Rain City English – Let’s Get Writing!

Here’s a simple writing activity that I use to help students build and practice their vocabulary skills while thinking creatively.

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Write the letters of your name in a column (like an acrostic poem).

                              J

                            A

                            N

                            E

Pass your paper to the left.  Look at the letters on your new paper and write a word starting with each letter.

                           Jump

                          Angry

                          North

                          Elephant

Pass your paper to the left again. Now, look at the words on your new paper and use each word in a different sentence.

                            Kangaroos like to jump.

                            You won’t like me when I’m angry.

                            I want to go to North Vancouver.

                           Did you ride an elephant?


Depending on the language level/age of your students and the length of your program, have students write their first and/or last names. My last name has 11 letters, and I am lazy, so for the purpose of this example we’ll be sticking with first names only. 

You can change this assignment up in all sorts of ways to suit different topics, themes or language levels. Ask students to use specific tenses in their writing (simple past, present continuous, etc.), or amp up the challenge by asking students to create paragraphs using all of the words on their paper. This could be a great warm up activity for a creative writing class. 

I used this activity with my ESL students, but I’m sure it would be a fun little writing prompt or ice breaker for students of all levels. Enjoy!

We planned it, and they came.

In honour of NaNoWriMo, my teen librarian colleague and I hosted a teen writing event. Local published YA author and NaNoWriMo participant Denise Jaden would give a presentation, take questions and lead a writing exercise, and we would continue the experience with more creative writing activities. There would be door prizes, everyone would leave with some free swag, and as with any teen event, there would be snacks.

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We promoted the event on social media, plastered posters throughout the library and scattered handbills on every exposed surface. We bribed a few of our TLC members with service hours if they agreed to help set up and clean up for the event, which would ensure at least a few bodies in the room. But the real question was – would the teens come?

Well, come they did. 12 of them, to be exact. 12 participants, for a two-hour after-school writing workshop. We were impressed. And while some of the participants were familiar faces, there were a number of teens who had never been to a library event before, and who had heard about us from friends or through our marketing. Success!

The event itself went really smoothly. Denise is a very engaging speaker, and her writing exercise was pretty brilliant. I used the magazine clip out writing exercises I mentioned in a previous post, and the teens thought it was pretty hilarious. We shared our creations in small groups, and there was a lot of laughter, as the teens had come up with some pretty crazy characters.

We were also able to send every teen home with a book, which the teens were pretty stoked about. We get a lot of book donations from the public, which is pretty awesome. If we already have enough copies of a donated book in our system, we either sell the book in our book sale, which raises much-needed funds for the library, or we give the book away, either at a program or through outreach (at a food bank or shelter, for example). I love being able to send kids and teens home with their own books, particularly when working in challenged neighborhoods. The excitement in the teens’ eyes when I told them they could each pick a book was really pretty awesome. Adults may be wondering about the future of the printed word, but as far as most teens are concerned, there’s still something special about physical books.