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Messages - Tatiana Kashina

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Creative Writing / Quick write / creative writing activities
« on: March 10, 2020, 02:47:25 PM »
These short activities would / could inspire students to start writing:

1)    7x7x7

In this quick write activity, students have to choose the 7th book on the shelf (or digital library). Then students should open the 7th page and choose a sentence. The next step requires students to start writing using the sentence that they chose on the 7th page.

2)    Dictionary

Students open a dictionary and find a word they do not know. Then students can create an imaginary definition or use it in a sentence of their own which can serve as the beginning of the story.

3)    Magazine puzzle

Cut out the pictures, images, titles of the article, words, etc. and place them in a bowl. Students can take two snippets out of the bowl and use them to start a story.

4)    Pin the atlas.

Students pinpoint a place on the world map and pretend to be travel blog writers. Have students write a story about a weird / unforgettable experience they had in that place.

5)    Hello, you!

Students write a letter to the future self, starting a paragraph with, “I remember…”.

6)    Write from someone else’s perspective

Students have a prompt and respond to it from the perspective of another person: it could be a real person or a book character.

7)    The What If Challenge

Elicit a What If question from students as a model. For example, What if your pet could talk? What if people could read your thoughts? Then have each student write a What if question on a post-it-note and collect those. Students choose one question from a bowl and start writing a story.

8) Journal writing activity

Have students write entries about future milestones such as what they will do/happen when they leave school, find a job, go to college, etc.


Jaksch. M. (n.d.).10 creative writing exercises to inspire you.  Write to Done.
Literacy Ideas. (n.d.). 7 fun writing activities for reluctant writers.

Pre-reading activity:
To activate students' schemata, we would show students a picture of white dwarfs and elicit what students know about white dwarfs. We might ask, 'What are white dwarfs?" The instructor would write the phrase 'white dwarfs' on the board and brainstorm students' associations.
In the next step, students would get a handout with a table. The table would consist of three columns: Before Reading column, Statements (formulated based on the content of the article) and After Reading column. First, students would read statements and mark them True or False based off of their predictions / prior knowledge. That would enable students to predict the content of the article. Then students would read the article and revisit the statements in the table by confirming / disconfirming their responses  in the After Reading column.

General Writing Resources / Developing genre awareness in the EFL classroom
« on: February 29, 2020, 10:14:49 PM »
In her article, Millar (2011) examines genre awareness activities used in EFL contexts to develop writing skills adopted from a genre-based pedagogy. She provides several definitions of what a genre is and adheres to the one which defines genres as “socio-cognitive schemas” (Johns, 2008, as cited in Miller, 2011, p. 4). In other words, a genre embodies a set of communicative events / utterances (texts) that share a communicative purpose. These utterances appear to exhibit similar discourse structures and lexico-grammatical patterns to accomplish the communicative purpose. Another distinctive characteristic of genres is that genres vary contingent upon the specific context and the particular community of practice. This brings us to the questions what EFL teachers should teach with respect to genre awareness. Johns (2008), for example, indicates that teaching genres to students outside the particular context tends to be meaningless, since genres often change and context-specific (as cited in Miller, 2011, p. 6). In contrast, Hyland (2003) argues for explicit teaching of genres to students to convey genre features and variations (as cited in Millar, 2011, p. 6). Students can get exposed to a group of general macro-genres such as “narrative, recount, argument, report, and description” (Hyland, 2003, ac cited in Millar, 2011, p. 6) and incrementally develop genre awareness based on the analysis of authentic texts and noticing how language is utilized in particular contexts.  Thus, Paltridge (2001) offers activities aiming at developing genre awareness on three levels: 1) Genre and Context, 2) Genre and Discourse and 3) Genre and Language (as cited in Millar, 2011, p. 7).
Genre and Context activities include looking into how the formality of the language changes based on the audience; examining samples of authentic texts and determining the purpose of writing; brainstorming genres used in different professions; discussing which genres are appropriate to use in a certain context, etc. Millar (2011), for example, describes the Text / Audience / Purpose activity (see the description in the article, pp. 7-8).
Genre and Discourse activities focus on the structure of texts of various genres. Students could compare/contrast texts of the same genre to identify textual/structural commonalities; delve into texts of various discourse patterns and examine whether the pattern is effective and what could be improved, etc. In this article, Millar (2011) outlines the Problem/Solution activity (see the description in the article, p. 8).
Genre and Language activities target lexico-grammatical patterns used in different genres to accomplish the particular communicative purpose. For example, students could transform the spoken text of a certain genre into a written text or convert an informal text into a formal text for a new audience. For instance, Millar (2011) proposes the Spoken vs. Written Language activity (p. 9).

