Text Inflator | Make your text wordier

Text inflator.jpg

Why would you use an online tool that makes your text wordier, right?  But there is possibly an instructional use waiting to be exploited. The text inflator injects unnecessary adjectives such as basically, essentially and literally along with multi-word phrases such as for all intents and purposes.

I reckon this site could be used in Business English and ESP contexts to get learners to explore how their writing might become unnecessarily wordy and it’s kinda fun. It could also be interesting in creative writing courses.

Text inflator.png

Pumping up the desperation metre can, however, render the text incoherent.

Here’s the link and don’t forget to read the disclaimer at the bottom of the page.

The teaching learning cycle

Teaching Learning Cycle

I hadn’t seen the teaching learning cycle till yesterday when I quickly flicked through a handout that OUP sent out for a webinar they’d organized last week on Genre-based Writing Instruction. It’s such a simple but elegant way of framing a writing lesson. This is essentially what I do in most of my writing lessons. I’ve never been too comfortable with all that cumbersome staging that’s generally expected when teaching writing.

Some of the suggested tasks for each stage include:


  • Analyse the genre of the model (What type of text is it? Who is the audience? What are the features of this genre?)
  • Analyse organization (How are paragraphs structured? How are ideas logically connected? How is cohesion achieved?)
  • Analyse language (How are clauses combined? What types of nouns or verbs are used? Has the writer used hedging devices?)
  • Analyse how language might differ across the sections of the text and vary by purpose.
  • Analyse vocabulary and word choice.

Joint construction 

  • Write a short text in pairs or groups
  • Rewrite a poorly written paragraph
  • Order jumbled sentences
  • Write a text from notes
  • Complete an information gap exercise
  • Participate in whole-class joint construction

Independent construction 

  • The tasks suggested here largely conform to the stages of a process writing lesson – brainstorm, plan, draft, peer review, revise etc.


  • The original source of the image is Martin, J.R. Genre and Language Learning: A Social Semiotic Perspective in Linguistics and Education, Vol. 20, Issue 1, 2009. However, I got the image and the classroom tasks from the OUP webinar handout on Genre-Based Writing Instruction, Oct 24, 2014.

Creative writing through a MoMA inspired art activity

Here’s my final project from the Museum of Modern Art’s Art & Activity MOOC. Unfortunately, I got a fairly mediocre score for it in the peer assessment with strange remarks such as activities that require imagination should be done only with children and teenagers. But then MOOC peer feedback is oh so competent and credible. In any case, I’m quite happy with this activity. Chitra Ganesh spent a month in a gallery in South Bombay creating an installation that combines Bombay inspired motifs with science fiction – that’s when I first heard of her. She’s quite a remarkable artist. I chose an older work of her’s from a MoMA gallery in New York. 

  • Subject: Creative writing
  • Target grade level range: Adult learners
  • Theme: Narratives in art
  • Artwork selection: 


6FED-620 35_The_silhouette_returns_detail in18-her-silhouette-returns-detail

  • Artwork title: Her Silhouette Returns
  • Artist: Chitra Ganesh
  • Date: October 1, 2009 – April 5, 2010
  • Materials: Cut paper, colour washes, sequins, glitter and found objects.
  • Activity Description:  What will the students do? What are the goals for the activity and how does the activity connect to the work of art? Students explore feminist iconography in a visual narrative that transgresses conventions in a scaffolded sequence of activities that leads to the creation of a piece of creative writing which is similarly unbounded by norms. Students will be encouraged to analyze and reflect on the artwork through close looking and then imagine and create their own visual narrative by focusing on a less obvious detail/part of the work. Finally, students will transform their visual narrative into writing.  
  • Reflection: What will your students (or participants) create in response to the activity? For example, will they share photographs, drawings, texts, or other documentation? Students will produce a short piece of prose fiction by developing deeper connections with the narratives representing artwork and creating meaning by producing a written narrative.

Briefly describe how your artwork and project theme connects to the overall grade curriculum.  

