The Four Domains of Language: Writing

Writing is critical language skill that most teachers have students do, but few teachers show them how.

On this page, John Kongsvik reviews what writing is, what it involves, and how to develop it in the classroom.

Teacher interacting with a student

What are the four domains of language? ​

The four domains of language (or the four skills) are the four ways that we interact with language.  We speak and listen; we read, and we write. Of these skills, two of the skills, speaking and writing, are considered productive skills since we create language with each of these. On the other hand, listening and reading are described as receptive skills because we are receiving the from an outside source.  This is important to know because the type of skill (or language domain) it is determines how to support its development.

​Writing:  A Productive Language Skill

Definition:  Writing is communicating through the written word.

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What Writing Involves

TESOL Trainers Four Domains of Language - Listening
  • Putting thoughts and ideas into words in written form.
  • Knowing how to form letters and to combine them into words.
  • Knowing & using the appropriate vocabulary, spelling, and grammar to convey meaning.
  • Knowing and using the appropriate form for the type of writing (e.g. lists, paragraphs, letters). 
  • Knowing and using the appropriate form for the audience (e.g. formal or informal).
  • Revising, editing, and publishing

What Qualities does an Effective Writing Lesson Have?

TESOL Trainers Four Domains of Language - Listening
  1. The teacher considers students’ needs and chooses to focus on:
    1. Mechanics (e.g. Spelling, punctuation);
    2. Organization (e.g. Paragraphs, salutations, topic and support);
    3. Content and style;
    4. Vocabulary;
    5. Editing (for grammar and cohesion).
  2. The topic is of interest to students.
  3. There is an audience other than the teacher.
  4. Students do more than one draft.
  5. Students revise, edit, and correct errors.
  6. Students’ work is read and responded to by others (there is an audience).
  7. Shows students models of good/poor writing and gets them to discuss why.

Typical Writing Activities

Girl in classroom writing on paper
  • Draw and describe: Students create an image & describe it with key words.
  • Sequence and summarize: Students order events (dates/words/pictures) and write them.
  • Change it up: Students alter something about a text (point of view, vocab, descriptions).
  • Graphic Organizers: Students use graphic organizers to plan and write a text.

The Four Domains of Language

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