As we have already discussed now and again, CELTA is one of the initial teaching qualifications to do, if you want to have a more structured way of teaching and be eligible to apply to high-class language schools.
It tends to be that passive skills are actually getting less attention in the classroom than they should, hence, here we will be talking about some writing activities that I have learnt to use during the CELTA course I was doing a couple of years ago. They are quite intuitive and well structured and will help you better envision the end result/the learning goal for your audience.
We’ll be looking at different stages of a writing lesson (a short story writing) and come up with ideas/activities to apply in teaching them.
Stage 1 — Lead-in
The idea of a lead-in is for the students to get more insight into the topic at hand, generate interest, create some associations to better compile with the tasks later on. Lead-in should be light, shouldn’t take a lot of time and it should be fun to do
Ask the students what short stories they’ve ever read. Post the titles on the board. Ask the build-up questions below;
- What did you like about the story?
- What was the most interesting part for you?
- What would you change in the story if you could?
Conduct this as an open class activity for the students to develop some implicit understanding of what the basic structure of a story is and how one can make it interesting for the reader.
Pick a short story that is very well known among your target audience. Ask open class questions to encourage the students to brief what it was about.
- Where did the events of the story happen?
- Who were the main characters?
- Was there a problem/conflict in the story? What was it?
- How was the problem solved?
This will also get the students implicitly think about what key points should be included when writing a story.
Stage 2 — Model text
Well, this is an optional activity, but I do encourage you to use this if you have enough classroom time. Normally I teach a writing lesson within two sessions (40 mins each) or set the model text as homework to save classroom time for more practical tasks.
The idea of a model text is for the students to see a real sample of writing which will help them later create their stories more professionally. You can choose a story that is well known among your students to avoid dealing with the new context.
Set the students in pairs/groups, ask them to read the story and divide it into main logical parts. For that sake, you can print the text without any paragraphs. This will help the students differentiate between new ideas, hence new paragraphs.
Next, ask the students to come up with the structure of the story. They can brainstorm this in pairs, or you can ask them to work individually. Avoid posting ideas on the board, as most probably students will not have come up with the correct structure and you don’t want to risk posting not very correct information on board. Once all the ideas are shared, go ahead and post the structure of a story:
- Setting of the context — where the story is happening, who are the main characters (if applicable), how the story starts;
- Culmination — how the events are building up;
- Climax — what the main conflict is;
- Resolution — how the conflict is solved;
- Ending — lessons learnt, summary, conclusion.
You can also draw a graph for more visual learners.
Stage 3 — Language work
At this point, students are working on the language that can help them create the stories using specific wording/phrases to sound more sophisticated, fluent and cohesive.
You can use the model text to do this by asking the students to highlight the linkers and fillers used in the text (and, then, however, so, fortunately, while, suddenly, etc.) This will help the students get acquainted with the language they’ll be asked to use in the text.
You can decide to develop language out of context by giving them an exercise containing the target language. You can see the recent one I used in the picture below.
- From that point on
- At that time
- As soon as
- From that point on
Stage 4 — Content preparation
At this stage, students brainstorm on what the story is going to be about. You can get as creative as possible here to make the process more enjoyable. I normally do one of the things below.
Set the students in pairs, give them the title of the story, the names of the main characters, and the place the events will be taking place. Students will need to come up with a storyline. This is the easiest one as there is little to no preparation time for the teacher and it leaves the students to act upon their creative natures.
Prepare a set of pictures you want the students to be working with, Set them in parts and ask them to brainstorm on what the story will be about. They can draft ideas as to the main stages of the story, the names of the characters, etc. You can see one of my favourite picture stories below.
Stage 5 — Writing
At this stage, students actually start to write down the stories they’ve come up with at the stage of brainstorming. It’s best to set students in pairs to work as it will be easier and more interesting. The person on the right should be the writer for the partner to see what he is writing. You might want to choose the weaker student as a writer to have them also participate in the creation of the text. Otherwise, the strong student will take over.
Stage 6 — Feedback
Feedback is the stage where the students have a chase to look at what they’ve come up with and how relevant it is for the task.
There are two feedback stages: feedback on content and feedback on language.
What CELTA teaches you first, is that feedback on content should always come before feedback on language. This is because first, it’s important for the students to see whether they have achieved the task, how relevant the text is. It’s a good idea to praise good structure and context as well as the communicative nature of the text in general. Moreover, if you start with positive feedback, students will be more ready for constructive feedback later on.
Once this is done, you can follow up with feedback on language by focusing on the common mistakes in general and discussing them in open class. As for individual mistakes, they can be discussed privately with the students or set as homework for the whole class to try and fix without mentioning whose mistake it is to save face.
A good thing to try is to have the students read each other’s stories first and give feedback to each other on how interesting the story is, what they could have done to make it more interesting, etc. This will boost communication and teamwork in general.
Well, here are some basic things that CELTA teaches you do follow up when delivering a writing lesson. Try them out and let us know how it went.