Intermediate Writing:
Story of My Life

Based on a true story...

The names and places have been changed to protect your not-so-innocent students.

ESL Personal Information Writing Activity: Story of My Life.

AGE: Adults/Teenagers
SYNOPSIS: Personal information writing activity where students write dramatic stories about themselves using newspaper headlines.
LANGUAGE FOCUS: Writing and personal information.
EXAM FOCUS: Inference.
TIME: 45-90+ minutes
INTERACTION: Solo, pair and group work.
[callout3] The aim of this activity is for students to get to know each other better by writing out the answers to job interview questions and then detecting misinformation.[/callout3]

Story of My Life Writing Procedure:

1. Copy and cut up an Adverb List for each student, and an optional Adverb Order sheet for warmer 2(a) and an Job Interview Question Card for Follow Up (4). Have enough paper for students to write out their stories.

2. BEFORE starting the main activity:

(a) make sure students understand all of the adverbs in the Adverb List and where they should be added in a sentence by using the Adverb Order sentences. Write one sentence on the board with three adverbs underneath. In pairs, students should discuss if and where each adverb should go in the sentence and what effect it will have on the overall meaning.

example: I run in the green park while preparing to swim in the blue sea.

lazily         sporadically        crazily

I sporadically run in the green park while lazily preparing to swim in the blue sea.

"We didn't use 'crazily' because it doesn't fit the tone of the sentence."

Discuss the sentence together as a class, and then continue with the next sentence on the Adverb Order card.

OPTIONAL: Students can then write a sentence with any adverb they didn't use in a following sentence to the mini story.

(b) in pairs, students have paper-based conversations. Brainstorm about 10 get-to-know you type questions as a class, writing them on the board. In pairs, tell students they need to interview each other based on these questions - but that they can't speak, at all. They should ask and answer all their questions on a piece of paper.

(c) in pairs, have students write down a list of the 5-10 most important moments that can happen in a person's life. (Student's need two copies of their list.) Mix pairs into small groups to have students compare their lists - ultimately debating on and persuading each other to create a top-3 list. Students can then present to the other groups what they think are the top 3 moments in a person's life.

True Story Writing Procedure:

3. As a class, brainstorm about 15-20 job interview questions with the teacher writing them on the board.

target language: What qualifies you for the position of manager? In five year's time, where do you want to be professionally/personally? How do you spend your free time? Have you ever stolen something? What do you consider worth lying about?

4. Tell students to choose one question they would like to answer and write it on a spare piece of paper we'll call: a question card. When a student chooses a question - erase it off the board so there are no duplicate questions being answered until everyone has a question. Now, tell them they have 3 minutes to answer their question in writing.

5. When the students have finished answering their question, have them fold their piece of paper so their answer is hidden. Students then pass their answer with their question card to the student sitting on their right. That student then has to answer the given question on the same piece of paper. Do this until all the students are passed their original question.

6. Collect the question cards and answer papers from the students and hand them back in random order (making sure no one has their original answer paper). Now, students should read through all the answers and choose the two best answers in their own opinion. They then read the answer to the class, who has to decide which student wrote the answer. (Make sure your students understand they shouldn't say: "Oooh! Oooh! That's me! That's me!" if their answer was read.) Students should say who they think it is and why.


True Story Writing Follow up:

1. In pairs, students use the interview questions left on the board to interview each other to get to know each other better. They can then introduce their partner to the class saying a few things about them.

VARIATIONS: While presenting their partner to the class, students can lie about one or two points which other students have to guess are true or not. This can be done in one of three ways.

1st - as a class. After the introductions, students simply guess what information was a lie by saying what they think isn't true. The student in question can then confirm the statements.

2nd - introduction to the class, and then discussion in pairs. After the introduction, students discuss in pairs for 1 minute on what they think was a lie. They then put forth their conclusion. After all pairs have made their guess, the student in question then awards points for answers which were correct, verifying a few things about the guesses which were incorrect.

3rd - students need to write down the information they think was a lie next to the name of the student being presented on a piece of paper. After all the introductions have been made, students then mingle - questioning each person to confirm if their supposition was correct or not. After they have confirmed all their sentences - they can calculate how many lies they detected. The class can then see who was the best at detecting the lies.

2. Using the lists of most important moments in a person's life from Warmer 2(c) - students choose what they think is the most important moment in a person't life and write a short composition explaining why. They can then read their composition to the class who can agree or disagree with their statements.

3. Conversely, in pairs students create a list of the 5 worst moment's in a person's life. Then, working by themselves, students write a 2-minute speed composition on the topic. After the 2 minutes has finished, students read what they have to the class. The class can then vote on which moment is the worst in a person's life - based upon the arguments presented in the 2-minute speed composition.

4. Hand out the Job Question Interview Cards and let students interview each other.
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ESL Personal Information Writing Activity: Story of My Life (PDF) 


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