Teach English Writing: Stories with Focus

Write a Story

Writing Skills: sentence fluency, voice, organisation

How can ESL teachers help writing students maximize learning? By designing English writing activities with layers of objectives. This lesson is an example. Provide students with a picture prompt and ask them to write a creative story. But there is another layer. Students must incorporate complex sentences into their story. 

Flow

Step 1 Pre-Teach Target Sentence Pattern

Make sure the class understands how to write a complex sentence. Explain the meaning, show examples and provide practice questions.

Also explain the value of complex sentences: they compress lots information into a single sentence. Equally important, if these sentences are written poorly, the reader will be totally confused.

Here is a quick review of complex sentence structure plus practice questions.

Step 2 Introduce Writing Assignment

Explain that Step 1 is a warm up. Now it’s time to apply that knowledge in a long piece of writing.

The main objective is to write a creative story that demonstrates important traits like voice, word choice and organisation. The story will be based on a picture prompt called The Ride.

The second objective is to include at least one complex sentence for each picture in the prompt. I suggest using these connecting words and phrases:

  • after, although, as soon as, because, before
  • if, unless, when, while, now that

If you have class that likes a challenge, ask students to write the whole story with complex sentences.

Step 3 Write

Now that students understand the two layers of objectives, it’s time to write. Student output should be at least 1-2 pages.


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