Better Ways to the Teaching of Personal Writing
Shirleen Aziza Ali
This article is adapted from a research assignment by a third-year student enrolled in the
University of the South Pacific’s course ED 350 Curriculum Studies II.
The current situation regarding the teaching
errors removed (the work is not graded),
of personal writing in many secondary
students can focus entirely on getting their
schools is that students are given a topic
ideas on paper. Research shows that if free
by the teacher (often one from a past
writing is carried out regularly, the quality
examination paper) and told to write.
of writing improves (Jacobs 1986:286).
The full process of writing (pre-writing,
Since personal writing depends largely on
writing and post-writing activities) is rarely
students’ imagination and creativity, free
explained. Students are seldom given any
writing is a good platform that can be used
stimulus in the form of models of good
to enthuse students to write.
writing or material that could arouse their
interest in the writing task. In a nutshell,
Stimulated writing
students are expected to write well but are
not given enough guidance or motivation
Stimuli in the form of music, pictures
to do so.
and film can motivate students to write.
“Listening to music without lyrics allows
This research was undertaken in order
students to use their imagination” claim
to explore what methods can be used to
Castillo and Hillman (1995:30) who carried
improve the teaching of personal writing
out a study in Columbia. The teacher selects
in secondary schools. The results obtained
a piece of music, plays it to the students
by reviewing articles on various methods
and asks them to write whatever feelings
indicate that there are many ways of teaching
or thoughts the music arouses in them. A
personal writing that can make students
similar method can be used with pictures
enjoy writing, want to write, find writing
taken from magazines, newspapers, books
meaningful and lead to an improved quality
etc. As a variation, Cuenca and Carmona
in their writing. The methods reported on
(1986:41) asked students to draw pictures
here challenge teachers to be innovative and
and then exchange them and write about
each others’ pictures. Finally the students
were asked to explain their own pictures.
Free Writing
This method not only encouraged writing,
but also listening, speaking and reading.
In this method, students are asked to write

freely on a topic determined by the class
Films can also be used to stimulate writing
or the teacher. Free writing “concentrates
in schools where this is possible. In a study
on content, not worrying about form,
conducted by Fluitt-Dupuy, students were
and writing without stopping” (Jacobs
shown a film and asked to write what they
1986:282). With the worry of making
thought about it. The study showed that
Pacific Curriculum Network 11 (1) June 2002

the students “not only constructed plots to
their thoughts and feelings rather than on
aid comprehension but also collected useful
accuracy and structure. Kerka’s (1996)
vocabulary for their writing” (2001:15).
research indicated that journals serve as a
source of ideas that students can later use in
Using models
compositions and that “… as students begin
to develop ideas recorded in their journals
Showing students models of good writing
gives them an idea of what to aim for.
in compositions, they will begin to work on
Research undertaken by Sorensen (1991:3)
smoothing out grammatical problems”.
and Baskoff (1981:2) shows that, when
students are given model compositions, they
Writers’ workshops
learn how to prepare a more focussed and
deeper response in writing.
Writers’ workshops promote safe atmospheres
In addition to the model, teachers can
for writing and let students know that their
give students a writing strategy worksheet
writing is important. The emphasis is on
designed to guide students as they write. This
writing freely, creatively, and using the
requires a good deal of work on the teacher’s
imagination and personal experiences.
part but, once done, such worksheets and
While organising such workshops is time-
models can be re-used.
consuming, they are worthwhile.
Creative Writing
Publication of students’ work
Personal writing includes not only narrative
Students’ work can be ‘published’ in the
and descriptive writing, but also creative
school magazine, in a newsletter, on the
writing. Gaffield-Vile (1998:31) maintains
notice board. Having their work published
that “creative writing is a journey of self-
discovery, and self-discovery promotes
is an incentive, and shows that the work is
effective learning”, and he concludes that
appreciated and valued. Talented artists can
when “students were taught to write other
be asked to illustrate the work.
forms of text like haiku poems or short
stories, their standard of writing improved
Process writing
Many teachers pay little attention to the
Pen pal letters
process of writing. The emphasis on the
product ignores the fact that composing is a
Some teachers may be able to organise pen
process of thinking, exploration and revision.
pal exchanges for their students. According
In some types of writing assignments,
to Hennigan (1999:41), the more students
however, teachers could treat their students’
exchange letters, the more their writing
writing as a first draft and encourage them to
improves. Such a real life situation can
edit and revise, following the teacher’s text-
motivate students as it is meaningful
specific suggestions regarding organisation,
content and style. Peer editing can also be
done. Once the students are satisfied they
have revised their work as well as they are
Like free writing, journal writing is ungraded,
able, the work can be collected again for
allowing students to focus on expressing
Pacific Curriculum Network 11 (1) June 2002

Fluitt-Dupuy J. Winter 2001. Teaching
Argumentative Writing through Film.
These methods of teaching personal writing
TESOL Journal 10 (4):10-15.
can be adapted and used for teaching other
Gaffield-Vile, N. 1998. Creative Writing in
types of writing. They are good means of
the ELT Classroom. Modern English
enthusing students to want to write. With
Teacher Journal 7 (3):31-36.
a variety of methods and an enthusiastic
Hennigan, H. 1999. Culture Matters:
teacher, children can become competent and
Penpals to keypals. Modern English
creative members of a literate society.
Teacher Journal 8(2):41-44.
Jacobs, G. 1986. Quick Writing:A tech-
nique for inventive writing. English
Language Teachers Journal. 40(4):
Baskoff, D. 1981. A New Look at Guided
Writing. English Teaching Forum
Kerka, S. 1996. Journal Writing and Adult
Journal. XIX (3):2-8.
Learning. ERIC Digest. ED399413
Castillo, R. and G. Hillman 1995. Colum-
CEO72517, No 174.
bia: 10 Ideas for Creative Writing in
Sorenson, S. 1991. Encouraging Writing
the EFL Classroom. English Teaching
Achievement: Writing across the cur-
Forum Journal XXXIII (4):30-31.
riculum. ERIC Digest. ED327879, CS
Cuenca, C.M. and R.F. Carmona 1986.
Spain:An imaginative Approach to
Teaching Writing. English Teaching
Forum Journal XXIV (3): 40-43.
Pacific Curriculum Network 11 (1) June 2002