Lindsay Clandfield Global pick – Intermediate, Unit 2 - Ghostwriting
One activity I really enjoy with classes is a ghostwriting activity. No, I don’t mean writing a ghost story, I mean ghostwriting in the sense of ‘writing a story for someone else in the other person’s voice’. Ghostwriters are used to write for companies and for websites but more famously are hired to write autobiographies, or memoirs. Many published ‘autobiographies’ of famous sports and film personalities are actually written by ghostwriters.
Anyway, I liked the concept of a ghostwriter and thought it would make a really good idea for a classroom writing activity. Here’s how it works. First you get learners to think about an anecdote from their past that they are willing to share. You can give them some prompts for this (e.g. think of a fascinating person you met, think of a time when you were disappointed in a friend, think of an inspiring person you met at school) and ask them to make notes. When they are ready, they exchange anecdotes with a partner and take notes on their partner’s anecdote.
Now comes the ghostwriting part. Each learner has to ghostwrite the story they just heard for their partner. They need to write it using the first person, and can add extra details if they wish. I usually make this writing activity a maximum of two paragraphs, but if it’s going to be longer, I assign it for homework. At the end, students exchange the ghostwritten texts with the original partner.
I like this activity because it combines all four skills. Students speak and listen at the beginning, then write, then read each other’s writing. Learners also have a good reason to do each step as they are the ones who came up with the story and will be naturally curious to see how it was rendered in the end.
When I decided to put this activity in Global, I thought ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we could interview a real ghostwriter?’ So we did! The ghostwriting activity above comes at the end of a lesson where learners first guess what a ghostwriter does and then hear an interview with a real British ghostwriter called Andrew Crofts. Along the way they review past simple and past continuous (narrative tenses of course!) and look at word formation of adjectives like embarrassed/embarrassing. It all leads to the final writing activity: ghostwriting!
Lindsay Clandfield, Global co-author
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