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Teaching Writing Purposefully

By Mubarak Abdessalami

             « La bęte noire » or "The bane" for both students and teachers is writing. All of my readers expect me to say this as it is almost always so that I define teaching and learning writing. The teachers have only to guide the students how to write, but they are the students who should do the writing through lots of practice in order to improve their abilities of written expression.

             We, teachers, do not really know what the students need exactly when they ask for teaching them writing. Maybe they hunt for a miraculous solution to definitively get rid of the phobia they usually have whenever testing writing makes its apparition. They know inside that what they are seeking is impracticable unless they endeavour themselves to find their way taking their teacher's guidance seriously. In this paper, I'll try to show how a part of their enigmatic question could be dealt with.

Cause and purpose paragraph writing

             Writing a paragraph about the "why?" of a topic requires fully understanding and deciding about what the paragraph is going to be about. I mean if it would be about "causes" or "purpose" because "why?" asks for both. The paragraph could also be hybrid but this is an assignment for advanced learners. To do this here is a simple lesson layout gradually inviting the learners to engage into writing.

Warm up & Review

Put the verbs between brackets in the correct form

1. Fred ought to (get) married soon.      COMPARE

2. Fred thinks seriously about (get) married soon.      COMPARE

3. Fred decided (get) married.      COMPARE

4. Fred is looking forward to (get) married soon.      COMPARE

Q : What is common about these sentences?

Answer why?

Why does Fred want to get married soon?


The Causes

Fred wants to get married soon because
he is old enough.
his parents said so.
he is single
he is a bachelor.
he has met a serious girl recently.
he has a good job.
all his friends are married.
he loves someone.
he is crazy.

The Purposes

Fred wants to get married soon so as to
leave his parents' house.
feel independent and free.
be happy.
live long.
have kids.
have someone to divorce.
have someone to do the housework.
have someone to help him financially.
give up smoking.
give up on bad habits.
to know what nagging is.


            There are two basic ways to invite the students to engage into writing the paragraph depending of course on their level of proficiency.

  1. The learners could take one of the sentences at the warm up stage as the topic sentence and elaborate on it giving arguments enough from the brainstorming stage to support it. Here they have to pay close attention lest they should mix causes with purposes.
  2. The teacher may want to read one of the following paragraphs and ask students to copy down the supporting details provided, but after the teacher has finished reading. Then ask them to read them out for the other students to recuperate the information they could have missed. After that the teacher may want to ask them to give alternative supporting details and finally ask them to write the paragraph in their own styles.

            As for the students who choose to write a paragraph about the causes have to use appropriate linking words such as, "because", "since" and "as" and so on in order to stress the reasons why Ted wants to get married soon. However, those who choose the purpose paragraph have to use the appropriate connectors showing the purposes why Ted needs to get married like, "in order to", "so as to", “"in order that", "so that" and so on.

The Causes

(1) When he is obliged to do that
        Fred should get married for several reasons. One reason is that because his parents insist on him to have a wife. Second, because he is an old bachelor. Third, Fred has to get married since all his friends are married. These are the reasons why Fred is forced to enter the golden cage soon.

(2) When it is his choice
        Fred has decided to get married for these reasons. First, he loves a serious girl. Second, he has got a job and a nice apartment. Third, Fred has decided to get married because all his friends are married and he didn't want to be the odd-one-out any longer. These are the reasons why Fred takes getting married seriously.

The Purposes

        Fred is looking forward to getting married soon for three basic goals; First, to have a family and kids of his own. Second, Fred can't just wait to get married in order to please his parents. Finally, Fred is eager to get married so that he can have someone to take care of him. These are generally the urgent goals that make Fred impatient to get married.


  1. Why do you need to learn English?
  2. Why do you love to live in a village or in a city?
  3. Why do you like to travel abroad?

Teaching Purpose expressions creatively [pdf]

Critical Reading