"In a wonderful way, the classroom is not the "real world"; it is a world which is consciously created and held. As teachers, we're responsible for this special space, for the creation and maintenance of a secure and palpable atmosphere in which students are free to take risks, be comfortably confused, and to observe their own minds and insights. What can help us create this vital space is an active awareness of what our students naturally bring with them: intrinsic creative resources and a shared humanity. They enter our classrooms complete and multi-dimensional, vivid mosaics of experiences, desires, and perceptions. It's all there, waiting to be called up — in this case, with the help of the English language."
This was how writer, teacher and coach Carolyn Morrow introduced her highly enjoyable and productive workshop "The Vivid and Particular: Creative Writing and Other Language Experiences" for the Munich English Language Teachers Association last week. In the workshop, we tried out several short, preparation-free, generative activities that can get your students (and you) putting pen to paper and calling up those "intrinsic creative resources".
For many of us, getting something down on the blank sheet of paper is the first and often major hurdle to writing, so regularly including short, evaluation-free writing exercises in English language classes sounds like a good way to make that first obstacle seem less daunting.
Here I have adapted one of several activities that we tried out in that workshop.
Who it's for:
What it's for:
Removing barriers to writing, getting ideas flowing, writing practice
What you need:
Any issue of Spotlight, although the February 2014 issue has more on writing (see below).
What you do:
Hand out copies of Spotlight, one per student. Tell your students to get a pen and paper ready, and to write at the top of the page (or spaced out down the left-hand side) the words "an article about ...", "a picture of ..." and "something about ...".
Give the students two or three minutes to browse the magazine, as if they were in a doctor's waiting room. There, they may have to wait an hour, but they might have to wait only two minutes, so it's worth flicking through a magazine first before making a choice about what to read.
After the few minutes are up, ask your students to put their magazines on the floor and to list what they saw under the three headings. Give them a couple of minutes to do this. Encourage them just to write, and keep writing. Grammar and full sentences are not important here, but the visual impressions are.
Put the students in pairs to share what they've written. Encourage the listeners to ask "tell me more" questions. Then give the pairs time to look through their magazines together. Either give more time for students to choose one of the articles or columns to read in class, or lend them the magazines to read at home.
In the workshop, we did this listing activity based on sounds we had heard that morning, and things we had seen on our journey to the workshop.
In the February issue of Spotlight,
we feature the IELTS writing test.
You'll find lots of tips for improving writing skills in English. We also have a competition to win an IELTS test place.
Be sure to tell your students!
*The next Try it Out will appear on Monday, 10 March.