Writing in the Active Learning Classroom

WRITING in the Active Learning Classroom

Introduction

  • The writing activities done in a “regular” classroom can be made even more interesting/appealing/stimulating for the students in the Active Learning Classroom.
  • This document will provide ideas for many of the different writing activities teachers have their students do in a second-year course.
  • Many books written with the second-year English courses in mind and designed for Cégep students will provide clear instructions/models etc. Here is a short list:
  • Gaetz, Lynne. Goals: English for Academic and Technical Communication. Saint-Laurent: Pearson Longman, 2010. Print.
  • Quirk Drolet, Susan and Ann Farrell Séguin. Technically Speaking Third Edition. Montréal: Pearson, 2015. Print.
  • Van Drom, Andy. Become: Field-Related English Skills. Montréal: Pearson, 2015. Print.
  • 1. The Definition
  • Students from the same program can be divided into small groups of 4 and asked to find the definition of 5 words on their Professional Word List (they can use an online dictionary with an iPad or other device, or a paper dictionary). Then, with some information on how to write a good definition (see Purdue’s OWL website: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/622/01 ), they compose one extended definition and share it on the white board. The teacher can help students revise and each table can then share their definition.
  • Useful resource: pp.36-37 in Goals by Lynne Gaetz (2010)
  • 2. The Summary
  • Students are asked to read a text (either everyone reads the same one, or each student is given the task to find a text related to their own field – useful websites can be given) prior to class and to make a list of 5 key terms (or more) in it (define them), as well as 3 to 5 key elements the text mentions.
  • In class, the teacher can have students compare notes with a partner, and then write their own summary of the text. Key points on summary writing should be given. If the summaries are written in a Word document on the computer, they could be posted on a Padlet (padlet.com) so all students could have access and rate them. The teacher could comment on the summaries and point out important aspects to remember.
  • 3. The Report
  • Many students are asked to conduct a survey in their second-year course, and then write a report to discuss the results.
  • The survey itself could be done in teams with an iPad. Students could be asked to go around the college and ask students or/and personnel to answer the survey directly on the iPad (using a site like Surveymonkey.com, for example), and then come back to class and share their impressions.
  • Theory on Report Writing can either be assigned as homework or given in class, and then students can either be taken to the computer lab to write their report, or it could take another format by using the site Tackk.com (see list of “Useful Technological Tools”). Students could be asked to include graphs, photos, videos, etc.
  • Useful resource: pp. 66-69 in Goals by Lynne Gaetz (2010)
  • 4. The Review
  • Having students evaluate sources is essential, and having them express their opinion on a book or movie/documentary is also a good way to have them practice their writing and critical thinking skills. Later on in their university life, students will likely have to do this.
  • This link provides steps in writing a movie review, which could also be used for a book or magazine article: http://www.wikihow.com/Write-a-Movie-Review
  • Looking at examples (models) of what is requested of the students is very helpful. A teacher could start the class by showing two “models” from well-known sources (on the screens) and explain the different parts/aspects of a review. The review itself could be written in class or in the lab. One example of a review can be found here: http://skepdic.com/refuge/grandin.html
  • 5. The Resume and Cover Letter
  • Most teachers have students write their resume and a cover letter in the second-year course. Providing models for students and working on vocabulary used in resumes will be useful before starting. The class could be divided into small groups that could look at resumes that contain errors and revise them; evaluate cover letters; etc.
  • Useful Resource: pp. 14-23 in Goals by Lynne Gaetz (2010); also p. 152 of Become (Cover Letter Template)
  • 6. The Business Letter
  • The following model offers some good information on writing a basic business letter: http://www.write-for-business.com/sampleletter.html
  • Students could be given a model letter in which mistakes have been inserted, and revise it for punctuation, capitalization, formality, etc. This can be done in pairs. Then the teacher can have a corrected version that students can use to compare with their correction.
  • In a B-Block course, teachers will often ask students to write a letter of complaint or a presentation letter for a “mock” university application.
  • 7. The E-mail
  • Have students find a partner, and using either their own device (laptop or tablet) or the college’s iPads, log on to their e-mail. Then have them send an e-mail to their partner. The email can be a request or a thank you. The partner reads the e-mail and responds. Finally, the team prints or shows the teacher the exchange.
  • The following link gives a nice summary of e-mail writing: http://www.englishtown.com/community/channels/article.aspx?articlename=184-email
  • Students could also be tasked to send an e-mail to the teacher, thanking him/her for something specific, or requesting information. The teacher could rate the message according to some specific criteria (greeting, body and closing; verb tenses and capitalization). This could be used as homework or as a short writing assignment.