Sunday, March 13, 2011


Karen Einstein

Karen was one of my FAVORITE presenters! She presented on "Collaborative Writing Activities".

According to the abstract, "Participants will have the opportunity to experiment with a variety of collaborative writing activities (non-composition based) and to discuss briefly the aspects of writing practised. The objectives of the activities include such areas as considering the target reader, building complex sentences, discourse management, focus on grammar / lexis, peer teaching, peer correction, developing classroom rapport and considering culture."

A bit about her (per her biodata):
Karen Einstein has been working in TEFL for twenty years, the last seven of which she has been with the British Council in Barcelona. She’s taught on and designed various teacher training programmes over the years and has a special interest in encouraging learners (particularly teens) to experiment with different ways of expressing themselves through writing.

With Karen we first discussed why collaborative was useful (less stress on the student, the chance to communicate with someone else takes pressure off of you, peer correcting etc.)

One example is to give the students a picture. Karen used art (which I may do to try to bring culture in, but in this case I'll stick with one of mine).

Give the students time to write the following things.

1. Who is he?
2. Where is he? / What does he see?
3. What did he do before this?
4. How does he feel?
5. What is he doing?

Make sure they talk to each other first and just jot down words (not complete sentences). Monitor the class as they do this and give the questions out one by one to track time.

Now (again in pairs) have the students write a diary entry that the man will write about his day.

The students have already brainstormed their ideas and now just have to try to make things flow.

But are you getting a lot of sentences like: I was outside. I saw a goat. I looked at the goat.

No worries!

Karen gave a game to get students to make bigger sentences. On the board we right a simple (but slightly odd) clause

"I climbed the tree"

Have the students write it in the middle of a paper. Then give them a linker like although Use easier linker for lower lever students and higher linkers for higher students. Some A1 linkers: so/then. Some B1 linkers: however/despite. C1 linkers: furthermore/nevertheless.

In groups they need to change the sentence (their addition can go before or after)

Although I am afraid of heights, I climbed the tree.

I climbed the tree although it was very tall.

If your students are at a high enough level give them one more linker, let's say, because

I climbed the tree although it was very tall because I was being chased by donkeys

Easy, simple and effective

How often do students post pictures on facebook to go with a status? Give them two photos (aain Karen used art, I am going to find random pictures in my computer)

With a partner look over the pictures and choose one. Then decide how it makes you feel.

Now make a brief explanation (140 characters or less) that you would post with the picture to tell people where you are. So perhaps for the first one, "Eeks! A little too close for comfort! I am heading away from the lions now."

She had some more but overall it was a great way to grab some ideas on incorporating more collaborative writing into my classes!

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