Last night I saw Alan Rickman in “Seminar” on Broadway. It was all about writing, the process of writing and what it takes to be a good writer. The play was OK – not brilliant but not bad – but it did get me thinking about writing and teaching writing. In my opinion, this is the under taught skill. Students don’t like to learn it and teachers don’t like to teach it. And yet we don’t want to end up with students who don’t write well – especially for those students going into an English academic setting.
At the NYS TESOL convention last month, I attended a wonderful workshop by Michael Perrone that had some great ideas for pre-writing, as well as some fun writing activities to do in class. One that one of our participants tried recently in her class was ‘Chat Room’.
First the teacher should model. To start, the teacher writes a sentence on the white board, for example “I like to travel.” The students then need to call out a question about, for example “What’s your favorite country?” The teacher then writes the reply “My favorite country is Guatemala.” The students then verbally ask a question about this new sentence, for example “Why do you like it so much?” The teacher then writes a reply. The students then ask a question about this new sentence, and so on. So the end result is something like:
“I like to travel. My favorite country is Guatemala. I like it because there are so many different things to do and see. One of the most interesting places to visit is Tikal. Tikal is …”
Once the students get the idea, model this again with a student writing on the whiteboard, and then split the students into pairs so they both get a chance of writing their own paragraph.
The students all end up writing a paragraph (or more), but it has been a collaborative process, with the other student(s) speaking. It’s a fun way to make the writing process communicative and communal, as well as providing a system for creating a logical sequencing of ideas within the paragraph.