Reading from nothing

Imaginative image for stories
Levels: strong pre-intermediate to proficiency.
Ages: teens and adults.
Type: writing in a chosen genre, reading student-generated texts, reading and writing for pleasure.
Skills: reading; writing; speaking; listening.
Language focus: revising pre-selected grammar points, or any problematic grammar, register or vocabulary as it arises.

Note: This lesson is based quite closely on Mike J Harrison’s excellent Reverse Reading idea. I’ve just changed the context slightly and added a few ideas for possible follow-ups, so all credit should stay with Mike!

Materials: blank paper and pens; blu-tack if you intend to stick your students’ work around the walls. If you want to try one of the suggested follow-up ideas, your students should have access to graded readers or the internet.
Librarian by candlelight
Procedure:

  • Start a discussion about books and films – what kinds do your students enjoy the most? Help your learners formulate and talk about their favourite genres (horror, romantic comedy, slapstick, thrillers, disaster movies, …), and write useful language to one side of the board, where it can stay for the lesson.
  • Say you have some questions to dictate about a story you think they will enjoy.
  • Dictate 5 open questions, perhaps with one or two based around a grammar item recently covered, or which you’d like your class to look at more closely. For example, with past perfect continuous:
    • How did John feel when he woke up?
    • What had he been doing the night before? Why?
    • How was he feeling on his way to work?
    • What unexpected thing happened on his journey?
    • What happened next?
  • Ask your students to check their questions in pairs or groups of 3, then elicit and board the questions, discussing any confusions with the learners.
  • Remind your students of the boarded film/book genres. Ask them to write their own, short answers to the questions you dictated, in a style of their choosing (sci-fi, fantasy, detective story…)
  • In pairs or groups of 3, students compare their answers and decide on their favourite ones. They then write the story in their chosen genre, while you monitor and help with language.
  • Display the stories on the board or around the classroom. Invite your learners to read the other stories – which is their favourite and why?
  • Ask your learners to find more stories in their favourite genre for homework (they could look at some graded readers, or see the internet resources I’ve collected here, for instance)
  • The following week, invite your learners to share the stories they encountered – which was their favourite? Which do they recommend other students read?
  • Students could then make posters illustrating books and themes in their chosen genres, write short recommendations for other learners in the class, rate the books and write short reviews, or you could encourage them to bring their stories to class, and set aside a regular time for reading, sharing and discussing them.

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