This is an old-favourite lesson of mine which always works well with teenagers or adults, from intermediate to advanced levels. It is a great collaborative writing activity and can work well if you have been studying newspaper language, reported speech or narrative tenses.
Aims: For groups of students to devise a newspaper story based on random pictures.
Preparation: You will need to prepare several pictures (enough for 4 per every 3 students as a minimum). The best pictures are ones cut out of newspapers, the more unusual the better, and I try to avoid pictures of anyone famous. You could also use pictures from magazines, or find some on a site such as eltpics. I tend to cut good photos out of newspapers as and when I find them and keep them in a plastic wallet (and you’ll be surprised about all the uses you might find for them!)
1. Put your students into groups, 3 is the best number I find.
2. Lie the pictures face down on a table and ask one member of each group to come and choose 4 pictures at random.
3. Tell the students that the 4 pictures they have were all in a newspaper to illustrate 1 story. Ask them to try and think of a story that would connect all the stories. Give them plenty of time to discuss and come up with ideas.
4. Ask them to nominate one student to write or type the story out. Make sure all the students are involved in this stage, you could even suggest they take it in turns to write. For lower levels, what they produce will often be more like a story but for higher levels try and encourage them to write it more in the style of a newspaper article (ie. clear time, date, factual information, quotes from important people). You may want to set a word limit here too.
5. When they have finished the story, ask all the students in the group to re-read it and check for any errors.
6. Ask the groups to think of a headline for the story. Elicit what features headlines normally have (eg. use present tenses, sensational language, omission of articles/verbs, using only key words)
7. At this stage you might want to ask the students to read their articles to the class (make sure if one student has done most of the writing they don’t also read) while showing the pictures that inspired them, or you could make posters to display in class, or you could scan pictures in and put on a class blog or wiki.
(This is another one of those lessons that I got from somewhere but I have used for so many years I no longer remember where it was from originally. If anyone knows, please let me know so I can reference it – thank you!)