Art can be a powerful way of overcoming creative blocks in writing, inspiring spontaneity in ideas and originality of expression that transgress conventional styles and themes. Chitra Ganesh’s Her Silhouette Returns is an unconventional, surrealist installation that simultaneously tells multiple stories and stories within stories, and does so in a way that grabs the attention of viewers and engages them in a powerful sensory experience. These are skills that creative writers aspire to in their own work. The artwork is complex and contains a number of pop references (glam rock and kitsch of The Rocky Horror Picture Show) and feminist motifs which adult learners will enjoy exploring. Her Silhouette Returns is particularly apt for the context of a creative writing workshop because the artist was originally inspired by literature – The Silhouette in Alan Moore and David Gibbons’ 1980s graphic novel Watchmen. In this work The Silhouette is a superhero who is discriminated against and murdered for coming out as a lesbian. Ganesh herself is interested in “buried narratives which are excluded from the official canon” and the work suggests “links between myth, ritual, and high and low culture as well as connections between countries and continents.” These elements combine to create a rich source of inspiration for creative writers who are learning how to break staid approaches, styles and plots in their writing.

NB: The factual information and quotes in this paragraph are sourced from an Exhibition Press Release by PS1.MoMA; accessed on July 30, 2014.

Describe two activity goals of your assignment and explain how they connect to the work of art.

To analyze less obvious details in the artwork and reflect on how they create narratives within narratives that collectively compose a surreal and complex work.

The artwork contains many strong and startling elements. There is a risk that these will overwhelm students to the detriment of smaller, intriguing details. Since the artist herself is interested in subaltern narratives, the activity’s goal is to encourage close looking at a variety of narratives including those based on smaller, less obvious details in the art work such as the distinctive pattern of eyes or the portal in the wall which reveals what is perhaps an unrelated work on a distant wall.

To imagine the progression of these narratives and create a visual storyboard that can then be transformed into a piece of prose writing.

The artist set out to narrate a number of stories through the artwork with a focus on ‘buried narratives’. The activity aims to help students uncover these buried narratives by visualizing the artist’s process in establishing multiple stories and how they came to be. The process of uncovering buried narratives which is a key element in coming to terms with this artwork, mirrors the process of discovery and development of ideas by writers.

Write clear instructions for how another teacher should lead your activity.

This activity has three phases: 

Phase 1: Close-looking through a memory activity

  • Ask students to look at The Silhouette Returns for 1 minute.
  • Put students in groups of three and ask them to turn around so they have their backs to the artwork.
  • Ask students to share what they remember from the artwork without looking at it.
  • After three minutes, have them look back at the painting and ask the following questions: 
  • – Which elements did everyone in your group remember?
    – Which elements did only one of you remember?
    – Which elements did none of you remember?
    – Why do you think you missed these details?
    – Do you notice more details now? What do you see?

Phase 2: Imagining through a visual narrative

  • Ask students to individually choose a single element or part of the artwork for example, the grass at the bottom, one of the butterflies or the face to the far left. As an optional step, distribute viewfinders if available to enable them to do this.
  • However, the detail they choose should not be something that they remember during the preceding activity. It should be something that they noticed when they looked at the artwork for the second time.
  • Ask students to focus on this one element for 30 seconds.
  • Distribute visual storyboards.


  • Ask students to start with the box on the far right. Without looking at the artwork, try to recreate the detail they were looking at.
  • Now have them to look back at the artwork and ask the following questions:
  • – Do you think your drawing is similar to or different than the original?
    – How does that make you feel?
  • Ask students to focus on their drawing and imagine what happened before this.
  • Get each student to fill in the three frames in the storyboard describing what happened before. 
  • When students have completed their storyboard, have them compare it in pairs.
  • Ask the following questions:

– Were there elements in your partner’s work which strongly reflected the themes and styles of the artwork?
– Were there elements that were dissimilar?  Did you find this unexpected or surprising? Why?

