top of page


Early on, you need to get a sense of the previous literacy experiences of the students in your class, in both English and their first/other languages. The "Survey of Previous Writing Experiences," which is 3 pages and should probably be taken home and then brought back to class, gets at the following information:


- Life history and background (history of geographic relocation), languages in the student's repertoire, and proficiency in each

- The extent to which they see themselves as a writer in their first language

- The extent to which they see themselves as a writer in English

- How much they read (in any/all of their languages), as being an avid reader is predictive of being a good writer, regardless of the language, and basic principles for conveying your thoughts in writing can transfer across languages

- How much they read in English (speaks to the extent of their being able to process texts in English effortlessly)

- What they like to read (speaks to genres they are familiar with)

- Their past experiences with teachers who evaluated their writing (this is a long, open-ended question, and so the questionnaire should probably be taken home to give students the chance to answer it in depth if they want to)

- Whether they are familiar with the following writing tasks (a) in their first langauge, and (b) in English:

a) Writing to practice grammar and sentence structures

b) Writing to take notes during class discussions and lectures (requires listening fluency)

c) Writing to take notes while reading a textbook or article (requires study skills)

d) Writing a response to one text

e) Writing a synthesis of multiple texts

f) Timed exam writing

- Another long, open-ended question about needs analysis: "What do you want to learn from this class? What writing skills do you want to improve? Or, if you think your writing skills are already strong, is it just writing in English that you want to improve? Or, if you think your writing skills in English are already strong (e.g., diary, blog, emails), do you feel that you just need to learn how to do writing assignments for your major?" It is important to make these distinctions since writing is a very context- and genre-specific practice.


bottom of page