Short, creative writing projects with Twitter, Edmodo

Doodle your story (see below)!

Here's another idea that came from this week's Guardian: Twitter fiction (telling a story under 140 characters, that is, not necessarily on Twitter). It isn't a new idea but it's one that works great with language learners, especially when the stories are written collaboratively, in pairs.

To relate it to your coursebook, in order to recycle language, you could specify that the stories must be on a particular theme (the environment, or whatever the unit is…). A "prize" for who can fit in the most vocab from the coursebook adds a nice competitive element…

Your learners could write and share them via Twitter, but an Edmodo group also works just as well and Google Docs (now Google Drive) is also great for collaboration, commenting and sharing.

The memo pad on a mobile phone is also great for writing (and sending) the finished stories (and if you have teenagers, which would they rather do: put pen to paper, or fingers to phones?).

Assuming at least some of your learners are reasonably creative (and, once again, classrooms should be creative spaces!), getting one in each pair to doodle the story adds another dimension to it. Here's one I wrote, with the doodle above:

South of the town, we abandoned the car, the tank now dry. Emma wept as she took the bags from the boot. If we could reach Zamora, we'd be safe. But they were there, too.

If you are going to do that, Edmodo is probably going to be a better tool than Twitter, as it's so easy to attach the image to the post.

Other tried and test writing projects
Older alternatives include 50-word Mini-sagas and 100-word stories (and at IH we've also experimented with 6-word stories).

Way back when I did a lot of fiction with learners (does anyone still do the Proficiency set book option?!) a similar idea that worked superbly was getting the learners to summarise the plot in exactly 100 words (and the same also worked for character sketches).

"But my students hate writing," I can hear you say. But if it's collaborative, shared, fun… my experience is that even those learners who say that in fact enjoy such projects.

See also:
Digital storytelling: Creative writing with technology

Things I take to class #6: 6 secret letters

From my session at the APABAL Convention in Palma, September 10th…


Shoes. Discuss… A great activity for Edmodo.

The 6 secret letters I take to class are the access code to the very best of the "Web 2.0 tools" that I've tried with learners: Edmodo.

Edmodo allows you to set up groups [see Edmodo Help section] which then give you a private walled garden, a digital space in which your learners can do and share things. It's very easy to use, very like Facebook, and thus immediately familiar to anyone who might already be a Facebook user, with one big difference: greater privacy.

In my APABAL session I demonstrated the following activity, which has proved very successful with both teens and adults, the idea for which came from an article on Yahoo News about how much can you tell about someone's personality from his/her shoes.

Stages

  • The article is read and discussed first, either in class or from home, using Edmodo for the discussion
  • Learners take photos of each others' shoes; if this is done outside class time, photos can also be of shoes of parents, siblings, friends etc.
  • (Optionally) If the photos are taken outside class, the learners edit them with the excellent Pixlr Express
  • Photos are pooled and then distributed at random (assigning a kid or kids to deal with this saves the teacher a lot of work); optionally, the teacher can add a few photos of his/her own (self? friends? willing colleagues…); no one should get their own shoes, though it doesn't matter if they do
  • In class, assuming access to computers is available, in pairs, learners post one or more pictures to the Edmodo group, describing them and commenting on whether or not they are fashionable; who would wear them; and what the shoes say about the wearer's personality
  • Learners comment on what other people have posted (and, with any Edmodo activity, we want our learners to write lots of comments!)
  • Language feedback

Note that, particularly with young learners, you might want to warn them in advance not to say anything unkind or hurtful; and that no one should be identified at any stage as the wearer or owner of the shoes.

Instead of using Edmodo, the same activity could also be done on a class blog.

See also

10 things I take to class
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