Brick by Brick – a lego based approach to writing

So, this was an idea I have been knocking backwards and forwards for a while, I started using parts of it a few years ago, and the main idea is to try to treat writing as something which can be broken down, learnt and constructed rather than a mysterious thing that some can do and others can’t.

There are plenty of other blogs on here with a big focus on writing but the aim with this one is to try to do something a bit different.  Hopefully to appeal to visual learners and maybe even the kinaesthetic ones too.

Why lego? Well, lego is built of brightly coloured blocks.  Hopefully all else will become clearer later, if not, then write to me and tell me, as I really need to rethink this!!!

This lesson is focusing on improving essay writing, especially for exams, but it really can be done with lots of different styles, merely change the names/functions of the bricks.

I haven’t used bricks themselves here, but I have included an idea for them to be used later on in the procedure as an option.  I think their use could definitely be of benefit in certain classrooms and with particular classes.  But, as always trust your instincts, you know your class!

Aim: improve writing and enable students to better understand register required for academic writing

Level: High Int +

Time: 1hr +

Procedure:

Planning

  1. basic brainstorm – follow the worksheet and do all class feedback, checking the ideas and boarding ones you are happy with.

Register focus

2. Put students in pairs or groups and ask them to think of language you would / wouldn’t expect in an essay.

Answers: linkers / relative clauses / passives / passive reporting structures / high level vocab / modal verbs to soften / no phrasal verbs / no contractions / no idioms

They might not get them all, but that is fine.

Brick by Brick writing

This is the type of writing I sometimes get from newer students.

I’ve gone for a task-teach-task approach to this part of the lesson as I feel it allows you to measure current student ability better, especially with new classes.

3.1 The students work in pairs to discuss how the writing could be improved

3.2 Ask students to look at the building blocks and show them the example below them.  Get them to consider what each thing is doing to make the writing more formal and to improve it.  Ask them to underline the sections in the corresponding colours, so passives in green etc.

3.3 Controlled practice, ask students to drop in words from the blocks above to complete the sentence.

Obviously here, other options are possible

Moreover, it could be argued that older buildings may play a vital role in a country’s culture . Additionally / Therefore, their preservation could be important in future generations’ education.

3.4 Ask Students to use the approach on one of their ideas from planning section 1, get them to write it, monitor as they do so and prompt and suggest improvements, try to ensure they are using all of the different ‘bricks’.

3.5 Peer editing – ask the students to pass their sentences to other students who have to identify the different ‘bricks’ being used.  This could be done by underlining, or if you have different lego bricks it could be done by the students actually selecting different coloured bricks and putting them together to form a collection, end on end, so: green brick, blue brick, yellow brick, red brick, blue brick, representing the different language used.

3.6 Ask the students to reflect on their normal way of writing and how they think the planning section and how thinking about the writing may help.  It can be helpful here to pull out examples of their writing so that they can see how it could be improved.

3.7 Ask students to complete the essay for homework – remind them to use a plan, I often elicit a workable one from the class and board it before they leave.  Also stress that you are hoping to see the things looked at today, so modals / passives / higher level vocab.

You can even ask them to highlight this for you at home or when they come into class next.

Enjoy!

Materials: worksheet

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