Whether it's in your first or second language, writing is a hard skill to master. Each language has its own unique language conventions that don't always translate across others, making teaching writing as a second language educator especially difficult.
Writing in another language takes a lot of practice, explicit teaching and requires student focus and attention; that's a lot to ask from us as teachers! So let's delve into some of the strategies I use to teach writing to my junior French Immersion students that have proven to be successful over the years. Using these strategies will engage your students in the writing process and help them feel a little more confident when it comes to writing in another language!
BACK TO THE BASICS
Regardless of the writing level your students come to you with, it's important that when you’re approaching writing you start with the basics. Depending on the level of your students, this can look like a simple review or a deep dive into specific concepts. You simply can't expect your students to excel in writing if they are struggling with constructing their sentences. My approach involves using the acronym POMMES (punctuation, orthographe, majuscules, masculin et féminin, écriture, singulier et pluriel) and reviewing each concept independently over the course of 6 weeks. This way, your students can focus on one concept at a time and you can help them master skills appropriate for their grade level before providing them with a writing task that challenges them in all of these areas. Check out this POMMES editing poster to get started!
EXPLORING THE WRITING PROCESS
Once your students have mastered the basics, they're ready to begin working through the writing process. What's neat about the writing process is that it truly does translate to all languages as writing is a process that is unique to each individual. When looking at the writing process, it's important to recognize that each student WILL work through it at a slightly different pace; while we hope that this is within reason, rushing students through the writing process can cause them to become reluctant writers, something that we want to avoid at all costs.
There are FIVE steps to the writing process that you can walk your students through.
1. La planification: This is where your students are free to brainstorm, research and create a plan. This is arguably the most fun stage of the writing process, and by getting your students excited about this step the more invested they will be in their writing task.
2. La rédaction: Here, students begin to string together their ideas and come up with a rough draft of their writing task.
3. La révision: This is the step where you'll want your students to look at their work as a whole. As the teacher, this is the PERFECT time to conference with your struggling students to make sure that they are understanding the task and are on track with their work. I often encourage my students to read their writing aloud - it's amazing how many mistakes and corrections they notice when they have to use their voices to self-assess their writing!
4. La correction: This is the part where your students need to breakout those coloured pens and start really marking up their rough drafts! Step 4 is the perfect opportunity for you to also introduce peer editing (click here for a free French Peer Editing Anchor Chart!) and have your students exchange their work with a friend to receive some constructive feedback on their writing piece.
5. La remise: Welcome to the exciting part! Have your students breakout their tablets or computer and starting typing their good copies up. This is an exciting time for your students, because it's the final step where all of their hard work comes to fruition. I encourage teachers to celebrate their students' writing wherever possible - anything from displaying their work to having an opportunity where each student gets to share what they've worked on creates a positive learning environment for writers who are engaged & excited.
If you're looking for a great visual of le processus d'écriture, make sure to check out this awesome GIANT PENCIL & French Writing Process Posters product on Teachers Pay Teachers.
SUPPORTING STUDENT ENGAGEMENT
It can be challenging when a student comes to you and says that they "don't know what to write". My #1 tip for creating a classroom of engaged writers is to include your students in the process of generating writing ideas or topics.
So, how do you do this? This is a great time to simply ask your students about their interests or things they would enjoy writing about. You can use a digital format like a Google Forms document, or if you're teaching in person have a little writing suggestion box somewhere in the classroom where your students can come and drop their ideas. Check out these French Morning Meeting Prompts that can be used each morning with your students to get them writing in their journals about a variety of fun topics! Engaging with your students about writing is a great way to help them feel confident and enjoy the writing process.
FINAL THOUGHTS & SOMETHING TO HELP YOU!
Writing is definitely tough on both teachers and students, but I hope your students feel more confident in their writing abilities with these tips and strategies. With lots of practice and exposure to French vocabulary, you will have excellent and strong writers in no time! If you're looking for a great resource to get you started, make sure to take a look at this Back to the Basics: French Writing Bundle for all of the resources mentioned in this post & more!