Thursday 11 August 2011

Short writing activities for exam classes

Writing is one of the most difficult parts of the English exam for non-native speakers. While they are coping with speaking and reading tasks quite easily, writing exam may cause much distress and anxiety to a number of students. Teachers can do a lot to help their students to prepare for the exam.

Here are a few suggestions how you can raise students' confidence by using short and effective writing activities.

1. Expand the sentence
Write a short sentence on the board and ask your students to expand it by adding adjectives, adverbs, intensifiers, modifiers, clauses and so on. Ask your students to build a pyramid of the sentences in their copybooks and after they have run out of ideas, ask them to read their final (longest) sentence and vote for the best one. This activity can also be done orally, then the sentence "travels" round the classroom until it is complete, i.e. no more words can be added.
Example: The boy ate a sandwich ✒ The hungry boy ate a big sandwich ✒ The hungry little boy ate a big ham sandwich ✒ The hungry little boy hurriedly ate a big ham and cheese sandwich ✒ In the kitchen, the hungry little boy hurriedly ate a big ham and cheese sandwich and asked for more, etc.

2. Write a chain story
Tell your students that they are going to write a ghost story (an adventure story, a crime story, a love story, a horror story etc). Write the first sentence of the story on a sheet of paper and pass it on to the nearest student who then writes the second sentence and passes the sheet on to the next classmate. Each student writes one sentence.
To involve more students simultaneously, put them ir groups and give the same starter sentence to each group. In the end read and compare the stories.
Starter sentences: It was a dark and stormy night... / Somewhere in the house a floorboard creaked... / The house looked abandoned and bleak but...

3. Write the opening sentence
Tell your students the topic of an essay for which they have to write the opening sentence. Give them 3-4 minutes and then ask them to read their sentences. Discuss which was the best and why. Be prepared to read your own sentence.
Example: Surveillance cameras are a threat to citizens' privacy.
Variants of the opening sentence: a) Today surveillance cameras are everywhere b) Today citizens are being watched, spoken to, and analyzed by CCTV cameras c) Surveillance cameras are used for prevention of disorder or crime, etc. 

4. Associations
Tell the students one word, eg. yellow, and ask them to write a quick sentence describing their accociations with the word or the first thought that comes to their mind when they imagine the word.
Example: I was standing in a huge field of sunflowers and listening to the hum of bees.

5. Picture description
Display a picture on the board and ask your students to write all the words that they can think of while looking at the picture. 
To give the task some structure, be specific - first ask them to write nouns (the easiest category), then adjectives, verbs, adverbs and finally ask them to make up a long sentence using the words they wrote down. As usual, listen to the sentences read out by the students and pick the best one.
If you have time, you may ask your students to write a longer description of the picture or invent a story based on the scene. A variant of the story: Describe what happened before the moment in the picture.

Sample photo:
The image was taken from my favourite website where you can find fantastic pictures on any topic.

Here is a brilliant website for you and those students who would like to spend more time on developing their writing skills:

You may read my older post about developing writing with the help of journals.


seburnt said...

Some valuable and easy to implement ideas for short writing I'll be sure to consult during my new semester. Thank you.

Micheal Alexander said...

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