Writing Skills Workshop: Improving Literacy Learners’ Writing Skills

Another project that is on my mind for this year is a writing workshop for dealing with common kinds of writing texts and issues that learners face.


Here’s the basic idea:

Employ a structure that teaches a specific approach to writing

  1. Planning: Using free writing and mindmaps and other tools to generate ideas for writing; Organising and categorising ideas then outlining a structure.
  2. Composing: Writing well linked sentences and paragraphs incorporating relevant information or ideas.
  3. Revising: Revising the writing in terms of the writing skills outlined below.
  4. Editing: Proofreading using appropriate tools to correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation.

Create a bank of text types, scenarios, examples, and writing frames

  • Fill in a form
  • Write a note
  • Write a letter
  • Write an email
  • Write a handout
  • Write instructions
  • Write an advertisement
  • Write a response to situations vacant
  • Write an explanation
  • Write a short report
  • Write a long report
  • Write a Curriculum Vitae or Resume

Then develop a series of multi-purpose tasks and activities that focus on particular skill areas could be applied to any of the text types learners are working on.

Develop Skill Focus Activities with Specific Purposes

  • Purpose and audience: Achieving the task; using appropriate register and tone, providing relevant information.
  • Spelling: Knowing the words from the 1K, 2K, and Academic wordlists including lists of commonly misspelt words.
  • Language: Choosing words and groups of words appropriate to the writing context.
  • Punctuation: Using appropriate punctuation including simple rules for noun capitalisation, apostrophes, and commas.
  • Sentences: Using correct grammar; expanding and elaborating simple sentences.
  • Cohesion: Using correct links within and between sentences; following a clear sequence.
  • Ideas: Generating relevant, extended, and elaborated ideas with further detail including background information, examples, consequences, or results.

Initial set up

The first sessions would include:

  • Writing pre-tests including a sample of perhaps two short writing tasks
  • A brief survey on attitudes to writing
  • A short vocabulary diagnostics
  • The establishment of learning plans for the individuals or group.

All these resources would be templates created in advance with parallel tests for post-testing at the end of the training.


I’d like to have around 20 hours of instruction. And of this about half should be independent learning that extends the workshop and small group content. Over time, I’d like to build up enough examples and samples for different text types that would mean the workshop could be made to feel quite different each time it was run. The skills focus tasks would be generic so they could be applied to most or any of the different text types. Text types could be selected by the tutor, or based on learner needs analysis.

In terms of the workshop format, I’d probably do something like this:

  1. Welcome and lesson review including of independent learning tasks from previous session.
  2. Preview of today’s session and content: Discuss text type(s) under examination.
  3. Ten minutes free writing
  4. Self assessment relating to the day’s content
  5. Skills focus 1 (30 to 45 mins max)
  6. LN filler or fun practice activity
  7. Skills focus 2 (30 to 45 mins max)
  8. Extension or other complementary activity if appropriate or time allows
  9. Session evaluation and wrap up discussion
  10. Set independent learning tasks with clear outcomes due by the next workshop session.

The kind of independent learning tasks will vary depending on the text types and skill focus, but would probably be designed to encourage learners to use computers including the internet and a word processor to generate texts typically between 200 to 500 words long.

Workshop post-test

Following the roughly 20 hours instruction learners will undertake a post test in parallel to the pre-test they did at the beginning. There’s opportunity here for us in New Zealand to then line this up with the official writing assessment that is part of the Literacy and Numeracy for Adults Assessment (LNAAT) tool currently in place.

Connection to US 26622

Another opportunity might be to line the workshops up with Unit Standard 26622: Write to communicate ideas for a purpose and audience. This standard relies on learners generating a portfolio of evidence for assessment purposes and is part of the suite of literacy and numeracy unit standards that we use in New Zealand.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments.

Author: Graeme Smith

Education, technology, design. Also making cool stuff...

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