Every ESL writing teacher wants their students to be able to communicate clearly in written English using standard rules of paragraph organization, sentence structure, and punctuation. The great mystery remains, however, about how best to provide lessons that will help students attain that goal.
Every ESL student will gravitate toward the method that best suits their own style of communicating, which can be problematic if that student becomes wedded to one particular way of expressing ideas rather than trying alternative strategies that may work best in specific instances. It is reasonable to present ESL students with the argument that, for example, a newspaper article, a recipe, a poem, and a love letter are all different types of writing which are created or developed in singular ways. Who could argue that the practical need to prepare a grocery list emerges from the same emotional starting point as a resignation letter? – see Letter Writing exercise for more classroom activities.
Of course, ESL students are not necessarily in need of taking part in a debate about various concepts relating to rhetorical theory, but ESL students at all levels can benefit from the practice of Copia or “copying,” especially at the sentence level. And from this practice, ESL teachers can not only show students how they can develop more flexible writing strategies, but they will also discover incredible potential for reinforcing important grammar concepts.
Curious? I hope so. I have used this sentence writing technique with high-beginner to advanced levels of ESL classes, and I think you will find the activity interesting and fun for all ESL students…and particularly convincing for those students who seek practical strategies for improving their writing.