ESL Writing Assessments

Instructor: Matthew Hamel

Matt has degrees in Journalism and Business and has taught a variety of courses at high schools and universities around the world.

This lesson addresses ways in which ESL teachers can assess writing from students of varying ages and English levels. It examines how mechanics, organization, and style all play a role in developing effective writing skills.

Importance of Writing Assessments

Writing is sometimes assigned less importance than other English skills in ESL classrooms. However, along with speaking, listening and reading, writing is essential to a comprehensive English training program. Students of all levels can benefit from being able to express themselves in a variety of writing forms. But how do you, as a teacher, assess an ESL learner's writing ability? Is grammar and spelling the most important part of a writing assignment? What about sentence and paragraph structure? While these are vital aspects of writing assessments, it's also important to look beyond the mechanics of writing and into the style and organization of a composition.

Mechanics of Writing

The importance of proper writing mechanics, namely grammar, spelling and punctuation, can depend somewhat on the type of writing being done, the learning objectives of the student and the desired outcomes of the teacher.

For example, in journal or diary writing, the primary goal should be expressing unfiltered ideas in a format generally free from harsh criticism. Therefore, grammar and spelling are not as important as getting thoughts down on paper. Too much insistence on proper writing in a journal or diary can actually stifle expression and creativity. In this type of writing, the clarity of the voice of the writer should be paramount.

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