Millar, D. (2011). Promoting Genre Awareness in the EFL Classroom. English Teaching Forum, (2), 2-15. Retrieved February 15, 2020, from

Extensive Reading / Extensive Reading Activities
« on: February 11, 2020, 09:57:45 PM »
Extensive Reading Activities

Extensive Reading Activities for Teaching Language edited by J. Bamford and R. R. Day (2004) contains multiple ideas for developing L2 extensive reading skills, starting from how to introduce the reading material to developing awareness in reading. I selected and summarized three activities that I found useful and meaningful in developing oral and writing fluency.

1) Book Review Round Robin (Bamford & Day, 2004, pp. 96-98)

The goal of this activity is to develop speaking and listening skills based on the content of the book(s) students read. Instructors are recommended to print out one copy of the book review form for each student and model the activity by encouraging students to ask questions listed in the form. As preparation for the class activity, students fill out a Book Review Form before the class (students can also complete the form in class).


1.    Tell students that next class they will share a book review with their classmates. Distribute the book review form and model the activity by going through the form, answering the questions and giving an example of the book review.
2.     Students can fill out the book review form as homework before the class or in class.
3.     In the next class, pair up students and give them about 6 minutes to share their reviews. Students should ask and answer questions from the book review form. They can use the form for support but are encouraged to speak rather than simply read their responses.
4.     When the time is over, have students work with new partners. Students begin again but this time the reviewers do not use the written support. Tell students when to switch the roles.
5.     Repeat the procedure one or more times.

During the activity, students can write down the titles of any books they become interested in reading. The time per each turn is subject to students’ proficiency levels: 2-3 minutes for low-level students to 5-6 minutes for advanced students.

BOX 6.3  Book Review (Bamford & Day, 2004, p. 98)

What is the title of your book? ___________________
What level is it?_________________
What genre is it? ___________________
What is the book about? _______________

Do you recommend this book? (Choose one)
·      Very much
·      If you like ____________, yes I do (genre).
·      Not really.
Why? (Why not?)

Other questions (Your partner may ask you some of these questions, so be ready to answer.)

Where does the story take place?
What time period is it set in?
What is the story about?
How did you feel when you finished the book?
What was the best (or worst)  thing about the book?
If you could, how would you change the book?
Who was your favourite character?
How long did it take you to read the book?

Cambridge University Press, 2004

2) Act It Out (Bamford & Day, 2004, pp. 119-120)

The objective of this activity is to develop oral fluency and help students to better understand the content of the book. The class reads a common book, select one scene and act it out.

1.   Have students work in pairs or groups. Ask students to choose the scene from the book which they would like to act out and distribute the Act It Out handout. Have students fill out the handout for their scene.
2.     Monitor students and check their handouts.
3.     Give students 10-15 minutes to prepare for the role-play.
4.     Allocate peer-assessment rubrics to ensure the class is actively engaged in listening and evaluation.
5.     Groups role-play the scenes.

BOX 7.4  Act It Out (Bamford & Day, 2004, p. 120)

Part 1 Getting Ready

Choose a scene from your book.
1.     What is the name of your book?
2.     What are the page numbers the scene is taken from?
3.     What are the names of the characters?
4.     What is happening in the scene? (Write five sentences describing the event.)

Part 2 Performance

Your performance has to be at least three minutes long. Remember to speak like you would speak in a theater; everybody should be able to hear you!

Cambridge University Press, 2004

3. Getting Personal (Bamford & Day, 2004, pp. 146-148)

The goal of this activity is to develop fluent writing and encourage students to relate the reading content to their lived experiences. Students are given the opportunity to choose a task from the list and respond creatively to what they have read. The activity is carried out after students finish reading the book.

1.   Give students the Personal Responses List and have them choose one task that they like. Explain the submission requirements: deadlines, word limit, etc.
2.    Students complete the assignment at home.
3.     Collect and respond (grade).
4.     Extension: in class, students could work in pairs and read their work to each other and have a discussion about characters / plots / genre / etc.

BOX 9.5  Personal Responses List (Bamford & Day, 2004, p. 148)

Strengths and Weaknesses: Which character in the story do you most or least identify with? What are the character strengths and weaknesses? What are yours?
Interior Monologue: Choose a particular situation from the book. If you were (name of character), what would you do in such a situation?  What decisions would you make, and what actions would you take? Why? Write down your thinking for one particular situation.
Lessons For Living: What was the most surprising or interesting lesson that you learned from the story? Why? How does the lesson connect to your own life?
Letter or Diary Writing: Imagine you are (name of character). Write a letter to a friend about what is happening or has happened to you. Or write a diary entry for particular point in the story.
Manga Mania: Create a comic strip with simple drawings and speech bubbles for key part of the story.
Neighbors: Imagine one of the characters in the story has moved in next door to you. What is life like with such a neighbor? Describe an imaginary day in your life when you spend time with your new neighbor.
Film Director: You're going to make a film of the book, but you can only include two-thirds of the story. What will you cut from the story so that you can make you film? Which parts are not needed? Why?
Story Journey: Make a visual representation of the progression of the plot (opening, conflicts, complications, claims, and resolution).
Agony Column: One of the characters in the story turns to you for advice about how to solve a real or imagined problem in his or her life. Explain the problem and write a short letter to the character about what he or she should do to deal with the problem.

