14 September 2013

Informal Writing: Scaffolding Beginner ESL

My Year 11 class are working on informal writing. As part of their IGCSE assessment, they have to to be able to write using appropriate register and style. This involves their being able to interpret the question in order that they are able to identify the correct language to use. It means they also have to have the language ability to choose the correct diction, tone and formality level.

Last week, we worked on PAT - Purpose (why), Audience (who) and Text Type (what) and they had a go at identifying these three things in a number of different tasks. This means they have some skills at begin able to unpack a task and make decisions about how to format their answer as well as the kind of language they need to use.

Informal letters are a common assessment task in the IGCSE exam. Planning backwards from this final outcome, I designed the following lessons.

Build vocabulary: I found an image of a beach with plenty of things going on and asked learners to label it.

After a minute or so, I provided a list of words to expand and support their learning of vocabulary.

We then discussed the words and the labels using a blown up labelled version I had prepared and laminated. We discussed spelling and pronunciation for words such as 'island' and 'buoy'.

Sentence Work: Next, learners were given a set of 12 cloze activity sentences using the words covered and the image.

Listening: learners swapped their sheets as I read the answers and they marked each other's work.

Writing: learners then had to write three sentences of their own using the image. Learners working at a higher level were asked to develop their sentences to include two objects; use connectives; use prepositions etc.

Reinforcing: we discussed postcards and went over the PAT. I had a postcard to show them as a concrete object to hang their understanding off.

a) Skimming: I gave them an example of the text from a postcard (personalised with names from our class in). I asked them to skim read to get a general idea.
They then read it again more slowly to underline words they didn't understand before moving on.

b) Scanning: They had some basic multiple choice questions to answer about the content. We talked about knowing that proper nouns and names of cities and countries are capitalised as a way of scanning to find this kind of information.

c) Scanning: Outside the classroom, I had stuck up 15 examples of real postcards. Each was numbered 1-15 and had an image of the actual postcard, with a typed up version of the text beneath it. Learners were given 5 minutes to run around to each postcard and scan to find out where each one had been sent from. They recorded each place on a sheet next to the number of the postcard.

We returned to the room and checked our answers.

d) Scanning: Learners were sent back out again to look for more specific details: patterns of language for greetings, saying goodbye, common phrases and common topics. Beginner learners were also provided with some examples for each.

Again, we returned to the room and went over our answers.

Writing: using this learning, learners then had to write a suitable reply. Scaffolding was provided for those who needed it:

Finally, learners then had to write their own postcard from a place of their choosing to a person in the room. This again, was scaffolded for beginners.

They will plan out their responses in their books then I will provide them with an actual postcard to write on to.

They will deliver it to their classmate, who will craft a suitable response on another postcard (I picked up a load of free ones in a bar).

Part two of this lesson involved speaking and listening using FOTOBABBLE. Read about this here.

Following this, we will move on to informal letter writing. More on this to follow.

Lesson designed with ideas from 'The ESL/ELL Teachers Survival Guide' and TeachitWorld.com.

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