Category Archives: collaborative story writing

ESL Ruminations #3

OK. I’m on a roll. I have been energized by thinking and writing about what’s working and what isn’t going so well with my ESL classes. I have enjoyed trying out new routines and activities with my students. I’ve written about some of my ruminations and attempts to improve learning for my students here and here.

Today I want to share about an old but new-to-my-students activity: collaborative story writing.

My instructions were simple: start a story and pass your paper to the person on your right so they can continue it. We talked about making sure that there was a beginning, middle and end, and that the middle involved the problem and the solution. We talked about setting and characters and that ample details make a story more interesting. We talked about the importance of each subsequent section fitting in with the previous sections. In other words, the story had to make sense. We talked about printing legibly so that their group members would be able to read their writing.

I had two different groups engage in this activity. One group was composed of eight children in fourth and fifth grades, and the second group (two different classes) only had 3 students all of whom are in the sixth grade. The smaller group completed four rounds of exchanging papers and finished their stories. The larger group had a later start, more questions about the process, and was not able to exchange papers. They did, however, write the beginning of their stories and shared these orally with each other. All of the students in both groups are beginner ESL students.

As a result of these two experiences, I have decided to divide the larger group into two smaller groups. This will allow them to finish their stories in one sitting and hopefully result in fewer distractions.

I’m thinking that the next step will be to have students pair up to revise and edit their stories. They could also add illustrations and come up with a suitable title for their stories. We could publish them and share them with other classes, families, and friends.

Here’s a variation of the collaborative story writing we did yesterday.

Have you done anything similar to this with your students? How did it go? Any suggestions for improving this process with ESL students? Please share in the comments section below.

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