Phase 3: Transforming into a written narrative

  • Ask students to consider each of the frames as milestones in a mini-narrative arc: exposition, rising action, climax and resolution.
  • Give students time to write a paragraph on each of the frames in the storyboard narrating the story. Depending on the profile of the students, you may want to stage this activity with prescribed time limits for each frame/paragraph. Let the students know that the word ‘paragraph’ here is not meant to limit creativity but merely provide some guidance and students should interpret it as they see fit in the context of the story they are creating.
  • When students have finished writing, give them a couple of minutes to go over their work.
  • Now ask students to stick their writing on a blank wall in a manner that replicates the position of the detail in The Silhouette Returns which they used as a prompt.
  • Ask students to read at least three of the stories of their peers.
  • Wrap-up by asking the following questions:

– How close were the stories to your original impressions of the artwork and the narratives you thought it represented?
– Was it constricting or liberating to use a detail from the artwork as a writing prompt? Why?
– How has your perception of The Silhouette Returns changed after reading these stories?


Facilitators can evaluate student work from this activity in two ways:

  • Ask each student to answer this question – How has the installation piece – The Silhouette Returns – influenced your writing in this story?
  • Collect all stories and provide delayed feedback using creative writing rubrics.

A 10 minute play | A staged script writing activity

Source: http://www.morguefile.com
Source: http://www.morguefile.com

Here is a series of writing exercises inspired by a recent workshop I attended. The activities are staged and ramp up to writing a ten minute play.

Exercise 1: Imagining the setting

Atmosphere is extremely important in theatre and setting the right atmosphere lets the writer breathe life into his/her work and world. In this activity, ask Ss to choose one of the following items and spend 2 to 3 minutes closing their eyes and imagining the space.  They should explore the space fully in their mind in three dimensions. Then ask them to write about 50 words describing the setting:

  • Abandoned lift
  • Attic
  • Seashore
  • Derelict building
  • Psychiatric ward
  • Deserted street

Exercise 2: Creating a character profile.

Now, it’s time to populate this world with people. To get Ss to start thinking about robust character development, ask them to think of a character that might belong in this setting. They should fill the gaps in the following statements to sketch out this character’s profile:

  • I was born _______
  • My first memories ______
  • I remember my mother ________
  • I have been to ________
  • Since 7 ‘o clock this morning _______
  • I love _______
  • What interests me now is _______
  • I cannot understand why _______
  • I have been reading _______
  • I wish _______

Exercise 3: Dialogue with strangers

Ask Ss to work with a partner. They should choose one setting from the two they have between them and create a dialogue in this setting between their two characters. However, pairs should write a single script in a turn-wise manner. For example, A writes a line for his character and passes the notebook to B who then writes a line for her character and passes it back to A.  This interchange continues until the dialogue reaches a natural conclusion.

Exercise 4: Building out a dialogue

Ask Ss if they know what the word ‘conflict’ means. Elicit meaning beyond fighting and point out the role of conflict in a story. Ask Ss to work individually to describe a setting in one line; two characters A & B – who are they? Age? What do they do?  Then write a short dialogue between A & B in this setting that involves conflict.

After you get some Ss to read out their dialogues, elicit how conflict makes stories richer and more interesting to listeners and readers.

Exercise 5: 10 minute play

Stage 1: Hand out chits of paper and ask Ss to write a full name on it as well as the person’s professions, likes & dislikes and  hobbies. For example Neha Rodrigues, swimming instructor, likes movies & shopping, hates fast food & strong perfumes, loves solving jigsaw puzzles.  They should write three character prompts each.

Collect all the chits into a pile. Now repeat this procedure with these prompts:

  • Setting – should be quite specific – not just “room” but what kind of room and where it’s located.
  • Prop – this is an inanimate object which is positioned on stage during the play.
  • Object – this is an item which is referred to in the dialogue and may not be physically present on stage.
  • Dialogue – A single line of dialogue.

Ask Ss to now pick one prompt from each of the piles except the character pile from which they should pick three chits. They should have some wacky ideas for creating a short original play.  You may want to share a structure to help them write the 10 minute play.

