Checklists are nothing new. The following idea is very simple but I thought I’d share it as it has had a positive effect in my writing classes.
When I worked on an EAP (English for Academic Purposes) course last year, students were required to complete and sign a checklist on the front of any assignment they submitted. It included statements such as ‘the work hasn’t been plagiarised’, ‘I’ve used at least 5 references’ etc. I imagine the idea was that students were forced to acknowledge their responsibility. It also gave students the opportunity to ask for clarification when it included something they were unsure about and avoid unnecessary errors.
Back in the world of ELT, I’d grown a little frustrated with students, particularly the teenagers, underperforming in writing tasks. In my opinion, many students were failing to produce their best work for the following reasons.
- Many ignored simple task instructions such as word limits.
- Many showed they understood input like how to write in paragraphs but didn’t use these features consistently when producing their own work.
- Young children and teens’ work often appeared rushed. It was clear they did not check their work for errors.
- Students weren’t trying to recycle the language we’d learned in class and often fell back on lower level grammar and vocabulary.
- Sometimes presentation was poor as students failed to realise or failed to care about the impression this makes.
Inspired by what I’d seen on the pre-sessional course, I decided to try out the idea of a checklist in order to eradicate some of these issues. Here is an example of a checklist that I used for a Cambridge PET B1 level story task. This example is from quite early in the course and therefore focuses on general skills and presentation.
In subsequent tasks, I adapted the checklist depending on what we had recently covered in class. For example, if we’d looked at the past perfect or past perfect continuous or adverbs I’d include them. I’d also try to deal with any common errors such as subject-verb agreement.
My aim was that students would have to think more carefully about the work they were submitting. If they were able to avoid such common basic errors this allows me to focus on more specific errors. I also hope that by using this type of checklist consistently throughout a course, learners are building their own internal checklist which they will use on exam day.
I think this can be used at higher and lower levels if adapted accordingly. Here’s an example answer sheet with a checklist for a PET B1 Story. Checklist