Approaching Academic Writing in ESL Classrooms

Owen G. Mordaunt, Mireille Demian, Matthew McGuire


English as a Second Language (ESL) and English as a Foreign Language (EFL) students find themselves at disadvantage when enrolled in writing classes, generally known as Com I, Com II, and even Advanced Comp. these classes are required students who do not test out of them. ESL and EFL students generally struggle in writing classes due to different proficiency levels and native tongue influence, even if they were taught formal English grammar, language drills and exposed to grammar translation pedagogy. Knowing grammar does not automatically translate into writing ability. This is also due to communicating in diverse language backgrounds. In general, in academic writing classes, students are dependent on the instructor and his/her perceptions on what constitutes academic writing, for the role of the instructor rests on preparing such students to write at levels required by their prospective major fields of study. The instructor, becomes the targeted audience, so students are writing for the instructor. This is, therefore, not grounded in the students’ emotional needs. Students should be writing freely and in their own voice, so teachers should yield some of the control they exercise over student writing. Composition students prove to be successful when they are given their own space in guided free writing. Another issue involves assigned topics that do not relate to students’ backgrounds and experiences. In general, the Composition/Writing classroom, which in many cases is multicultural, presents a challenge to both students and instructors. However, instructors should endeavor to cater to ESL/EFL student needs by giving up some of their control and allow for freewriting accompanied by student voice. Writing topics assigned, even though challenging, should be those students can handle, be interested in, and even relevant their respective cultures backgrounds.