Structure for 10 minute play:

  • Word count: Around 15oo words
  • Jump straight into the action – don’t spend time setting context.  Think about who your characters are and what they want.
  • Page 1 – 2: Set-up the world of the main character(s)
  • Page 2 – 3: Something happens to throw their world out of balance
  • Page 4 – 7: Your character struggles to restore order to her world
  • Page 8: Just when your character is about to restore order, something happens to complicate matters.
  • Page 9-10: Character either succeeds or fails in her attempt to restore order.

Maybe as a follow-on activity, Ss could get into small groups and select one of their plays to perform for the rest of the class. It could be a staged reading instead of an actual performance.

Process Approach to Writing: Is it better than other approaches to teach writing skills to ESL Ss? #ELTchat Summary 27/03/2013

This is a summary of the 1200 PM GMT #ELTchat on the Process Approach to Writing held on March 27, 2013. It’s my first ELTchat summary and it’s come out looking like an extended and tortured reported speech exercise 🙂 I’m definitely not taking this route the next time round. 



The chat kicked off with @Marisa_C sharing a link to a definition of process writing (PW). The Teaching English site describes process writing as treating “all writing as a creative act which requires time and positive feedback to be done well” and lays out three stages to accomplish this: pre-writing, focusing ideas, and evaluating, structuring and editing. Additionally, @kevchanwow shared an insightful blog post focusing on the practical application of PW. Later, @MisterMikeLCC tweeted a link to a presentation on PW.

Creativity or conformity

Source: http://www.morguefile.com/

@adi_rajan felt that process writing forces students to conform and create output that is often very similar.  @kevchanwow commented that if students get caught up in group-think, especially if the teacher starts with a brainstorming activity, then similar texts are a very real danger. @adi_rajan echoed this view and felt that brainstorming activities could lead to similar content; and structuring exercises could lead to a similar look and feel. @Marisa_C questioned this perspective and asked whether @adi_rajan and @kevchanwow were suggesting that when left to their own devices, students couldn’t produce text independently of the group. @adi_rajan argued that especially in business writing, exercises to structure text often target an ideal response and he wasn’t sure if this was desirable. However, @Marisa_C and @efl101 didn’t see a problem in students producing similar texts especially in the case of business letters which as @Marisa_C pointed out are generally very similar making them more teachable. @Marisa_C went on to suggest that there wasn’t a problem with students producing similar texts unless you were teaching creative writing classes. @galactadon extended this idea by stating that she too doesn’t see a problem with similarity because imitation isn’t exclusive to ELT and that many creative writing exercises use imitation of style and form for mastery.

The group seemed to be reaching consensus about acquitting PW of accusations of limiting creativity. However, the original dissenters weren’t yet ready to concede. @kevchanwow contended that within the constraints of the genre, students should still be expressing some serious individuality. @adi_rajan questioned the goal of working towards a model text and added that he would rather see a diversity of responses in the absence of which he could just distribute templates and ask students to fill in the blanks. @Marisa disagreed and stated that this was a moot point for her in a language class because the training ground is not always where you display creativity. @kevchanwow clarified the issue of creativity by pointing out that the question isn’t whether texts are similar but if students have an opportunity to truly express what they wish to. In response, @efl101 shared the following formula: “creative = expression, most/rest = communicate message + don’t get embarrassed by writing”.  @Marisa concluded this part of a discussion when she sagely added “we can happily disagree. The ability to creatively use language and practice language use isn’t separable to me.”

Value or vapid

The chatters agreed that PW was generally useful. @efl101 commented that since communication is key and most writing in TL is for purpose, chunks are very useful; which PW helps with.  Despite his earlier comments about the drawbacks of PW, @kevchanchow admitted to still liking PW. He suggested that his students generally don’t like to take the time to write well and PW slows the process down. @shaunwilden highlighted the built-in time PW allows for feedback and its benefits.  @MarjorieRosenbe drew on her experience with teaching writing for CAE and BEC classes which require a lot of structure to illustrate PW’s value.

