This exercise was great fun to do, and really focused in on vocabulary development, linguistic devices and plot.

The writing task:

Open up the vocab bubbles flash game.  Play until the first word comes up.  That word must be used in the opening sentence of the story.  Tutor and student alternate, writing one sentence each for the first paragraph; each sentence must contain a word from the vocab bubbles game. To take it up a notch, switch to requiring that each sentence contain both a game word as well as a linguistic device of some sort.


Here is the story that Charles and I wrote during this exercise.  The first paragraph is fancy words only, while the second is fancy words + linguistic device.  After that, we just had to write well and try to finish the story with some sort of vaguely sensible plot.  The whole exercise was done over about 45 minutes, which included word explanations and adding words to the vocabulary bank.

I stared dumbly at the letter. The word redundant stared back at me like an accusation. Although the writing was infinitesimally small, I could still make out the words on the pages. I had argued vociferously against the power plant relocation and now my superiors had made their thoughts on this dissention clear. I was integral to my group and they trusted me, and now I had let them down.

I wasn’t the vindictive sort, or I might have blown their putrid operation wide open. Some people thought environmentalists were like abstinent Puritans, blocking out any fun from their lives. I marshalled my thoughts ruthlessly like a merciless drill sergeant. Unsurprisingly, my thoughts were of the apprehensive variety. I was totally terribly terrified that the plant would go ahead despite my disapproval.

A blood-curdling scream echoed throughout the small village green. I looked swiftly outside my window and my thoughts fell silent. Someone was lying there, right on the lawn of my house, with putrid fumes oozing from his hands, then suddenly he too, fell silent. I hadn’t been able to decipher his screams fully, but it sounded like “taps”. A cryptic message from a dying man, but there was no time to ponder it. I turned myself to my kitchen, paralysed with shock. I needed to leave right now, so my first priority was water. Then I remembered the words of the dying man, ‘taps’. I stared at the long metal pipe, curious of what would happen if I... BWOOOM. A deep rumble emanated ominously from the pipes and I hurdled myself instinctively away as the tap erupted with searing green flames. I looked down upon my hand to see it had been scarred with heat from the flames.

This had been one hell of a day.

Update: I've now done this exercise with a few more of my students, and have collected some of the results here.

Most of the time, I set homework for my students.  This ranges from 5/10 minutes of recap exercises to extensive past paper regimes for those in exam 'crunch-time'.  However, a few of my students don't complete homework at all.  They already have so much school homework and extracurricular activities that even another 10 minutes feels impossible to fit in.

A downside to this when teaching English is that the student never sits down and writes a whole composition for me.  It feels like a waste of a tutoring session to have the student sit down and write for half an hour while I twiddle my thumbs. So how to practice writing?  This exercise feels like a good start.