Published on 1st June, 2011 in Global Bloggers by Scott Shelton

Processing thoughts and getting them down in writing is something we all must do and which is never an easy task. For learners struggling with a limited range of words, structures, format and concepts, it can be an even more daunting adventure.

While moving from Work to Leisure, our class arrived at a point where they had an interesting proposal to write about something related to doing. This was of course after we had activated and compiled a set of useful verb–noun collocations related to leisure and had shared (rather enthusiastically) just how often any of us actually did any of them.

After listening to the differences between serious and casual leisure – a concept that to be honest, I had never really considered myself – and having a good think about several of the useful purposes for which one can employ the –ing form of a word, we then made it personal by disclosing real examples about both from our own lives, slotting ideas into sentence stems, but actually focusing on both form and content. This gave me time to have a quick chat with anyone who was having any doubts about what to do, and to feed in any language needed.

That led us to a nice point to extend things further in extended writing. It might have stopped there, with each student on their own, furtively writing away, and struggling to get from where we had left off, to where they wanted to be. What we did instead was to follow the nicely planned mini-process laid out in the course book, but with an added twist.

Providing the students with different prompts to choose from to use as the basis of their writing allowed them some control here, which I think they enjoyed. To add a bit of energy at this point I decided to use the ‘speed writing’ technique both to steer students towards generating ideas, and to force them, as it were, to speed up the process without labouring overlong on the initial task. As many learners are out of the habit of writing drafts, this is a nice way to ensure they all have at least one before working more carefully on the piece they are going to hand in for assessment.

This went well, and it is truly amazing what people can write in five minutes! The next step involved peer reading. Each reader wrote two questions about what they had read, before returning it to its owner. The final step required them to rewrite their piece, incorporating their answers to the reader’s questions, and making any other changes they wished to, while I was able to lend a guiding hand if needed.

The end result? After a further 20 minutes of careful restructuring and a chance to focus on detail (and form), the personal disclosures were handed in and had benefitted from both peer input and private processing. I think it’s always more meaningful and natural for writers to do something like this, and when learning a language, perhaps doubly so.

Until next week,

Processing away …



  • Hi Scott

    I’m really enjoying reading your experiences. This writing type of exercise I think is great, it’s often worked well for me and I had seen it first on a training course I did at Pilgrims. I like the speed writing technique you mention too -useful for fluency writing!

    Lindsay Clandfield on 6 June, 2011
  • Hi Lindsay,

    Glad you are enjoying the posts. It’s very quite interesting to write about what occurred in class, how it came about and with an evaluation of sorts. As teachers we of course keep notes on what happens in each class, but often change from one class to another quickly, levels and ages included, so it’s not always easy to reflect on what went on in each one.

    This is an interesting exercise in looking back on what went on in a lesson, and coming to terms with it on a level that allows me to make sense of it in words, on a weekly basis for this blog.

    Scott Shelton on 1 July, 2011