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Category Archives: Editing

Chain Story Activity

Image

(Photo taken from http://flickr.com/eltpics by @sandymillin, used under a CC Attribution Non-Commercial license, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/)

This activity was inspired by a great blog post by Rachael Roberts on ELT Resourceful on Collaborative writing activities. In the post Rachael mentions circle writing (or chain writing) activities and states she is “not actually very keen on this activity. It can have some amusing outcomes, but I wonder what exactly the students are learning, as the process rarely produces a coherent or cohesive outcome.” I also had the same issue with chain stories, it was hard to see the point to them! However, the students did seem to enjoy them, and it got even the most reluctant writers getting something down on paper. So I decided to try and find a way to make them work for me, and this is what I came up with. It is a simple solution but it has always worked well for me.

Aim: The class will collaborate on several stories and then edit and redraft to come up with (hopefully) coherent (although probably at times bizarre) stories. I like to use a guided chain story with prompts which can be found in many photocopiable resource books (the Reward series have a couple), or you can make up your own with the class.

Level: A2+

Task:

1. Carry out the chain story (I always remind the students to write clearly because another student is going to have to read their sentences afterwards). Set a time limit for students to complete the question before saying change and asking the students to fold the paper over and pass it to the person on their right. Monitor as they do the activity to check they have understood the questions and their sentences are answering them.

2. Once the last question has been answered ask the students to pass the paper one more time to the right. Tell the class that the paper they are now holding is their story and they are responsible for it.

3. Ask them to unfold the paper and read the story. If there is anything they don’t understand encourage them to find the person who wrote it and ask them to explain.

4. Now explain that they are going to redraft this story into a text. The text must be connected and logical. They can add information but they have to keep the facts of the story the same as they have on their paper. Ask them to try and make the story flow. Set them a time limit to complete the task.

5. When they have finished the stories it is nice if everyone has an opportunity to read them since they have all contriuted to them. If you have a class webpage or wiki they could be uploaded there, or you could stick them up around the walls of the classroom and the students could go round and read them. You could even vote on which was the funniest, strangest, etc.

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A (Creative) Writing Editing Checklist

Aim: I find it useful to give students a checklist before expecting them to edit their own work, or indeed to undertake peer correction. The following checklist is from a creative writing module I taught. It can be adapted for almost any level or any type of writing. It can also be personalised for individual students and added to over time so it reflects errors or problems that they make. Over time it will serve as a memory jogger for common problems.

Level: A2+ (when adapted)

Worksheet:

The first time you write something is only the beginning to get your ideas down. That is the fun part! After that, the hard work begins… Here we will look at three main areas: paragraphs, grammar and vocabulary.

Use this checklist to try and make your writing as accurate, clear and as interesting as possible. First make notes on your first draft and then write the piece out again.

Paragraphs

Have you used any paragraphs? Have you used them in the correct places?

There are three main places where you would start a new paragraph:

  1. When you change location or time.

For example:

…..After they finished dinner, Jane was shattered and so headed off to bed to get an early night. She was asleep before her head hit the pillow.

The next morning the sunlight through the thin curtains on the window woke her early….

2. When you change to a new idea.

For example:

…her eyes met his and she smiled, a spark of electricity passed between them. His brown eyes reminded her of her father.

She still missed her father even now, ten years after his death. She thought about him every day….

3. In dialogue (start a new line every time someone speaks)

For example:

“Hello?” she called “Is there anyone here?”

Her voice echoed in the darkness. Suddenly she heard heavy footsteps behind her. Before she had a chance to turn she heard a gruff male voice.

“Who are you and what do you want?”

*Remember, when you start a new paragraph you need to start a new line and indent.*

Grammar

Grammar is very important in making your ideas clear. You should know the errors that you often make and be checking for these. However, here are some common errors:

  1. Missing/too many verbs.

Does every clause have one main verb?

X He a big man.                                  X He has is long hair.

2. Using the correct tense.

Generally, when we write prose we use the past tense, but this could be past simple, continuous or perfect.  Also, when we write dialogue that could be in the present tense. You need to check your tenses agree after you finish writing.

3. Using the correct word form.

Sometimes you will be using the correct word but the form will be incorrect, for example nouns instead of verbs and adjectives instead of adverbs.

X She walked slow home.                   X He gave her lots of good inform.

4. Missing articles.

You need to be careful to include articles. Remember, normally the first time we mention something we use ‘a’ and then after ‘the’.

For example:

There was a young girl who lived in a forest. The girl was very beautiful.

5. Your own problems.

Do you have another grammar mistake you often make?

Write it here:

_____________________________________________________________________

Vocabulary

Your vocabulary is what makes your writing come alive and be interesting. Especially when creative writing – you need to use creative words!

  1. Repeating the nouns.

Try not to repeat nouns too much, use pronouns instead.

X  At six o’clock the man entered the bar. The man sat down and ordered a drink. The man drank quickly.

2. Repeating adjectives/adverbs.

Try not to repeat adjectives or adverbs either, it is boring! There are thousands of words in English, try and find some new ones. Check your writing to see if you are always using the same vocabulary to describe things.

3. Using boring adjectives/adverbs.

Boring words are words like nice, good, happy, sad, etc. Can you find a more interesting way to say this?

4. Use similes!

Similes are an excellent way to make your writing more exciting! Look at your writing and find a boring adjective. See if you can change it to a simile.

For example:

He had blue eyes.  =  His eyes were as blue as the ocean.

When you finish writing you should always go back and read your work and check you are happy with it. It is often a good idea to read it out loud as then you will read more slowly and carefully and are more likely to notice mistakes. Or give it to a friend to read and ask their opinion, they will notice things you may have missed and might be able to give you some suggestions.

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