Getting children writing


To get young learners to produce extended pieces of writing ("Extended writing" just means producing a text longer than one or two senetnces - a story, a letter, a description of their town etc) they need to have a model. This is usually an example text of the type you are focusing on. This gives them an idea of what to aim for. For stories, this is usually a written text. But the text need not be written. In fact, the stories I have presented on this site for the children to learn to retell are wonderful models for writing.  If your children can tell a story then they can write it. All the stories on this website have been specifically designed with simplicity in mind. That is, they are simple, formulaic and the visuals help the children to remember them. Once the children have learnt a story (either the full version or a simpler version - weaker children will maybe only remember the key elements) it becomes a wonderful springboard for writing!

When my students write the story, I get them to write a much simpler version. I often use the fun writing paper below. Even black and white photocopies look good! Once they get used to story telling they will soon be able to tell quite long stories with lots of details but you don't necessarily want them to try to write this all down. It could take too long. Explain that the written version will be simpler. It is a different skill we are practising.

Suitable for mixed abilities

The same story can be suitable for a wide range of abilities. A more able student may write:

It is a beautiful day. A prince is in the forest. He is happy. Suddenly he meets a beautiful princess. "What's your name?" he says. "My name is matilda" she says. Suddenly a big dragon comes along. "Oh no!" says the princess. The prince fights the dragon. They fight and fight and fight. Finally he kills the dragon.

A lower ability student may write:

A prince meets a princess. A big dragon comes . The prince fights the dragon.  He kills the dragon.

The more students write, the better they get. As you do more stories, they will begin to remember more and more phrases, and they will begin to add more to the written version. 

How much input should the teacher give?

Do not expect the students to be able to spell every word correctly! If we insist the children only write words they know how to spell, we cannot then ask them to try to write a story. The secret is to focus on a few key words that you want them to get right and put them on the board. For example, I might begin with:  he,  she,  saw,   went,   go,  the. These I put up on the board and insist they correct them if they make mistakes. I usually put other key words such a princess, prince, suddenly, forest etc. I also give them a hand out with typical story vocabulay early in the year which they can refer to throughout the year. Anything on this sheet I insist on being written correctly since they only have to copy it! Actually it is good practice for younger learners to learn to refer to such vocabulary lists. 

As the years progresses, inists on more and more of such high frequency words be spelt correctly. Just as the secret to obtaining high levels of oral competence lies simply in lots and lots of focused speaking practice so the secret to writing is lots of focused writing (by "focused" I mean each activity should be focused on a specific language point that you want the students to use correctly - whatever it is you are teaching at the time. There is no point in just getting students to talk or write. They can probably already do that. We want them to get better!).  I usually get them to produce one text every week using the new language. This could be just one paragraph. When I worked in a langauge academy I set it up in class but they did the writing for homework. When class time is limited, use it for oral work.  

Ove time, you can introduce more and more story phrases:

Once upon a time    One day     there was      suddenly     Along comes (or along came)   Then      So        Finally

and bit by bit you can introduce more and more of the past

There was       He met     Suddenly along came         said     went     etc  

Interestingly enough, I have found that writing improves speaking. The more learners write, the more more they internalise the langauge and this will in turn effect their speaking.

Some writing activities

Low level

Santa and the Monster:(With writing template)

These simple 6 sentence stories are an ideal model for students to use to write their own version

Bob the bat        A bad witch

Max can jump    Fred the fish

Tim's bat   The cat and the mouse

A child may write:

Maria is a dog.        Maria is big.      Maria is a big dog.

Harry is a pig.         Harry can see Maria.     Oh no!

Writing template

Get your students writing a mini-book!  Book template

Pre-intermediate and intermediate

Letter from a wizard

My alien

Have a question?: efl theatreclub Forum

Fun writing paper from     

Wonderful writing material is available free to download from     

I have put below some of my favourite paper (called "Writing frames" on Sparklebox). They are word documents so you can edit them to make half or full pages as above

Witch writing paper 1        Witch writing paper 2     

Wizard writing paper         Princess writing paper   

Prince writing paper         Space writing paper

Dinosaur writing paper      Animal writing paper  

Dragon writing paper 1     Dragon writing paper 2   

Pirate writing paper