Product or process

The discussion, thus far, avoided contrasting the product and process approaches. However, @efl101 asserted that the overuse of PW causes problems in exams because there’s no time to process-write in an exam. @shaunwilden wondered whether @efl101 would recommend teaching product instead in an exam context. @efl101 countered this by suggesting it would be better to change the exam system. @Marisa_C recommended that just before an exam, a product approach, sans preparation, might be better.

A glut of writing

Source: http://www.morguefile.com/

@efl101 asked the group to consider whether too much time is spent on writing.  When @shaunwilden responded that this might depend on the type of class, @efl101 clarified that he was referring to general classes where he felt that writing as a percentage of total time was overdone.  @Shuanwilden suggested that this imbalance could be the result of the school syllabus, course book, teacher or all three. @efl101 added that all three were responsible for the dominance of writing which is also measurable and perhaps easier to work on than speaking. @adi_rajan thought that the number of writing lessons was disproportionate to how often we write in real life.  @efl101 agreed but felt that this was personally also an area that he was least comfortable with when using L2 himself.

@muranava argued that writing is not over done because there are many problems in L1 writing.  @joannaacre had the same opinion and said that students often don’t know how to write in their L1 and are expected to write in L2.   @kevchanwow wasn’t sure whether too much time is spent on writing but thought there’s not enough time for the kind of feedback that leads to students’ development.  @michellegriffin and @alanmtait shared similar perspectives from Spain and Korea respectively.  @michellegriffin added that the issue is compounded when we consider the types of writing we are most likely to do in real life.  @adi_rajan concurred with this stating that students were more likely to write tweets and text messages as opposed to the elaborate texts that come out of writing classes.

Leveraging PW

After much deliberation over the challenges of process writing, as well as writing in general, the discussion turned to ways of leveraging PW to make it more effective. @efl101 quipped that PW is a process of diminishing intervention when it works best. @Marisa_C recommended including mini syllabuses of PW before moving to FW for each genre. @joannaacre echoed this idea by stating that it was like building and layering bit by bit. @muranava felt that product, process and genre are complimentary and @Marisa_C agreed saying that ‘PW wholesale’ didn’t seem like a great idea to her.  @efl101 suggested combining PW with TBL, including real tweets, updates and forum comments. Others agreed that integrating writing with other skills was an area with a lot of potential.

Feedback in PW

@shaunwilden sensing that we were drifting from the topic queried the group on how we handle feedback during PW and here are the results:

Self & Peer assessment

  • @bnleez lets learners correct what they can first (self/peer assessment) before intervening.
  • @adi_rajan likes to use peer feedback with a simple inventory of things to look for as students review each other’s work
  • @Marisa_C pointed out the importance of using criteria and acquainting students on how to use them.

Teacher prompts

  • @Marisa_C suggested using PW time for teacher prompted (discreet) hints rather than correction to save time spent on explicit feedback.
  • @bnleez suggested that when using teacher prompts, mixing up corrected feedback so the L2 writer doesn’t feel discouraged. @bnleez also added that a lot of corrected feedback tends to be indirect, creating teachable moments.

Error correction codes

  • Negligible discussion on the ever-familiar codes except a zany link from @Marisa_C.


  • @Marisa_C offered colour coding as an alternative to  the well known error correction codes

Tech tools:

  • @shaunwilden pointed out that the advantage of using tech tools such as Google docs and Wikis is the focus on PW.
  • @adi_rajan recommended using social media for “redoing” which involves getting students to blog their writing, get peer and teacher feedback and then reposting.
  • @Marisa referred chatters to @russell1955 for more on how screencasting can be used for giving feedback and @shaunwilden shared a link to Russell Stannard’s research paper.
  • @adi_rajan has used online writing evaluation tools like Criterion but finds them lacking.
  • @shaunwilden records himself talking about a piece of work then sending the recording to students.


