Dialogue Re-writing Task: Pride and Prejudice
Here’s a writing activity a colleague and I created for a sample ESL class we taught together. With adaption to fit your specific needs, this activity format can be used for almost any book! Here’s our version of the activity with the book Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.
For the dialogue re-writing task, student are asked to rewrite specific sections of a scene from a book that the class has been reading together. Make sure the students do all the required reading before class so they are familiar with the scene in which they will be re-writing.
BEFORE CLASS: Choose an interesting or important scene from the students’ readings for that week and break the scene into equally-sized pieces based on dialogue only. You may ignore any narration, as the student will only be re-writing the characters’ speech. Split the dialogue into as many pieces as you plan to have groups. In our case, we split the marriage-proposal/rejection scene from Pride and Prejudice into seven parts. Create a Google Doc for each group with their respective chunk of dialogue, or print out several hard copies of the dialogue pieces to hand to your students in class.
IN-CLASS: Explain the activity to the students: They are to re-write only the dialogue from the portion of the scene they received from you. The re-written dialogue should capture the same spirit of the original text by not changing the text’s meaning, but they should be free to write in their own words. NOTE: This activity is particularly fun with older texts, as the students’ own words and the archaic narrative style make for a funny dichotomy!
AFTER THE ACTIVITY: Depending on the length of each chunk of dialogue assigned to each group, give them enough time to complete the re-writing task. After they are finished, compile the documents together and have the students read their re-written dialogue out loud for the rest of the class (with you filling in with the original narration).
The idea for this activity is to improve the students writing skills – namely, their ability to paraphrase sentences. This activity should also help them learn how to summarize the main ideas within dialogue and creatively express the same sentiments with different words.
Attached below is a sample of our version of the activity. This is Group 1’s portion of the dialogue from rejection scene from Pride and Prejudice. The majority of the narration was removed to conserve time, but for longer classes, the narrative parts may be left in.