Writing an Application Letter
An Integrated Skills Unit
This six hour, integrated skills unit is intended for adult, intermediate, EFL learners. It is delivered in four sessions, each of which lasts 1.5 hours.
Upon completion of the unit, students are expected to be able to write an effective application letter. In the process, they are required to be familiar with the purpose, overall structure, and linguistic features of a job vacancy advertisement and an application letter.
Teaching and Learning Activities and the Rationale
The teaching and learning activities through the four sessions planned for this unit adopt the explicit approach in teaching writing that involve stages termed as ‘curriculum cycle’ (Hammond, 1992), Derewianka (in Gibbons, 2001, p. 60). The class activities in this approach include building the field, modelling the text type, joint construction, and independent writing.
Session 1, Building the Field
The first session is aimed at building the background knowledge of the topic. It will basically lead the learners to the knowledge of social context underlying the idea of writing an application letter. In other words, they will make it clear, why they need to write an application letter. The activities involved in the first session are mainly listening and speaking.
In this session, first the teacher distributes a set of pictures of different people with different jobs (appendix: session 1, activity 1). Using the pictures the teacher elicits students’ knowledge about them. He can, for example, points out a certain kind of job and ask students questions such as, What does the lady on picture number 58 do? If you want to have that kind of job, what qualification do you need to have? After you have got a relevant qualification, how will you apply for the job? Where can you find a vacancy advertisement for that kind of position? etc. This activity is a class discussion lead by the teacher and all students voluntarily participate in the discussion.
The above class discussion is followed by group discussions. Students are to form groups of 3 or 4. Members of the groups share to each other about the jobs they want to have, the qualifications they need to obtain, and the ways the will apply for the jobs. Finishing the discussions, one representative from each group reports the summary of their discussions to the class.
Session 2, Modelling the Text Type
The objective of this session is to introduce the purpose, overall structure, and linguistic features of a job vacancy advertisement and an application letter. After doing some listening and speaking activities during the first session, this time students will be doing listening plus reading activities. This second session is very important in that students actually start to see the kind of text they are going to write at the end of the unit.
The teacher begins this session by distributing a sample of a job vacancy advertisement. Then, he leads a class discussion to analyse the information contained in the advertisement. He is supposed to raise students’ awareness of what the advertisement is written for, how it is structured, and what key vocabulary items and grammatical features are prominent in the text. After that, two models of application letter responding to the advertisement are distributed. One model is constructed in a spoken style while another one is in written style. The students are to analyse which of the two models is more acceptable (appendix: session 2 activity 1 & 3).
The next activity is a cloze reading exercise. The students will be given an authentic job vacancy advertisement from which key vocabulary items have been deleted. Their task is to guess the missing words. The teacher will then read the complete version of the advertisement. Another exercise with similar procedure using an application letter responding to the advertisement concludes this session. See appendix: session 2, activity 4 for the cloze reading materials.
Session 3, Joint Construction
The preceding two sessions enable students to involve in listening, speaking and reading activities. Session 3 will be the starting point for a writing activity. This session’s objective is collaborative work between the students and teacher in the process of writing an application letter.
This session begins with an activity to ensure that students understand effective paragraph sequencing in an application letter. First, the teacher distributes an application letter each paragraph of which have been cut up and jumbled. In groups, students are to rearrange the jumbled paragraphs into a coherence letter. As the students finish this activity, the teacher reads the correct arrangement. The material to be used in this activity is in appendix: session 3, activity 1.
The teacher then distributes an authentic job vacancy advertisement (appendix: session 3, activity 4). The students are to carefully read the advertisement. Then, the teacher invites ideas from the class on how an application letter responding to the advertisement will be written. On a displayed overhead transparency, he writes down the students’ ideas. In case the students come up with ideas which are grammatically or lexically inaccurate, the teacher can reshape the ideas. However, the basic ideas should originally be from the students.
During this activity, students have the opportunity to see how the process of writing an application letter runs. For the teacher it is important to show what aspects to be paid attention in priority. For example, after first draft have been written down, he can lead the students to evaluate the effectiveness of the content of the letter. Then, he can review the paragraph sequence, followed by spelling and mechanics check.
Session 4, Independent writing
At this stage, students hopefully have developed the necessary vocabulary items and grammatical features which are essential in writing an application letter. They also are expected to have been familiar with the structure of the text and the process to write it. Session 4 is aimed at independent writing i.e. students write the application letter on their own. Before doing this individually, they will first practise it in group.
First, the teacher distributes an authentic application letter (appendix: session 4 activity 1). The students are to read the text carefully. In pairs, they have to write their draft of an application letter responding to the distributed advertisement. The drafts are written on overhead transparencies. When they finished, the teacher invites students to voluntarily display their work in turn. Then, the class will suggest improvement for the displayed drafts. This plan will benefit the whole class as they will see the possible common errors and difficulties found in their writing. This session is concluded by assigning students to find a job vacancy of their preference. They have to write an application letter to apply for the advertised job. This activity is to be done outside the class. Before submitted, their drafts will be discussed with their peers and be consulted with their teacher.
The teaching-learning cycle that integrates activities in listening, speaking, reading and writing planned in this unit provides students with scaffolding for the process of writing a specific genre. The process they go through before actually writing their text independently will equip them with background knowledge and linguistics features essentially needed for the genre. An effective application letter with minimum errors and sense of achievement and practicality that students build throughout the process are two integral goals expected to be achieved upon completion of this unit.
Gibbons, P., 2001, Scaffolding Language, Scaffolding Learning, Heinemann,
Hammond, J. et al, 1992, ‘The Teaching-Learning Cycle, in English for Social Purposes A Handbook for Teachers of Adult Literacy, National Centre for English Language Teaching and Research, Sydney.