  • @efl101 pointed out that feedback which involves probing underlined items, attempting self correction, redoing, content analysis and discussion takes a lot of time. However, this is time well spent because he feels that concrete feedback and correction are motivating in writing particular if students can redo their writing.
  • @kevchanchow finds that even with intense training, students identify less than 50% of their own mistakes and that feedback is for growth, not error correction.
  • @Marisa_C queried the group about dealing with students who prefer the teacher to correct. @adi_rajan shared that his learners often feel cheated if they don’t get teacher feedback. He talks about the benefits of self-correction and peer to peer feedback with his students but they are not always convinced.  @Marisa_C suggested employing a good sales pitch.

Aside: PW banned in the DELTA?

@EBEFL wanted to know whether it was true that process writing classes were banned from DELTA module 2.  @Marisa_C explained that this wasn’t the case but she thought many DELTAs avoid PW because the lesson needs to be micro-planned to a very fine detail and the teacher is in danger of seeming inactive. She went on to add that if you have planned for 20 minutes of continuous writing and you are just sitting and monitoring, then it might suggest a poorly planned lesson for that context.


Source: http://www.morguefile.com/

The overall trend of the discussion seemed to indicate that despite some drawbacks, PW is a robust approach to teaching writing to ESL students.  What’s more, it’s not all that difficult to run and as @Marisa_C puts it “if two people collaborate, they can experience PW in action.” Beyond ease of use, there were questions about effectiveness. @efl101 identifies purpose of writing as key i.e., writing that is translatable into real world experience.  @bnleez suggests an authentic audience in addition to purpose to make writing meaningful. In conclusion and in  defense of PW, we return to @efl101 and his pithy statement that most writing is structured and that genuine ‘stream of consciousness’ writing is best left to Joyce et al.


Here’s a list of links shared during the chat and the people who tweeted them.

All images in this post are sourced from http://www.morgueFile.com 

CuePrompter: activities across skills

During the ISTEK ELT conference last weekend, a delegate tweeted about a session that had activities with CuePrompter. Apparently, the activity involved a read & do version of Simon says.

From ISTEK ELT 2013
From ISTEK ELT 2013

It’s an interesting tool that allows you to paste any text you’d like(it doesn’t seem to do so well with non-Latin scripts, I tried with Chinese) and select speed, font size, and colour (white on black, black on white). While the prompter is running, you can pause, reverse, fast-forward as well as increase and decrease speed. Many thanks to Okan Önalan for tweeting about the site.


CuePrompter seems too versatile a tool to be limited to just a variation of Simon says. I brainstormed some other applications for it which would extend its use across other skills.


  • Ask Ss skim a text to answer a linear sequence of questions. Since the text disappears after a couple of seconds, Ss will be compelled (hopefully) to skim. This could also be a good exercise to help Ss get over regression – where Ss repeatedly read the same sentences or paragraph when it’s not required. 
  • Give Ss a set of statements and ask them to skim the text displayed by CuePrompter to decide whether they are true or false. Alternatively (this could be useful for EAP & ESP contexts), decide whether the information is available or referred to in the text.


  • Create a text that has synonyms of the target vocabulary. Give Ss a table or a bingo chart with the target vocabulary. Let the prompter roll and ask them to read quickly and write down synonyms from the text next to the words they have in their worksheet. Repeat until they get most of the words. 


  • Distribute a list of words to Ss and ask them to look up how they’re pronounced after class. To make it more interesting, you could run it as a jigsaw task and give out several lists. In the next session, ask students to teach each other words that might have appeared in their lists but not in those of others. Then, set the stage for a breaking news broadcast activity.  Pick up recent news items from the net and plant words from the lists you have distributed. Divide Ss into groups and name them after rival news channels.  Tell them they are competing for viewer ratings which they can secure by pronouncing all the words correctly.  Paste the text into CuePrompter and have a student from the first group read out the text as if it were a live news broadcast. Explain to the Ss that news broadcasters don’t get any prep time when it comes to breaking news – they have to read from the prompter without making any mistakes because there’s no second take. 


