by Julie Petersen
Learning English as second language is no small task. Languages are involved, complex and complicated, and it’s impossible to master ESL writing skills overnight. However, there are plenty of ways ESL students can improve their skills. And with a little guidance and practice, anyone can achieve success.
1. Start with guided prompts.
For beginning ESL students it’s beneficial to start with partial sentences that you are required to complete. Eventually you can move into more general prompts, such as questions. These will help ESL students with cultivating more creative, free writing, and will also help with overall reading and writing comprehension.
2. Use friends for peer reviews.
This goes for ESL students, as well as for any student working on their writing skills. Before you submit a piece of writing you will always want to have another set of eyes take a look. This is often easier done with peers, and can be a good way to gain constructive feedback from someone who understands your current learning process.
3. Read your writing out loud.
Reading and writing work together, and to truly evolve your ESL writing skills you will want to practice reading your writing aloud. It’s easy, even in our native language, to be too familiar with one’s writing. You can miss mistakes when you read silently to yourself. Always give your writing a run through you can actually hear.
4. Use online writing resources.
Purdue Online Writing Lab – The OWL Purdue online writing community is an all access pass for ESL students and teachers. The “lab” is specifically designed for ESL learning and offers study guides and essay examples, as well as grammar and mechanics guidance.
AskPetersen – This blog is an excellent source of everything you need to know about writing in the English language. Search through hundreds of informative and relatable blog posts, writing samples and reviews and look for answers to any writing questions.
Essay Editing – This professional online service not only scans your writing to be sure its 100% original, it also checks spelling and grammar mistakes and works in 6 different languages.
Pizzaz – This online source has been up and running since the 90’s and is still one of the best resources for ESL students. The site offers creative writing and oral storytelling activities to help develop more complex skills.
ESL Resource Center – This online network offers fun activity ideas for peer reviews like role play and dramatization practices, as well as offering business geared activities and beginner specific prompts.
Vocabulary.co – This online resource contains 1,000 English vocabulary-building games and is a great way to expand your ESL writing and language skills. Games focus on syntax, suffix, spelling, word play, prefixes, compound words and more.
5. Understand your own strengths and weaknesses.
ESL students will usually have a certain area in which they often make mistakes. Habits are natural to form, and even in our native languages this is an excellent writing tip. If you want to improve your skills, you will have to know where they are lacking. You may spell every new vocabulary word correctly, or have great ideas, but perhaps you lack the proper structure and punctuation. Make a list and reference it often.
6. For every mistake, remember to note an accomplishment.
For every critique or mistake made in your writing, try to also note a positive point. Perhaps your punctuation was perfect, but you did not use the correct verb tense throughout your writing. Don’t be discouraged. Remember you have made strides forward and are learning a new language. It’s a lot to absorb and everyone learns in different ways. For every con, find a pro.
7. Practice on your own time.
If you do not have a writing assignment everyday, then make time to practice on your own. Your teacher may have assigned a vocab lesson, which means you will not be practicing writing only single words. These are good times to allow at least 10-15 minutes of essay writing practice, and will help you study the new vocabulary in the process.
Every student has his or her own specific learning style. And for ESL students, it’s important to remember that the process takes time. Do not be disheartened if you are not at the top of your class, and do not let mistakes stop you from achieving your goals. Use the tips and tools listed above and start improving your English writing skills today!
Julie Petersen is a private English language tutor and a freelance writer. As the author of AskPetersen essay writing blog she regularly publishes valuable guides, samples and resources for students. Check one of her latest blog posts about EssayTigers. Contact Julie on Linkedin.