Tools to assess and assist ESL Students in a writing course

This presentation focuses on (1) using non-legal writing assignmenst as a control for assessing the ESL students’ writing skills, and (2) moving students from predictive writing, once learned, to persuasive writing. (1) How to use a non-legal writing assignment as a control for the students’ writing skills: If students write about a non-legal topic they feel strongly about, such as the environment, human rights, family, etc., they are usually not worried about the substance of the message, since they should feel confident about the topic and their message. Instead, they can better focus on how they present their message. With both English and non-English speaking students it may be difficult to discern when a legal document is poorly written because students have poor writing skills or because students are uncertain about the content of the message they are writing, which affects the presentation. By having a non-legal writing example from students the professor is better able to determine later, when students are writing a legal document, where the real problem lies. (2) How to move students from predictive writing to persuasive writing: Applying the same logic discussed in (1), working with something students are comfortable with, by using a prior writing, students are already familiar with the subject matter and can therefore better focus on learning persuasive techniques. Students are asked to convert different pieces of a predictive writing into a persuasive writing, and ultimately they receive a side-by-side chart comparing the predictive to the persuasive.
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