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TEFL Lesson Plans

Writing Activities

 

Introduction:

Of the four skills we teach our learners, writing, along with speaking, is productive and is usually done towards the end of a lesson.

This is not a lesson plan as such but rather three writing activities that can be used at most levels that can act as fun alternatives to the usual writing tasks that many learners are given such as:

First Activity: Chinese Whisper

This activity is sometimes known as "Consequences", but it is also a version of "Chinese Whisper".
The teacher writes a sentence and secretly shows it to student A in the class.
For example: "The cat climbed up onto the table."
Student A has to draw it.
Student A gives their drawing to Student B who looks at the picture and writes their own description of what they see.
Student B gives their written description to Student C who draws it and so on.
Now do feedback and see how far from the original sentence your learners have come.

There are positive and negative things about this activity, which as a teacher you need to be aware of:

Positive points:
It is a fun and enjoyable activity!
Your learners are using descriptive language.
They must make a complete sentence, which may be complex as the level of your class allows.
They must focus on spelling words correctly.

Negative points:
Only one student is doing the work at any one time.
The other students in the class may become bored.
Some students feel that they are not good at drawing.
Some students don't get to write.

Things to think about:
Depending on the size of your class you could put your learners into small groups of four or five.
Give a time limit to the drawer and the writer.
Do this activity twice, making sure that each student in the class has an opportunity to do writing as well as drawing.
Put the original sentences on a small card, which you show only to the first student in a group.
Make sure that the students in each group cannot see the drawing and the sentences until it is their turn. You may need to move students to different parts of the class in order to accomplish this. Perhaps when it is the student's turn to draw or write, they have to come to the front of the class to do it, so that the teacher can monitor.
Perhaps you could do this on large sheets of paper. When a drawing is done or a sentence is written, just fold the paper over, making sure no one else can see it.
Make sure that the language is appropriate to all levels.
Make sure to do feedback on all the activities.


Second Activity: Making Sentences

Put these words on the board and tell your learners to write five sentences. These are the rules:
You can't change any of the words (past tense verbs remain past tense verbs)
You can't add your own
You can repeat them
You must make five sentences that make sense
Can your learners link the sentences together so that they make sense?

Pronouns: I , he, me, we, it

Past tense verbs: sent, took, said, met, spoke, wrote

Plural Nouns: letters, flowers, parks

Stative Verbs: remember, love

Prepositions: to, in

Past Auxiliary Verbs: was

Other useful words: never, how

Here are some examples:
I remember how we met.
He wrote me letters.
He took me to parks.
He sent me flowers.
We met but never spoke.
I never said I was in love.

Although this is a controlled practice activity, your students will find it fun and challenging.
Think about how you are going to arrange your class.
Will your learners work alone or with a partner?
You know your class well enough. Is it possible to put a weaker learner with a stronger learner?
Remember to do feedback with the class looking at all the work your learners have done.
Some sentences may be nonsense but are they grammatically correct?
Can you award points to your learners for the most interesting or most accurately constructed sentences?


Third Activity: Running Dictation

Write or type a list of sentences on a sheet of paper and place it somewhere on the wall in the classroom. If you are brave enough, and you think you wont disturb other classes, place the sheet of paper somewhere outside the classroom. Make sure that it is placed at eye level, as you will want your students to be able to read these sentences without difficulty.

Put your learners into pairs and make sure they have a blank sheet of paper and a pen or a pencil between them. Now get them to decide who will be the first "Writer" and who will be the first "Runner".

Explain to your learners that one person from each team will run to the paper (wherever it is situated) and look at the first sentence and memorize it. Then they have to return to their partner and whisper the sentence to him or her, who writes it down. When finished, the writer becomes the runner and the runner the writer until all the sentences have been transferred from your sheet of paper to the pad on which your learners are writing.

As always there are rules to your activities (games):
The first to complete all the sentences will receive a prize (it's up to you to decide what you will give them).
The person that is running cannot write. This is important and all those who cheat will be disqualified.
Your learners must whisper (or speak softly) as clearly as possible so that their partner can understand what to write down.
Your learners must write the sentences down in the same order as you have written them.
Accuracy is an important feature of this activity so spelling and punctuation is very important.
Your learners must not cheat. They cannot touch the paper they run to or prevent others from seeing the paper. This is a strange point to make, but you'd be surprised how many want to cheat in this game.
Tell your running learners to be careful when running. You don't want them collide into each other, especially if they are running out of the classroom and down the hall if you have placed your sheet quite a distance away.

An alternative to this activity is to place everyone in the middle of the class (make sure that all desks and chairs have been removed first) in a circle looking out. The runner runs to various points of the classroom wall where you have blue-tacked various cards with sentences on them.

How you set up this activity depends so much on the size of the class and the teaching environment.

Before doing this activity you need to think carefully about what you write on the sheet of paper.

What are you going to write on your paper?
How many sentences are you going to write on your paper? (10 - 12 is ideal)
How will you use the sentences that your learners write down?
Is this a grammar-based activity or a skills-based lesson?

Here are a few suggestions:

Get a story or a magazine or newspaper article and put each sentence out of order. After the running dictation activity, your learners will have to write out the sentences in their correct order. Remember things like paragraphing. If you are creative, you can write your own story or article.
Write sentences using different tenses. After the running dictation activity, your learners can work with a partner and decide which tense is being used.
Write sentences using different functions. After the running dictation activity, your learners can work with a partner and divide the sentences into their different functions. You may have to give your learners a few hints and do some examples on the board
Write a collection of "Conditional" sentences. After the running dictation activity, your learners can work with a partner and write out the sentences into four columns, each column representing the four different Conditional forms. During feedback, your learners can decide which tense each clause uses. This activity is not good for lower level learners as many of them may not have been introduced to Third Conditional structures.


This is a great activity to do with your class for two reasons:
If you prepare a handout for your learners and the photocopy machine has broken, you can do the running dictation activity instead of writing it out on the board. It's much more fun and interesting than having your students copying down from the board in the traditional teaching fashion.
This activity practices all the four main skills:
Reading
Writing
Speaking
Listening
In addition, you are getting your learners to use their memory and you get them out of their seats instead of having them sat still for 90 minutes.


Conclusion:

These are just three fun writing activities you can do with your learners. Use your imagination. See what you can come up with. Remember, it is important to focus on the reason why you are doing this activity. There has to be a purpose and as a teacher you need to focus on what you intend to achieve in your class. Make sure that you always do feedback and that all of your students can benefit from what writing activities you do.