I’m working on this right now myself. I’ve been working with a private student on getting ready for the IELTS exam. First, I did my research on the exam to figure out what would be required. I asked him whether he would be taking the academic or the other IELTS (I forget the name right now, but it’s the non-academic test). He will be taking the academic one, so I studied the instructions and examples for that one, which is a pretty focused task–analyzing and describing a chart or graph on some topic. So, I game him a practice writing task with a chart and asked him to write a passage for practice on this chart. Unfortunately, this particular student didn’t do it, and I then proceeded to give him the Jerry Mcguire-“help me, help you” speech. He still hasn’t done it, so I’ve been focusing on the other skills for the test.
Based on what I have seen when focusing on other skills with him, his English level overall is pretty advanced, and he has quite an extensive vocabulary. I’ve worked with other Taiwanese students on their writing (my M.A. is in writing, and therefore I get asked to do this). So, I know some generalities that I can apply even if he doesn’t do it. Mainly, if they are at a level where they can write a decent paragraph, you don’t have to spend too much time on vocabulary. Here’s how I would split up the time:
Five percent of the time at the beginning: a certain vocabulary set which I think they will need the most for their particular test. After that, I will try to use and practice that vocabulary in every class thereafter.
Twenty-five percent of the time Focusing on getting them to notice and correct certain common, often low level errors that even advanced Taiwanese students continue to make. So, you might want to focus on some of those. Here’s some that continue to plague them:
a) subject verb agreement
b) singular and plural of nouns
d) connecting sentences, thoughts, and ideas without overuse of certain connecting words and conjunctions (hence, therefore, moreover)
d) unclear use of this/its/their/they’re to refer back to something. (for example: Whacky-thing-a-ma-jingers and bootely-boops both require extensive and sophisticated examination. This one also requires three dedicated modules for processing. (It’s unclear what “this one” refers to)Many native writers also have this problem.
Seventy-five percent of the time
Most of their problems, and therefore your time, should focus on their organizational skills, and getting them to brainstorm, organize, and think about what they’re going to write before they write it. This is their worst problem, and the most difficult to stamp out. They are too well-programmed to just start writing immediately. You may have to physically take away all writing tools and materials for awhile and have them think it through (you can be in charge of writing down ideas on the board). Show them some passages with different alternatives for organization-general to specific, specific to general, etc. and then get them brainstorming on ways to organize an assigned topic.
This last one is the real doozy and the bane of all Taiwanese students writing problems. Unfortunately, it is easier said than done to work on this problem, and takes serious patience. Not to be judgmental but observational here, their whole culture trains them to “just do it” and not to take any time for analyzation, reflection, musing, etc. So this naturally gets reflected in their writing.
Well, these are generalities that I’m still working on myself, but hopefully it gets the ball rolling.