Writing is a specific skill that is absolutely essential for academic communication. Some students enjoy writing and find it useful. Others dislike or directly hate it, are afraid of it, or see no point in writing. Negative feelings surrounding writing have various reasons and that is why it may be difficult for teachers to eliminate initial reservations of students.
Here is an activity that can help students not necessarily love but ideally see and accept writing as a natural part of their studies and work. This activity offers a different perspective. It invites students to the world of writing, especially if their writing culture is different to that of English. Students can learn about different structures and organisations of academic English texts, they can get to know some useful vocabulary or concepts and, if we are lucky, they do not even notice how much they have learnt.
The activity is called “Find a Song”. Students are instructed to go to the Internet and look for songs that are related to the topic of academic writing (or specific area we want them to focus on). They should choose one or two songs and share them with the others (students can post links to a discussion forum or to any other space the group shares).
Here are some examples of what songs they can find:
(Adapted from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MNsH0RW7lvM)
The Internet offers some great songs and an enormous number of terrible, weird and embarrassing songs. Both types are equally useful for our purposes because students can see the world of writing from a new perspective and may find a more funny and enjoyable side of it.
The “Find a song” activity can also have a relatively minimal effect on our face-to-face teaching time. The activity can finish in class with just a follow-up discussion or it can continue and students can be asked to work with results of their search more (in or outside of class).
We can ask them to vote for the best song, for the craziest song, for the best lyrics; or for whatever else. The reason for this voting task can serve just to make sure students watch most of the songs and spend more time being exposed to the topic of writing in this way, which is why the subject of voting does not have to be focused on writing at all.
We can also ask students to focus on writing and vote, for example, for the most useful song; for a song that brings most relevant information; or for a song that explains the topic most clearly; this usually depends on what collection of songs we get.