I know that many teachers prefer to leave writing as a homework activity, but I think it can also be good during class time. Writing doesn’t always need to be grammar-type exercises on one end of the scale, or essays on the other. Short writing activities can also help students assimilate language and can be useful to help students use new language calmly and reflectively.
Of course, you might have limited contact time with your students, which means that speaking, vocabulary or grammar development is more of a priority. But writing doesn’t always need to be an individual activity – try pairing up students to do writing tasks (or create writing role-plays) – to make writing more interactive.
This particular activity is short, but allows you to cover quite a lot of the basics, such as paragraphing and text cohesion. You can also do more or less preparation to make the task more or less challenging.
Ask students what presents they received at Christmas / New Year. Ask them what they liked about the presents. Then ask students what other special things they did over the holidays – food eaten, places visited, relatives seen, parties attended, etc.
Ask students to write a “thank you” letter to a relative for one of their presents. They’ll need to write why they liked the present and then give some detail about what else they did over the holidays.
Monitor and give feedback.
1. Make the activity more challenging by getting them to pull out a present from a hat, rather than choosing their own to write about. (Write items such as “barbecue grill”, “set of towels”, “hand cream” etc on pieces of paper and get students to pull them out from a hat / jar etc, or to pick them out from a bunch you hold out to them, etc.)
2. Give weaker students a model to follow. You can write out a skeleton letter on the board for students to use:
Thank you very much for my (present name). It is (adjective) because (reason).
We had a lovely Christmas. We ate (name of food) and saw (films, relatives etc).
With love from
3. Introduce a warmer. In a class of younger students this week, I asked one to draw a picture on the board of his living room at Christmas (with suggestions from the rest of the class). Then we quickly revised some Christmas-type vocabulary before going onto the letter.
Photo credit: nyoin