  • Most creative writing activities allow Ss a lot of time to think and write. But, what if you wanted to encourage the capture of spontaneous thoughts?  Create a series of prompts in a narrative (You enter a large room, what do you see? Suddenly, you hear a loud noise, describe it.)  Paste the prompts into CuePrompter and puts lots of ******** between each prompt. Ss read the cue quickly and start writing using the first thought that pops into their heads.  They have to write really fast because the next cue will come up soon.  When the prompter runs out of text, get Ss to proof-read what they’ve written and then teach them some discourse markers to connect their sentences and transition smoothly between events and actions. Let Ss rewrite their stories as a cohesive narrative before sharing it with the rest of the class.


  • A replica of the writing activity except Ss are in small groups and each time CuePrompter displays a prompt, Ss discuss it and collaboratively construct a story.  

I’d love to hear your feedback on these ideas especially if you get the opportunity to try them out with your learners.

Switching (unlikely) places: a writing prompt

img_0208The podium lawn at Essar House, Mahalakshmi has the springiest and prickliest grass I’ve ever rolled around on. I was doing all sorts of weird things on this grass (including rolling around) because a couple of weeks ago I attended Avid Learning’s workshop on Writing through Movement facilitated by Yuki Ellias.  There were lots of interesting exercises although not all of them transitioned well from doing crazy kinaesthetic things to the actual objective which was writing.  However, there was one activity which was a real winner. Here’s how it went.


Stage 1: T mimes

T: Are you familiar with mime? I am going to teach you how to mime something. How many of you wash your own clothes? Let me jog your memory.

T modeled actions which Ss repeated. (Wash a shirt Indian Dhobi style –  rinse an imaginary shirt repeatedly in a bucket. Spread on slab. Beat with stick. Scrub with soap and brush. Flip. Repeat procedure. Squeeze like you’re constipated. Shake out the water. Hang out to dry. Step back and admire)

Stage 2: Ss mime

T gets three volunteers to mime the whole sequence in front of the group. I think the objective of this step is to point out that Ss don’t need to faithfully replicate the original mime which is only meant to be a framework for exploring different actions.

Ask all Ss to work through the entire sequence once without anyone leading them.

Stage 4: Switch

Now, ask for three more volunteers but this time have them mime the scene as if they were the shirt!  Then, ask everyone to spread out (this is where the springy grass comes in) and now act out the entire sequence as shirts.

Stage 5: Write 

Ask Ss to write about the process of being laundered in the voice of the shirt.

Stage 6: Action replay 

T: Replay the entire mime in your head. Which part did enjoy the most or stood out for you for some reason? Reenact that moment. Do it over and over again until you’ve observed the moment completely. Notice how you move, how your body is positioned, how does the wind hit you, how does water feel when it splashes on you or when you’re dunked in the bucket or scrubbed on the slab.

Stage 7: Write again 

Ask Ss to write about that moment. Encourage them to reenact if required to get more inspiration.

Stage 8: Rewrite 

Have Ss cut the description of the moment down to a single sentence.

Stage 9: Share

Stick strips of masking tape on the floor of the room. Get Ss to write their sentences on the tape.  Ask everyone to go around and read each other’s writing.


I’ve done exercises where you mentally switch places with another person and try to write from their perspective. But, this was my first time switching places with an inanimate object.  It was novel, zany and enjoyable. So I thought about other activities that could be loaded into this frame.

1. Go through the process of making tea and then switch places with the tea.

2. Check-in a piece of luggage and mime how it gets manhandled & passed along until it reaches the flight. Then, become the bag or suitcase.

3. Mime brushing your teeth and then switch places with the brush.

4. Act out the journey of a pizza from the outlet to someone’s home and then transform into the pizza.

I know it sounds inane but it’s actually a lot of fun. More importantly, it challenges the participant to extend his or her language in really interesting ways.  So, it might be more appropriate for a B2 or a C1 learner. I also think concluding with conventional error correction might defeat the objective which is creativity and fluency in writing.  Instead, you could end with Ss discussing what they liked in each other’s work and how perspectives of the same event might be different.