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Here's a short description of the activities you can find on this page. Click on them to go there directly:

Different audiences

Preliminary step

Put various objects that are on your desk at home or in the office apart from the books you normally bring to class, and place them on the table.

Steps

  1. Ask students to form pairs or groups of three.
  2. Give out task cards, on which you tell the students which audience they need to be writing a paragraph describing the teacher's desk in the classroom. The audience could be the following: your grandmother; your sister/brother who is 4 years old; the principal of the school; a scientist; your fellow student; your teacher; your sister/brother who studies Economics at the University, etc.
  3. At the end of the activity, rearrange the class so that each audience type gets into a group. Ask you students to share their solutions.
  4. Ask students to reflect on the types of words, expressions they used for the different audiences. If it is a more analytical group, ask students to look at sentence structure (simple, complex, compound). Word usage is another example.
  5. When students get back to a whole class format, ask the following questions (or similar to these being very focused on content, form and discourse features):
    • What words were used for the various audiences for ...?
    • How many short/long sentences were used ...?
    • How many simple sentences are there in the various paragraphs? How many more complex ones?
    • How many (and what kind of) adjectives are there in the paragraphs?
    • How is information organised in the paragraph? In other words, what kind of information is included in the paragraph?
    • How is the description following the patterns of description in terms of space, function of objects, etc? For instance, is the description following a left to right pattern? Are the objects described based on their function or their form, colour, and so on?
  6. Collect the pieces.

Follow-up activity

The next lesson could be spent re-writing the paragraph again based on the questions asked the last time. The purpose of that would be to make students aware of not only the process of writing (drafts) but also the fact that when they are more aware of their audiences, they could manipulate the language they use for the purpose of writing.

Variation

Of course there are numerous variations to this activity.

  • You could write for the same audience but in different genres. For instance write a poem, a description, a narrative of the table.
  • Or, you could write for different purposes. For instance the paragraph could be written for a furniture magazine where you would like to sell this old piece ... or put an ad in the paper about your old table (don't forget to give the name of the paper!) ... or ...
  • It could be given as homework. Advantage: students need to describe their own desks which cannot be seen by the other student. The more precise and vivid the description is the better for our imagining the desk. Therefore, the description as genre is better that way. In this case, analysis could be done in class with whole class or in pairs or groups.
  • And many more ...

Reflections

I have used this activity with university students where the pedagogical aim was to raise awareness about the syntactic, lexical and discoursal patterns that differ when we write to various types of audience. It worked very well for us!
This activity brings up a lot of further activities attached to this. They will be coming soon ...

The above activity is from Enikõ Csomay. Her homepage is at http://jan.ucc.nau.edu/~ec23/.
She is the first to contribute an activity to my pages, so I'll have to find a special prize for her...


Variations on a theme
  1. Find a number of pictures (6-10) that are not very different in theme. (For example landscapes of various places.) Place them so that each student can see them well.
  2. Ask the students to choose one of the pictures and write a description of it within a given time limit.
  3. When they are done, put all the descriptions on the wall/board.
  4. Give each picture a letter and each description a number, and ask students to match them.
Notes
  • If you want to make it into a competition, you can award a point for ech correct guess, and give the author of a description points according to the number of students who guessed his/her description correctly.
  • You can also take these descriptions home and get valuable data on the common mistakes in your group.


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Which picture is it about?
  1. Give each student a picture (their topic can be anything).
  2. Ask them to write a sentence about the picture they have, but in a way so that it shouldn't be very easy to guess which picture the sentence is about. Stress that the sentence must be true.
  3. Ask the students to hand their pictures over to their neighbour on the right and write a sentence about their new picture.
  4. Continue until everybody's had each picture.
  5. Put all the pictures on the wall/board and ask the students to read one of their sentences. If the others can't guess which picture it's about, he/she gets a point.
Notes
  • You can also practice grammar with this activity by requiring students to use a certain structure, for example "There is/are ...".
  • You can also take these descriptions home and get valuable data on the common mistakes in your group.

How to get to my house

  1. Prepare a (simple) map of a town. Name some of the buildings, and make sure you've got a railway station.
  2. Make as many copies as the number of students in your group.
  3. Mark a different building on each map.
  4. Assign each pupil a partner to whom he/she will be writing. Tell them that their task is to write a letter to their pen-friend explaining the way to their home from the railway station. (The marked building on their maps is their house.)
  5. When the letters are finished, the students 'send' them to their pen-friends, who try to find the building on the map based on the description they got.
  6. Ask them to compare their maps for checking.