One section of the text book my pupils use deals with the school system in the US and Britain, and I thought that could be a good point of the departure for a writing assignment. I like teaching factual text writing, so I thought it would be interesting to introduce the pupils to this and use this for their writing.
I chose two competence aims to work toward:
- write different types of texts with structure and coherence
- discuss and elaborate on the way people live and how they socialise in Great Britain, USA and other English-speaking countries and Norway
I decided to use two texts in the textbook about the school system and school uniforms as a basis for my teaching. My goal was that the pupils should get to know about the school system in these two countries, think about what they thought of students wearing school uniforms and give their opinion on it, and know how to build a coherent and structured paragraph (they were told in the assignment to write two paragraphs), and how to use connecting words.
I allotted three lessons to preparations and teaching and the pupils spent the fourth lesson writing. We brainstormed words having to do with school, read and worked with the texts, and worked on how to create a good paragraph starting with a clear topic sentence. The pupils were allowed to use the work we did at school to refer to in their writing assignment.
After working on topic sentences at school and as homework, I gave the pupils an example of a paragraph. We also talked about what a good paragraph contains, and what to avoid (for example contractions). In addition, we had a brainstorm at school about positive and negative sides to having to wear school uniforms.
The pupils were given the task and the criteria the day before the writing assignment, and were allowed to bring keywords to school the next day, but not a finished text. Since this was their first attempt at writing a factual text and give their opinion on a topic, I wanted to focus more on the structure and content of the paragraphs, instead of whether the pupils find arguments on the spot. Many were nervous about the writing assignment, since this was the first time they were to write something in English and be graded on their effort, and being allowed to talk about the task beforehand, lowered their anxiety somewhat.
I wish I could have spent more time working on topic sentences and how to follow up with examples. The pupils could have used more practice at writing paragraphs that followed this pattern. Even one more lesson could have made a difference, as the pupils could have written a paragraph about another topic at home, and we could have discussed their attempts at school the next day. For some students who struggle with English, it was a bit difficult to manage to make a topic sentence, as well as following up with examples and using connecting words. Even so, most of the pupils managed a pretty good first attempt at giving their opinion on whether or not they thought pupils should wear school uniforms at lower secondary school (Consensus: they don´t).