By Claire Woodall
With the aim of making my lessons as dynamic and engaging as possible, I’ve often found myself overlooking one key skill area – writing. I perceived writing activities as being too time consuming and solitary for class time, and perhaps even a little boring, so I would opt to give writing tasks as homework and then mark the work to give back to students a couple of days later.
However, having tried to address this imbalance in my classes, here are some ideas for teachers who can perhaps relate to thinking of writing as the neglected skill. These ideas are for collaborative writing activities, so they involve interaction between students. They can all then be followed up with a collaborative self-correction stage too.
1) Sending an email/letter/postcard and having another classmate write a response (maybe a problem and advice activity).
If you provide students with a handout with a designated space and set a time limit, students get a good idea of how much they are expected to write. Once both stages have been written, classmates can find their pair and correct the two texts together.
2) Weekend plans
Students interview each other about their weekend plans and then write a weekend schedule for each other. Again, this can be followed by students swapping and error correcting together.
Instead of the normal Monday/ Friday warmer of speaking about their weekends, students have this conversation in pairs by just writing down what they would say. After about five minutes ask the students to read what they have written so they can spot mistakes and then correct them.
4) Conditional chain game
Give each student the beginning of a conditional sentence (for example: If I was invisible for the day…) and ask them to complete the sentence. Once you have checked their sentences, ask the students to pass their paper to the person next to them (in a circle). The next student starts a sentence with the second part of the first sentence, with the conditional structure appropriately changed, and then finishes it with their own ideas, for example:
If I was invisible for the day I would break into Buckingham Palace.
If I broke into Buckingham Palace, I would steal the Queen’s crown.
If I stole the Queen’s crown… etc.
Continue until each student gets their original paper back. Collect papers, choose 10 -20 sentences with mistakes in, and type them up into an error correction team game for the following class.
5) Capital letters
If students continually forget to use capitals when they are writing you can try this task:
First, board a sentence with incorrect capitals: (for example: i love david beckham, especially when he plays for tottenham.); get the class to correct it; elicit when we use capitals; and finally provide them with an uncapitalised text and get them to work in groups to find out how many capitals there should be.
Just some simple ideas, but I hope they might be useful if you haven’t come across them before.
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