language, so when he pitched the idea of a list of the best essay writing tools for a language learner, it goes without saying that I was interested. You can follow him on Google+.
Self-learners: while this article is written from the point of view of a teacher, and with teachers in mind, it doesn’t mean a self-taught student cannot benefit from many of these sites. Being creative is the first step towards being your own teacher!
Language learners are usually enthusiastic when it comes to learning new words and phrases they can use in real-life communication. Grammar is not their favorite thing. Writing? Teachers usually lose hope after the first essay assignment.
What makes this part of language learning so challenging? The biggest problem is the fact that the learners cannot see how these assignments are relevant for their progress. They are mostly interested in communication, so they can’t understand how academic writing is going to help them make connections with people.
There are few activities that language teachers can introduce when they want to make writing more fun and accessible for their students:
When you ask them to put the words they learned into practice, the students will be inspired to express their own style. You can use these types of assignments as an icebreaker that will lead towards more complex papers. I usually an abstract word I just explained during the class, so I use it as an essay prompt.
For example, let’s say you explained the word ‘feeling’. Tell your students to write a short essay on that topic, and the winner can get a prize.
Stories are always fun, regardless of the age of the students in question. Language learners usually respond very positively to this type of assignment. You can show images and ask them to write their own story based on them. This practice will help them build a good foundation for essay writing.
When you assign the first serious essay, ask your students to work in pairs. When they rely on each other, the students will be able to follow the instructions and complete better work.
Provide Proper Instructions!
So you asked your students to write an essay. You assigned a topic and briefly explained the structure of an essay. That’s not enough! Did you elaborate the pre-writing and post-writing stages? Did you explain the nuances of plagiarism? There are plenty of things you need to go through before you can expect your students to write good essays.
Try to introduce academic writing from scratch. Imagine that you’re working on your own project. Talk about each stage you go through before coming to the final result!
Top 8 Essay Writing Tools for Language Learners
Essay writing becomes much easier when you use the right tool at the right moment. Recommend these online resources to your students; they will help them construct better papers!
I discovered this tool when I was looking for a way to surpass a critical situation in my class: almost all students were bored by the first essay I assigned. I tried to explain how they could finally use their vocabulary and grammar knowledge to create a project of their own, but none of them was enthusiastic. Before telling you how Pixton works, let me clarify one thing: it’s mainly intended for younger learners.
First, you show a short interactive comic with blank speech bubbles. Print it out for each student, and ask them to think of fun dialogues based on the words they just learned. My students were hooked; they had their own speech bubbles ready in 10 minutes. This exercise was an important lesson: each essay can be visualized before the actual completion. When the students have a broad concept, it’s easy for them to fill in the blanks. That’s why it’s important for them to plan the assignment before approaching the writing stage.
There is only one certain way of making sure your students understand the structure and purpose of an essay: show a great example! Of course, you cannot present a piece by David Foster Wallace; famous essay writers are too complex for language learners. The best solution is to present a custom-tailored paper on the actual topic your students need to work on. This is the website where you can get it! The writers complete 100% unique papers based on the instructions of the users.
Don’t forget to explore the Ninja Essays blog. This section of the website is a great source of inspiration for both teachers and students.
As a language teacher, you are probably aware of the importance of collaboration. You’ll definitely appreciate Padlet – a tool that enables you to upload images, songs, videos, and other types of files on a virtual wall. Your students can collaborate on a team project through this platform. They can work on the essay during class, but they can also cover part of the work at home.
At this website, you’ll find graphic-novel style learning modules provided by Stanford University. Instead of relying on boring instructions and guidance through my own examples, I usually use these resources to boost my students’ enthusiasm. The first module is devoted academic language – it invites the learners to explore the way in which great writers use style and words to evoke different impressions and emotions.
As the students progress through the modules, they learn how to come up with their own arguments. The program comes with great interactive exercises that enable them to apply the knowledge they obtain.
It’s important to provide your own instructions, but you cannot take each student by the hand and explain what they should do next. If you recommend the learners to take part in this online course, you’ll delegate the most challenging part of your work. Of course, you’ll absolutely need to monitor each student’s progress.
Here is another way to use this online resource: you can be the one who learns from it! If your own essay writing skills are a bit rusty, then you cannot expect your students to master them. When you remind yourself what academic writing is all about, you’ll be able to guide the language learners through the process.
This is a smart strategy that not many teachers implement: you can make everyone more interested in essay writing if you engage them in academic conversations first. Set clear protocols and turn the class into a game. At this website, you’ll find videos that teach you how to make your students enthusiastic about academic conversations. When you’re done with this mini training, you’ll be ready to implement another method into your teaching practices.
Let’s say you assigned an essay on World War 2. If you allow a longer deadline, you can increase your requirements to a reasonable limit. For example, you can tell your students to find relevant photos and present them while they read the essay.
Bookr is a great tool for presenting such projects. It enables the users to create and share their photobook. They can collate photos from Flickr and write explanations to go with them. This may be a time-consuming task, but it’s interesting and it adds a new dimension to essay writing.
This is an awesome tool for students who are mastering the basics of essay writing. You can watch as they type, so you’ll be able to provide feedback without correcting their mistakes. Through this practice, they will develop an important personal quality: reflecting on their own mistakes and responding to feedback positively.
When you ask for an essay and you return it with red marks all over the paper, they approach the following assignment with great stress. LifeTyping makes the evaluation process much more comfortable. Your students will believe that they can complete a better paper when they follow your instructions. Don’t worry; it won’t be long before they start working independently.
Make Writing Meaningful for Your Students!
When you give purpose to the process of essay writing, you’ll immediately notice improvements in the results. All above-listed tools are focused on solving that problem. You can adapt them to students of different ages, so don’t be afraid to experiment.
Needless to say, our progress as teachers does not stop with these 8 tools. We need to explore new trends and upgrade our methods according to the needs, struggles, and preferences of new generations.