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Note writing

Average: 3.9 (47 votes)

This is an activity which is really useful for helping learners to write more fluently and can also help you to diagnose problems with your students' written work and ability to formulate questions.

Nik Peachey

You can use it at the beginning or end of a class as a fun filler, or as an integral part of your lesson.

  • Give out a sheet of A4 paper (219mm x 297mm) to each student and ask them to watch and follow your instructions.
  • Hold up your paper and fold it in half. Then fold it in half again and then again. Press hard on the paper and then open it out. The folds should have divided the paper into eight rectangles. Use the fold lines to tear the page into eight rectangular pieces of paper.

If you prefer, you can already have this prepared before class, but I have found that students really enjoy doing this themselves and it does engage their interest and curiosity.

  • Once they all have their eight pieces of paper, ask the students to write their names in the bottom right-hand corner of each piece.
  • Next ask them to think of another person in the class and to think of a question they would like to ask them.
  • Tell them to write the name of the person on the top left-hand corner and then to write the question on the piece of paper.
  • Once they have done this, tell them to pass the paper to the person the question was intended for.
  • Students then read any questions they got and start to write replies.
  • Students who didn't get a question can start writing another question for someone else.
  • Get the students to keep writing and answering questions until all their pieces of paper are used up.

You may in the early stages need to prompt the students to keep writing and also to make sure they are using English, but try not to interrupt ones who are busy writing or to correct anything at this stage. You may actually like to get involved yourself and start writing a few notes to your students.

This is also a good way of diagnosing problems with your students writing. You can collect up all the pieces of paper at the end and look through them for common mistakes to focus on next lesson. It is important however to respect your students privacy and anonymity as some of the communications between them could be quite personal.

This activity is one of the few that I have found that has kept my students writing silently for up to 25 minutes after which they still haven't wanted to stop. It has a similar fascination to SMS text messaging and online chat and you could find that, with students who are familiar with those mediums, some of the more common abbreviations creep in.

Language level
Language Level: 
Upper intermediate: B2