For many learners, copying from the board, is a major barrier.
Can we reduce the amount of writing we ask them to do?


WORKSHOPS - main page

If you have not already done so, read about barriers to learning and common barriers to learning before continuing.

Of all the activities that we ask learners to undertak in in the foreign language classroom, the act of writing - including copying from the board - is the most difficult. If we wish to avoid demotivating some learners by making heavy demands on their writing skills we may need to reduce the amount of writing we ask them to do. This does not mean abandoning all writing activities, for writing is a valuable part of the learning process, but it does mean that we should look very carefully at the purposes for which we want them to write.

We can begin by asking ourselves, each time that we want learners to copy something:

• Is there an educational reason for this task, or is it a matter of administrative convenience?
• What will the resulting script be used for? And will a poorly copied script be usable for this purpose?
• Is there another way of providing all or some of the students with their personal copy of the work you want them to record, thus making the copying task unnecessary?
• Failing that, would it be possible to provide temporary copies which could be placed alongside the learner’s script, thus making the copying task easier?

Here is a sequence of tasks To help you to look at this in more detail, in the context of your own class. At the end of the task you will find a copy to download and a worksheet to fill in.

The tasks should be carried out in the order shown

1. In the first column, list all the different types of writing that you ask learners to do in the course of a unit of work. Include any activity, formal or informal, where you ask them to write. If you are working with a colleague or using this workshop with a Department, you could brainstorm this part of the workshop. Try not to leave anything out. If they need to pick up a pen or pencil, the activity should be in the list. Alongside each entry, if the writing is usually in English (or other mother tongue), write L1; if the writing is in the foreign language, write L2. Or both, if necessary.

2. In the second column, write the purpose for which each task is set.

3. Review the list in your second column. Tick the activities that are essential parts of the learning process for every pupil. Put a cross next to any writing activities which are not essential to the learning process.

4. Reflect/Discuss: Could the activities with a cross be omitted? Or, can you suggest how the purpose of the task could be achieved in some way other than through writing? Note down these ideas in the third column.

5. Consider the activities you have ticked. Is writing really essential, or could the purpose of some of the activities be achieved in a different way that would involve less writing for pupils who find that difficult? For example, is it necessary for every pupil to write, or would appointing a notetaker fulfil the purpose of the exercise?

6. Assess the implications: Have you been able to reduce the amount of writing some pupils will have to do while in your classroom? Will learning suffer as a result? What are the implications for you and/or your department if some of the ideas you have generated were to be implemented?

7. Tick the alternative measures you could implement without delay. Decide when and how the other measures can be implemented.

see note on copyright

Download a copy of the workshop tasks


Download a copy of the worksheet


[27.4.10] Read John Bald's blog for his views on getting rid of copying:


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