Prepare both ideas and lexis before a writing activity

My tip is the same as the previous one, with writing in place of speaking:

Tip: Before a writing task prepare BOTH ideas AND lexis.


Let’s take writing an email as the example as it’s the most common writing activity.

In coursebooks the preparation before writing an email is often: a) a model and b) some bullet points re content to help the student get started. Fair enough. But I suspect that very often teachers just leave students to process this information on their own before they start writing, and if they set it as a homework task then the students will certainly do the preparation alone.

I think that the writing task is easier and more fun for the students if at least some brainstormy preparation of ideas is done in class. They can work in groups of three to discuss:

  • a few more details about their own role: who they are, the nature of the company they represent
  • a few more details about who they are writing to, and that company, and why they are writing.
  • a few more details about the paragraph structure, and what will be in each paragraph
  • etc.

As for preparation of lexis, the model in the book will contain some key phrases, and there may be others in a box on the page, and students will look to these as their primary source. However if you feel there isn’t enough language on the page to get the students started, then elicit and feed it in yourself. Here’s what to do:

Look at the model in the book and think about the function of each paragraph, for example it could be referring to previous contact, asking for more information, giving information, requesting help, promising action, closing in a friendly way etc. Now then, you don’t necessarily need to write these functional headings on the board, but you can say: This next paragraph is asking for information – what other ways are there to ask for information? And what other kinds of information can the writer ask for in an email like this? The first question will elicit functional phrases, and the second topic lexis. Write them on the board, reformulating and extending as you go.