Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Creative Ideas for Business Writing

(a.k.a. How to make forceful emails and complaint letters enjoyable)

One of the classes that I've recently started teaching is a business writing course. It's a night course that the students take after they have finished working, and, as anyone who has ever worked a full day before going to a night class can attest, energy levels are pretty low at that point.

Unlike some of the material that has been provided for my other courses with this company, the business writing material is BORING. Moreover, there is a higher amount of grammar presentation time and a lower amount of discussion and group work situations created.

Since I'm taking over this course from another teacher, there are only two units left—but those two units are at least 4 weeks of class. My challenge is to find a way to And, from TEFLtastic with Alex Case, I found quite a few resourcesmake the learning of writing a fun process, or the next 4 weeks will be torture for all of us.

Last week (when we were talking about exerting pressure and writing complaints), on the spur of the moment, I changed their homework assignment. Instead of having them read the text and answer questions, they were supposed to email me a complaint about my teaching—fake or real. I've already received one very funny response, and I am looking forward to the rest.

I'm not sure what else to do, though. Here are some ideas I found that seemed appropriate for the situation. I am going to try to incorporate them in my lesson plans, somehow.
  • The National Writing Projects' 30 Ideas for Teaching Writing article had a lot of ideas, including:
    • ask students to “metawrite,” or to reflect on (and write about) writing by researching and examining mistakes (See this article for more info: “On the Use of Metawriting...”);
    • use yourself as a model for writing processes – basically, a think aloud where you show the students your mental process by clearly outlining it in from of them;
    • have the students write to an audience for real purpose instead for a hypothetical purpose, or, in other words, create more authentic situations for their practice writing; and
    • experiment with sentence length by instructing students to make the longest run-on sentence possible, and then, conversely, to fill a page with 4 word sentences.
  • Teach about Grice's maxims (this idea was found in the comments of this blog article). Modern business writing is about being concise and accurate. Keeping in mind the maxims (quantity, manner, relation, and quality) and giving students the language to achieve these maxims will be helpful. Flouting the maxims, however, is where the fun comes in.
  • Break the rules! Speaking of flouting, this suggestion on the TEFL.net forum seemed like it would be fun, as well. Sharon said “Something I do with my students is get them to write the opposite of a good letter. By thinking about everything that's bad, they become more creative. They do this in groups to share ideas. then they all look at each others letters.”
  • And, from TEFLtastic with Alex Case, I found quite a few resources:
I'd love to hear suggestions if anyone reading this has fun or creative ideas for teaching business writing. I'll try to keep you updated on these suggestions when I use them.