How to get them writing

I have an uncomfortable relationship with writing, I mean I know it’s important, parents are always asking me if they do plenty of writing – especially those of higher level or English speaking students – it is one of those areas where there’s always progress to be made, or so it would seem.

It’s just soooo boring, sitting there watching them write, or worse, hovering over their shoulder and correctly every mistake as it comes out of their pen. I just feel like it’s a cop out, to have them working while I sit there twiddling my thumbs.

So, here’s a few things to make it less tedious, for all concerned:

5 Minute Sprints

A great way to activate vocabulary or evaluate students’ needs at the start of a topic, or revise what was done in a previous lesson. Just write up the title and ask students to write as much as they can in 5 minutes. As I’m really lazy  into self- and collaborative correcting, after the time is up I have a nip round and look at the work, and then write up fake examples of common errors on the board for the class to correct together, or I remind students of some forgotten rules and ask everyone to correct at least three things in their text, or add three adjectives, or find synonyms for certain words, like nice, good, bad, interesting…

Collaborative Writing

Get students to write a text together, sharing ideas etc. In a group one of them can be Brains, Dico-boy, Grammar Guru, the Punctuation Posse, whatever you need, play on their strengths. This is a great way to get students with learning difficulties involved in writing, and it takes the trauma out of individual production.

The Reverse Reading Comprehension

This is a great activity for collaborative writing, it’s also a brilliant idea if you’re filling in at the last moment. Give the students a set of reading comp questions, either from a text or just make them up, then ask them to write the text to fit the questions. Explain they can make it as difficult or easy as they like, for example they don’t have to say “Paul is 72”, they could say he is a pensioner, using his bus pass, or mention a some famous event that happened when he was, say 30.

Once they’ve finished and checked their work, they swap with other groups, answer the questions and give them back to be marked by the “author” group. If the questions were from a text you can always finish the lesson by giving them the original, or ask them to read it at home.

Try see it this way

Some of the writing tasks can be too simple for higher level students, so try and shake things up a little, when students are asked to write a letter or a review, any text, give them the instructions as usual and add one final one… and write it from the viewpoint of the head, an old lady, etc. Another thing you can do is give everyone their “character” on a post-it, when students have finished writing they read each others and guess where they were coming from.

Collaborative Feedback

I got this idea from a workshop but can’t remember whose, so if it’s yours please shout out so I can credit you!

After the students have written their work stick it up on the walls, everyone goes round reading the work and stick post-its on it which note things the students liked or though were good. Another variation is to give them highlighter pens and as them to highlight good parts.

If you want to “correct” as well as giving positive feedback then I suggest students write grammar reminders or correct spellings on the board, NOT on the original work, and let students keep all the positive things about their work.


You’ve probably played this yourself. Give each student or pair a piece of paper, and ask them to complete a first phrase, “It was Sunday morning, the weather was_____, and (name of someone) was _____(what were they doing).

They then fold the sheet to hide their work and pass it to their neighbour. Continue the story for as long as you like, being sure to give them a framework to keep things “logical”. When this has gone on long enough ask them to open it out, and you’ll probably end up in fits of laughter!

Jazzed up Journals

Rather than just writing an informative text about a place or country, my colleague Genial Deutsch asks them to write their “road trip diary”. They can add tickets, boarding passes, souvenir postcards (real or invented) and I think it’s a brilliant way to personalise written work.

The Cop Out!

If a student finishes early then they pick a card from my fast finishers box and write their answers while they wait for the others to finish an activity.

Please feel free to share your ideas below


About fabenglishteacher

enjoying sharing learning
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