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Learners can help to generate ideas as a group, using activities in which they tell stories of family histories, relate memories or experiences, share problems or discuss issues that may be current and important in their lives.


Mallows (2014) advocates a 'participatory approach' to teaching English language which draws out and builds upon the story of students' experiences to develop a shared critical understanding of the world. Bryers, Winstanley and Cooke (cited in Mallows 2014) define a participatory classroom as one which is driven by learners' exchanges, these exchanges being always relevant and meaningful to the learners' lives. According to Halliday (1985) writing tasks should reflect plausible, real-life communication; creative writing tasks must therefore focus on meaningful collaborative communication.


How can literacy teachers change the writing tasks in the classroom to make them more aligned with everyday realistic authentic tasks? How can they add creative input? We use writing for a variety of everyday communicative purposes, so firstly teachers need to identify the common usages of writing on their schemes of work and then consider how to embed these into creative and collaborative teaching activities; ideally based around subject matter that will engage learners' interest, but also using activities that are contextualised in real and meaningful communicative practice.


Collaborative writing tasks that I have observed to be successful embed pair work, small group work or larger group project work into literacy sessions. Creative writing activities which I have found to be useful with basic level classes include the following pair work activities: writing a shopping list for an imaginary holiday or trip such as a safari or jungle expedition; writing notes with imaginative excuses for absences from class or for missing work; or writing simple descriptions of a fictional friend or character. Literacy learners can pool vocabulary and have fun grouping the words together to describe something or someone who exists.


Activities which I found to be useful with a higher level class include: writing collaborative short stories based on the learners' experiences, using the students themselves as a creative resource. More advanced students can be asked to write creative descriptions using their senses writing notes of the scene around them, describing sounds, lights, smells, tastes and textures, observing what they can see, hear, small, taste, or how they feel. Later in class or for homework these can be worked up into a piece of descriptive writing.


Writing imaginative and creative descriptions can be based on any topic and completed at all levels. Pictures, objects, and texts can all be used as a basis for description, or the students themselves can become the source of descriptive language.


Poetry Writing Using basic poetry writing can be used at all levels for creative tasks. Short poems using concrete vocabulary are especially effective for lower level students with a limited vocabulary, as it allows students to realise that they can write imaginatively and express sophisticated thoughts. At higher levels students can experiment more creatively with different styles of poems and more complex linguistic forms. (Homstad and Thorson 1996). Writing poetry together encourages students to think about the sounds of words, the rhythm of language, rhyme, intonation, word stress, sentence stress.


Examples of poetry tasks I have successfully used collaboratively in the literacy classroom include the writing of acrostic poems. In pairs the learners choose a class member and write the person's name vertically on a piece of paper. Then they write adjectives or phrases they feel describe that person e.g.


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