Before diving in at the deep end and assigning tasks, it would be a good idea to do some workshops on creative writing and strategies that proficient writers use. For example:
How to write
Try free writing: Choose a topic and start writing whatever comes into your head. Don’t stop writing. Don’t correct your writing. Mistakes are not important.
General writing guidelines:
- Write for a few minutes at a time.
- Don’t correct any mistakes while you are writing.
- Take short breaks.
- After breaks, read what you’ve written so far before writing again.
- Only correct your mistakes and edit the composition when you’ve finished writing.
Citing and referencing:
Learners should have clear guidelines about what acceptable sources of information are, e.g. primary sources rather than compilations, digests or encyclopedias, and how to quote and reference them.
Please note that Apple iOS devices such as iPhones and iPads prevent uploading media, e.g. photos, audio and video recordings, onto blogs. Learners with Apple devices will need access to a computer with iTunes installed on it so that they can transfer and then upload any media files. Other mobile devices don’t have this restriction.
Here are some example tasks that have been tried out on this project:
About us page
Take some group photos of the class and get them to choose the one they prefer. They may want to experiment with different poses, backgrounds, props, etc. They then co-write a short text about them as a group, e.g. their nationalities, why they’ve come to this summer school, who they’ve met so far, and their first impressions.
Cultural and personal identity tasks
Learners compose an article about their personal interests. Lower level learners can simply find and collate texts and media that they like and identify with (comprehensible input), and perhaps add their own comments. Higher level learners can do freer, more expressive writing, and record audio and/or video presentations as well. All learners should learn how to research, quote and cite external texts and media. Some suggested topic areas could be:
- Natural resources
Essay on a chosen topic
Learners choose any topic that they’re interested in and research and write an article about it. This task enables learners to develop their “public voice” for blogging since they can choose a topic that they’re familiar with a feel comfortable writing about for others to read. The freedom provided by this task may encourage some learners to take more responsibility and editorial control and decide on what and how they’d like to write on their blog.
You are going to go on an excursion to [excursion destination] tomorrow.
- Find out about [excursion destination] and anything there that interests you.
- Compare and discuss what you have found out.
- Make some predictions and plans for your excursion tomorrow:
- What interests you most about [excursion destination]?
- What interests you least about [excursion destination]?
- What else do you think you will see there?
- Where are you going to go and what are you going to do when you have free time?
Yesterday, you went on an excursion to [excursion destination]. Here are some questions to help you to write about it:
- Which places at [excursion destination] did you go?
- Who did you go with?
- What did you see?
- What did you do?
- What did you like on the excursion? Why?
- What didn’t you like on the excursion? Why?
- What was the strangest thing that happened?
Campus radio project
Learners co-create, co-produce and record a short radio programme on a topic of their choice. Some ideas have been news stories about current events, e.g. the London Olympics, celebrity gossip shows, and interviews. Most MP3 players and smartphones have audio recorders built in that can be used for this, or the school could provide and high quality microphone and PCM WAV recorder for more professional sounding results.
Topic interview project
Learners choose a topic that they’re interested in and that they can interview native or highly proficient speakers about. For example, their opinions about a particular current event or a common topic of debate. Learners can record interviews with several subjects and compare and contrast their opinions. This would ensure “narrow listening”, i.e. Repeated listening, interest in the topic, and familiar context help make the input comprehensible. Topics are gradually changed, which allows the acquirer to expand his or her competence comfortably (Krashen 1996).
Video journal project
Learners keep a reflective video journal of their experiences on the summer school. They can record and reflect on events as they happen and/or reflect on them in quieter moments afterwards. Video can be shot using a video camera, smartphone, or digital camera, and later optimised and uploaded to the blog.
The best weekend ever
Plan the weekend for your teacher:
- Get into groups of 2 – 5 learners.
- Find out what your teacher likes and doesn’t like, what they’re interested in, etc.
- Find out how much money your teacher is willing to spend on their free time this weekend.
- Think about morning, afternoon and evening activities.
- Find out what’s on (in flyers, websites, magazines, newspapers, etc.)
- Come up with a plan for your teacher’s weekend.
- Your teacher will pick the plan that they like the most.
Plan an excursion into London
- Look at tourist brochures and books and guides about London. TimeOut magazine is a good place to look.
- Make a short list of destinations and activities that interest you.
- Find out more information about the destinations, e.g. how to get there, any tickets or fees, opening times, and things to do there.
- With your class, discuss the pros and cons of each destination and agree on which one you all want to go to.
- If you can’t agree on one, perhaps you can plan two excursions, on different days.
- With the whole class, create and publish a brochure for your excursion that would be attractive to other summer school students like yourselves.
- When you come back from the excursion, you could write a review. Was it as good or better than you expected? What did you like about it? What didn’t you like about it? etc.
Plan the week’s activities, excursions and social programme
This task is highly ambitious, places a lot of responsibility on learners, and could be overwhelming for all but the most independent and motivated. It’s probably best introduced after learners have had a least a week’s experience of excursions, activities and social programme organised by the summer school. Additional reflection on what they enjoyed, didn’t enjoy and why, and what they would change could provide some interesting avenues for them to explore and get ideas. There would be greater motivation and personal investment if learners know that the activities, excursions and social programme organiser(s) will act upon their plans and incorporate their ideas to some degree.
Example plan template: