I am always shocked by two things when it comes to model answers:
- Students ignore them in the coursebooks, never look at them, never borrow bits of language from them.
- Teachers don’t use them, don’t see the value, expecting students to magically be able to produce a piece of writing with almost no instruction.
Both of these are generalisations, but in the many years I have been teaching and observing teachers, both of these things come up time and time again.
This is just a little look at how we can use model answers to get students to notice features of language that they can use in their writing. It is really simple and totally applicable to any type of writing you can do.
I prepare worksheets like this all the time, one bonus of writing them yourself is that you can focus on exactly what you want. However, a lot of coursebooks now do exercises like this, focusing students on models. Even if they don’t, the coursebooks may have examples of text types and typical features at the back of the book. If you are teaching general English, Cambridge exam books can provide some decent models if you don’t have time to write them yourself.
Level: Upp int – Adv
Aim: raise awareness of what different elements contribute to a piece of writing
1. Ask students to read the model answer and decide if it is a good example or not, discuss in pairs and then whole class feedback
2. Ask students in turn to look for examples of:
- good collocations
3.1 Ask if there is anything that could be improved. Hopefully they will notice that there is some repetition
- ‘as’ and ‘however’ used twice
- It was felt
3.2 Ask if they can think of synonyms for these. With ‘however’ i ask them to rewrite using ‘although’
It was felt by some, however, that the experience would have been more productive if students had been given more time in each department,
Although it was felt by some that the experience would have been more productive if students had been given more time in each department,
4. You can do a synonym hunt for some of the vocab if you think your students will be unfamiliar with it, or if you have trained them how to do this, ask them to work in pairs on the meaning from context.
Obviously asking students to do some writing is a good idea, but i am a firm believer that it does not have to be a whole piece of writing. I would rather see one good paragraph written, with the students focusing on quality and using all of the target language rather than 250 words of mediocrity.