Без категорії

Great Writing Class Activities that Save Time

Today I will post only 5 activities for writing by  Keith S. Folse  ( keith.folse@gmail.com )

University of Central Florida and tomorrow I will post the rest of the article.


Most Common Writing Teacher Ailment:  “Tired writing teacher syndrome”:

Teacher assigns  *

Students write  *

Teacher reads (and reads and reads and grades) *

Students re-write   * OR students toss away

What do other teachers do?  What do non-ESL teachers do?  Math?  Typing?  Biology?

Do you think they spend their nights correcting papers …. ?  NO WAY!!!


Activity #1:  (NEW FORMAT)  Semi-Open Paragraphs


AN OLD FORMAT:  VERY Guided Paragraphs

Traditional exercises of this type ask extremely specific questions such as:

  1. What is your name?
  2. How old are you?
  3. Where are you from?
  4. How long have you lived in Tampa?
  5. Do you have a big family or a small family?
  6. How many brothers and sisters do you have?


The final product is limited in creativity and resembles a cloze exercise.

My name is —.  I am — years old.  I am from —, but I have lived in Tampa for — months.  I have a — family, with — brothers and — sisters.


BETTER, MORE INTERESTING, MORE TEACHER-FRIENDLY exercise for writing a narrative paragraph.  The following questions are used as a ‘guide’ to give the writer ideas for forming a narrative paragraph about a personal experience.  These questions follow the flow and organization of a paragraph.  By answering the questions, students will end up with an organized piece of writing featuring topic sentence, supporting details, and a concise conclusion.  (These questions are for an intermediate class, but you can adapt the questions.)


  1. What was the most terrible thing you did as a child that you were punished for?
  2. Did you do this alone? If you were with someone else, who were you with?
  3. How did your parents find out what you did?
  4. What was your punishment?
  5. Do you think that your punishment was too severe or too lenient?
  6. After your punishment, did you ever do the same thing again?


Activity #2:  Building Better Sentences

We need to push students to go beyond simple sentences with no real adjectives, phrases, or additional clauses.  “Try harder” is futile.  You need to include this IN the lesson.


Sentence A (Great Sentences, p. 237) Sentence B (Great Paragraphs, p. 241)
1.  There are books.

2.  The books are rare.

3.  The books are in the library.


1. You will need a quart jar.

2. The jar must be clean.

3. The jar must have a tight lid.

4. You will need some tape.

5. You will need some water.


Your new sentence:



Your new sentence:




Activity #3:  Editing ( a.k.a. Grammar for Writing)


Editing exercises need two things:

  1. the type of errors (Remember:  you are TRAINING students to edit for certain errors!)
  2. the number of errors (If not, students tend to go wild with all sorts of error IDs)

(EXAMPLE:  see pages 111-112, From Great Paragraphs to Great Essays)


More grammar focus:  (from Top 20, 2nd Edition, p. 115)

(REMEMBER your students’ ultimate focus is probably NOT ESL)


For a new Internet business, a good e-business plan should to offer detailed answers to basic questions.  To begin, the planners need to determine if an Internet business will meet the needs of a group of customers.  Furthermore, the planning process should provides planners with information that can helping them to identify and select groups of potential buyers, direct development of the online product or service, as well as the promotion, pricing, and distribution effort.   FROM:  BUSINESS (college book)

Activity #5:  Doing What Your Non-ESL Colleagues Do = CLASSWORK

Keep students on the same page LITERALLY more than you usually do = LESS WORK


Body Art

(From Great Paragraphs to Great Essays, p. 26)

Young adults choose to get tattoos for a number of reasons. Some carefully select a design for its artistic value. They may even create the design themselves. Some get tattoos to make a rebellious statement. Political views or expressions against the status quo are common examples of tattoos, especially on young people. Many people like to get tattoos done on their lower back. Some tattoos have special meaning to the owner. They may represent a variety of things from a lover to a deceased relative. Some people get tattoos in order to look better. For instance, some use tattoo art to cover up scars or as a way to get permanent makeup.     ___________________________________________




Activity #6:  Advice Columns:  (Reading) the Writing on the Wall

(TESOL Journal, Winter 1993/1994, Vol. 3, No. 2, p. 37)


  1. ALL students do a short piece of writing on a similar topic / assignment. Typing / Word processing of the assignment is preferable.  Whether typed or handwritten, all students MUST double-space their work (to allow for ease of reading and–later on–correcting).

One possibility is to have students read a “Dear Abby” or other advice letter and then write a reply to the letter writer.  However, it can be any assignment, but it should be very specific and should be short (no more than 3 paragraphs or 300 words).


  1. Students should not write their names on the front of their paper. They should write their initials or nicknames on the BACK of the paper only.


  1. Collect all the papers. Number them with a vivid magic marker from 1 to X.


  1. Post the papers all over the classroom walls. No student names are visible, only paper numbers.


  1. Give each student a response sheet/form of some kind with SPECIFIC questions about the content of the written work. Ask about CONTENT/MESSAGE, not just grammar!

For example, if students wrote a response to a Dear Abby letter, here are sample questions:


  1. How many paragraphs did this person write? ________________
  2. In one sentence, what is this writer’s advice to the letter writer?
  3. Does this writer’s opinion agree with your opinion? If no, tell how they are different.
  4. Did you find any spelling mistakes? If so, write them here.  (Put the line number, too.)
  5. Did the writer give specific reasons for his/her opinion? Write ONE of the reasons here.




  1. Have each student vote for the ONE (or two or three) best papers.


  1. Teacher: Pull down the papers from the wall and mark the papers (with grammar, mechanics, or content comments).  Attach any student papers about their papers, too.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s