Now look at the following examples of typical writing tasks found in EFL materials and ask yourself: What is the purpose of the texts? What reason would a 10-year-old pupil have for writing them?
- Write about your favourite pop or sports star.
- Write a description of a country.
- Write a description of a room in your house.
- Write about your favourite animal.
The truth is that such tasks are merely vehicles for getting pupils to display their English. There’s no real reason for the pupil to write the texts. Furthermore, there’s no guarantee that anyone other than the teacher will read them. When you think about it, it is hardly surprising that our pupils show little enthusiasm for writing in English.
One solution to this problem is to turn the pupils into the authors of mini-books. Specifically, when it comes to writing descriptions, get them to write Riddle Books.
Such books are easy to make. Simply fold two pieces of paper in half and put them in a card cover with staples down the spine.
Riddle Books are structured so that the identity of what the pupil is describing is revealed at the end of the book. The challenge for the reader is to guess the identity correctly before they turn the last page.
In the minds of our pupils, writing descriptions in an exercise book is synonymous with doing an exercise. It’s boring! In contrast, writing a riddle book is about creating something that will be displayed in the school and will be read by many people.
The pupils understand that the purpose of the text is not merely to display their knowledge of written English, but to entertain and challenge anyone who reads the book. The effect on the pupils’ motivation to write is wholly positive.
To engage your pupils’ interest in writing Riddle Books, read an example of one with them in class. Challenge them to solve the riddle before you turn the last page.