Cambridge University Press, 2004

The Hobbit stuff / Using a multimodal approach to make literature engaging
« on: February 05, 2020, 10:15:34 PM »
Thompson, R., & McIlnay,  (2019). Nobody wants to read anymore! Using a multimodal approach to make literature engaging. Children’s Literature in English Language Education, 7(1), 61-80.
In their article, Thompson and McIlnay (2019) attempt to explore the reasons for the steady decline in reading in schools and discuss what could be done to spark interest to read for pleasure. They vouch for the integration of a wide range of non-traditional texts such as graphic novels, comics and film in the curriculum and recourse to digitally-mediated literacy practices to promote reading in the classroom. They further cite the research done in the field of ELT which shows that the texts with visual elements demonstrate positive results in maintaining motivation to read and facilitating reading development and comprehension. For example, Radan (2017) maintains that comics and graphic novels aid in retaining information, appeal to students and provide “additional mode of input” (as cited in Thompson & McIlnay, 2019, p. 70).
Drawing on the study of Bushman (1997), Thompson and McIlnay (2019) indicate that one of the reasons why interest in reading decreases is the selection of texts in middle and high schools which are representative of literary classics which students find challenging to read, comprehend and relate to. Other reasons contributing to the loss of interest in reading include the conflict between the emphasis on the learners’ autonomy and independence and the required reading lists and lack of choice. Therefore, the researchers were arguing for the employment of multi-modal, multiformat and multigenre reading approaches which would enable students to use a range of media in which they read and write, thereby promoting learner autonomy and developing a variety of literacy skills. This could be achieved by free voluntary reading (Krashen, 2004); giving students the opportunity to choose their own books, especially for extensive reading, and integrating works of various formats, genres and media. For example, The Hobbit novel could be compared and contrasted with a filmed version or any other related multimedia version. By analyzing the traditional print text and a multimedia version, students would be able to “examine plot, perspective, voice through visual imagery by comparing the same story across different formats and media” (Thompson & McIlnay, 2019, p. 71) and develop skills to explore a variety of texts. Building off of Carter (2007) and Ujiie and Krashen (1996) Thompson & McIlnay (2019) maintain that the use of picture books in early years, as well as graphic novels and comics spark enjoyment in reading. This could be applied to developing reading materials for The Hobbit. ESL students could choose a favourite excerpt from the novel, script the scene or expand the original scene / create an alternative ending of the scene and create comics using or

The Hobbit stuff / The Hobbit Unit Plans
« on: February 05, 2020, 10:10:40 PM »
      The Hobbit Unit Plans

This resource has a compilation of lesson plans based on The Hobbit novel created by Susan Anderson (n.d.) (attached herewith). The handout contains 20 lesson plans with the description of daily activities: vocabulary, reading, comprehension questions, discussion questions and possible assignments. For example, in Lesson 16, Anderson (n.d.) suggests implementing the Graffiti activity which does not require a lot of preparation (p. 20). In this activity, students write something on the board related to The Hobbit.  This could be a question, observation, comment, etc. Once it is done, the teacher could use graffiti ‘inscriptions’ to generate a whole-class / group discussion.

Another interesting activity that could be used in the classroom is to create Riddles in the Dark (Anderson, n.d., p. 11). In pairs / groups, students create and write their own riddles on post-it-notes or a piece of paper. The answer is provided below the riddle but is covered with a flap of paper over it. The riddles are put on the wall, and students walk around, read the riddles and try to solve them.

Prestwick House Lesson Plans Handout (2004)

The attached handout contains five student worksheets which could be used to discuss The Hobbit.


In this activity, students have the opportunity to share their impressions on the characters’ or racial groups’ traits and personalities before students start reading the book. Students can write what they think will be the general character traits of the racial groups / characters by filling out the chart. As students read the novel, they list the pages with characters’ description or note down the key descriptions and then reflect / share whether their assumptions were correct / supported.

This activity and others can be found in this Prestwick House (2004) handout (attached herewith).

The Hobbit stuff / Hobbit-related materials for 7th-12th grade level
« on: February 04, 2020, 11:20:13 AM »
Reading is Fundamental website provides a couple of useful resources in case you would like to teach The Hobbit to ESL elementary /middle school students:

The webpage lists three activities: The Hobbit Criss Cross, an interactive puzzle with questions related to the content of the story, The Hobbit Word Search and The Hobbit: Discussion Guide (I attached herewith). The guide has great discussion questions, examines the riddles, rhymes, symbols used in the novel and provides activity suggestions, e.g., students can write a runic message or students can make up their own runes, like a secret code, and then exchange and decipher messages for fun.

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