Yet another 15 ways to make writing interactive

1. Interview and write Students interview their partner and write it up as an article, CV, letter of application etc. The person who was interviewed then reads it to check for facts and whether they’d like anything added. You could also have several people writing up the same interview and comparing their finished pieces of […]

1. Interview and write
Students interview their partner and write it up as an article, CV, letter of application etc. The person who was interviewed then reads it to check for facts and whether they’d like anything added. You could also have several people writing up the same interview and comparing their finished pieces of writing. To add more fun, ask the people interviewing not to write notes until they get home- thereby adding memory slips and therefore more inaccuracies to spot and correct. This is a nice thing to do near the beginning of a course as a Getting To Know You activity.

2. Write about each other
Students can also try to do the task above without especially interviewing each other, using just what they have found out about each other during the class or things that they can guess.

3. Write and guess who it is supposed to be
This is a variation on Write About Each Other above where the person being written about isn’t named and the other students read it and guess who it is.

4. Read it and do
For example, a treasure hunt, instructions for using something (e.g. a remote control), instructions for making something, instructions for solving a puzzle, or instructions for how to play a game.

5. Blogs
The interaction would probably initially start out with the teacher writing short posts that are likely to get comments out of the students, but if the teacher sets up their blog somewhere where the students can also easily do so it could well take off from there.

6. Comments on each other’s blog entries
If you can get them to write blogs and want to encourage them to read and comment on each others’, it might be worth giving them some advice on what topics they should choose to prompt others to comment. Easy things to write about on a blog that should get reactions include recent news stories; good and bad things about the city where they all live; study tips; reviews of restaurants, movies and books; and ranking things.

7. Wikis
These are similar to blogs, but are designed to be written collaboratively, and therefore by definition interactively. For this to work, you’ll need to do the initial work in class and to give students the job of writing the initial material for particular sections for homework, but then hopefully other students editing and adding text will take off for itself.

8. Forums
It is fairly easy to set up a forum as part of your blog, and this might persuade students who wouldn’t set up their own English language blog to start some topics on the forum.

9. Continue a story
Each student or group starts a story, stops after a certain amount of time or number of words, passes it clockwise (or moves to the next computer clockwise) and then reads and continues the story they receive. When the stories finish, people read at least two and decide which one they like best (this is less judgemental than peer correction as they have taken part in each of the stories they are reading). The difficulty can be finishing the stories at the same time, so make sure students know how many times each story will be passed (usually between 4 and 7), and tell them “Bring it towards an ending” and “Write a happy ending” at the last two stages. You can then continue with students doing a similar oral exercise, e.g. competing to complete a story with the last line they have been given.

10. Chain letters (consequences)
This is a well known game that is similar to Continue a Story above, but in which the person writing doesn’t know all that has been written before. Students write two lines of a story or email and then fold the paper so that only the second line can be seen. They then pass the paper to the next person, who continues the text without reading the hidden first line. They then fold and pass, each time only being able to see the one line that was written previously. This continues until the whole text is finished. It is then passed one more time, unfolded, and read to check whether it makes sense or not (hopefully not, as that is more amusing!) The teacher can use these for error correction and discussion of how to structure an email or letter, and then students write a more sensible version for homework.

11. Sentence stem chain letters
Chain letters can be made easier to explain and more specific for the language or paragraph structure that the teacher wants to practice by preparing handouts with sentence stems like “Once upon a time there lived a________________” and “Suddenly, she discovered a ____________________” (for stories) or “We are sorry to hear that ____________________” and “To make up for this, we’d like to offer you a ________________________” (for letters of complaint). Make sure there are dotted lines between each sentence to show students where to fold. The activity is then carried out exactly as with Chain Letters above.

12. Hidden responses
This is another variation on chain letters, this time with students writing whole texts before they fold and pass. For example, one student writes a problem page letter, the next person writes the solution to that and then folds so that only their response can be seen (and not the original problem page letter). The next person then writes what they think the problem was based on the solution that they read and folds so that only their text can be seen. The next person writes a response to that problem, etc. When the last person unfolds it and reads it all, they can see how similar the two versions of the problem were, which piece of advice they like best, and whether the last piece of advice matches the first version of the problem.

13. Invitations game
Give students a blank diary for next week, and ask them to put all their real arrangements into it. They should then send each other “emails” (or SMS texts) on slips of paper inviting each other to do other things, making sure that they don’t accept invitations for times when they already have something to do in their diary. The person who makes the most new arrangements by the end of the activity (maybe 15 minutes) and has them all confirmed by others is the winner.

14. Find Someone Who based on writing
Students write about themselves or other students, making sure that all the information is about things that the other students won’t know. These pieces of writing are passed out around the class, making sure students haven’t got their own writing back. Everyone has to stand up and go around the class asking questions to find if the person they are talking to is the person mentioned in the writing or not, e.g. “Have you ever been to Saipan?”

15. Interactive written directions
Students write directions (for people walking, driving or taking the underground), then another student or group reads it and guesses where you end up (maybe without looking at the map if it is a real local place).

Written by Alex Case for TEFL.net June 2009
Alex Case is the author of TEFLtastic.


  • Amrita says:

    This is really interesting. Excellent set of activities. I will try them in my training session.

  • ukjobs says:

    Another way to organize your cover letter is by creating a separate short paragraph for each reason why you are qualified for the IT position. For instance, after a concise introduction, one short paragraph might state your IT experience (e.g., ten years of experience as a systems engineer) and elaborate about where you did this work. Separate paragraphs could describe your technical skills, communication skills, college degrees and sales support experience.

  • uk jobs says:

    Good tips; however I would like you to clarify your point about pictures being included in a CV. A simple head shot picture seems quite appropriate for executives and particularly for sales people. A good impression is always positively received. Furthermore, we see head shot pictures used all the time with the persons appropriate background noted below (e.g. – corporate websites, etc.) How does it show naiveté and why does it freak you out? It seems like a good way to aid the prospecting; especially when one of today’s hiring steps is to do a phone interview (via HR or other)…helps put a face behind a voice. Thanks for clarifying your point and adding additional insights.

  • uk jobs says:

    This is a really interesting idea and makes a great home based business opportunity. Many people have dreadful C.V.’s so there is a market for helping people. With employment getting more difficult to find the quality of C.V.’s will become more important.
    Thanks for an interesting article.

  • Alex Case says:

    Links are always very welcome, Danielle. Sorry for the late reply

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