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Teach Improved Writing to Intermediate ESL Learners

written by: Audrey Alleyne • edited by: Linda M. Rhinehart Neas • updated: 8/2/2012

Sentence variety and word repetition usually pose a problem in writing for ESL students. Here are some strategies to adopt for an ESL high intermediate first writing lesson.

  • slide 1 of 2

    Word Repetition and Sentence Variety

    Impress on your students the importance of editing and proofreading what they have written. Next,

    • Provide students with some sample sentences which illustrate the problems of word repetition and sentence variety, and assist them in revising and editing these sentences.

    Word Repetition

    • Instruct students to study the sentences and point out which words are repeated. These are probably the words which they themselves consistently use in their writing. Some of these are I, have, the, and there.
    • Invite students to work at changing the sentences around by using another word or using a conjunction such as and or but to combine them.
    • Following this, give your students the opportunity to write some of their own sentences, examine them for first word repetition and revise them.

    Let’s take for example these instructions above. They could have been written in this manner:

    • Provide them with some sample sentences which illustrate the problems of word repetition and sentence variety, and assist them in revising and editing these sentences.
    • Have the students study the sentences and point out to you which words are repeated. These words are probably the words which they themselves consistently use in their writing. Some of these words are I, have, the, and there.
    • Have the students work at changing the sentences around by using another word or using a conjunction such as and or but to combine the sentences.
    • Following this, have your students write some of their own sentences, examine them for first word repetition and revise them.

    Observe carefully the repeated use of the word them in the first strategy; the repeated use of the word have and the at the beginning of the second and third strategies. In strategy three, the sentences are repeated when the pronoun them could have been used as was done in the official instructions. In strategy four, the word have is once again repeated, when another word like give in the official instructions could have been used.

    You can provide your own sample sentences and encourage students to practice as often as possible, since practice makes perfect. Explain to students that using various synonyms to represent a particular idea, avoid boredom for the reader.

  • slide 2 of 2

    Sentence Variety

    Do the same as you did for the first exercise.

    • Provide students with a sample of a paragraph, which lacks sentence variety.
    • Once again, point out to students how a lack of variety in sentences makes for boredom in reading.
    • Assist students in revising the sentences by adding conjunctions to combine two sentences. This lengthens them and avoids a series of short simple sentences.
    • Invite students to read both versions and observe how much more interesting the revised version sounds.
    • Now, students should try their hands at writing their own paragraphs observing the strategies pointed out and revising the paragraphs with the assistance of the teacher.

    These exercises make for an informative and interesting ESL high intermediate first writing lesson.

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