Children learn by listening and repeating. They need to listen to English stories, and watch videos and talk about what they have seen and heard. This experience provides an important background for learning to read and ultimately to write. If they can read English by the time they are eleven or twelve years of age they will likely be ready to start writing paragraphs. This article offers some suggestions for using stories to promote creative writing.
Taking one episode from an English Second Language storybook can help the children to understand how the first sentence sets the scene for what will be written next in the paragraph. This becomes the topic sentence. Next the adventure continues creating the middle of the paragraph. Finally the paragraph ends with a conclusion of that part. You’ll find that some paragraphs demonstrate the pattern better than others.
The next step is to demonstrate that each paragraph is linked to the previous one through the content of the last sentence and the first sentence of the next paragraph. The last sentence of a paragraph leads the reader into, or introduces the content of the following one. Teaching this linking or bridging when writing paragraphs will be very useful to students in the future. It is something that is often neglected as students move through their classes. We suggest that the students would need to be at least eleven or twelve years old in order to have the cognitive maturity to understand this concept.
If students learn this organization for their creative writing it will be reflected in all their future writing regardless of the subject matter or level of education. Perhaps it is especially important for English Second Language students to learn these writing techniques as their consequent well organized writing ability will compensate for other English language difficulties that they may have.
“When Constable Johnson saw the bank robber tied to the tree he was amazed. ‘Why, this is Spike Mathews! He’s a very dangerous criminal! He’s wanted right across the country for bank robberies and a couple of shootings!’
Note how the first paragraph sets the scene and explains some content. It also leaves the reader wondering about what is going to happen next.
When the students finish reading it, the paragraph provides an opportunity for the teacher to ask:
“What do you think will happen next?”
At this point the teacher can have the whole group brainstorm ideas or divide the class into small groups for brainstorming. If desired, each group can write their ideas on the board for class discussion.
He thought for a moment and then said, ‘I won’t try to take him in alone. I’m going to radio for help. We’ll get three men out here to take him to prison.’ When the other policemen came they found that there was a knife hidden in the bank robber’s boot.”
Before each student starts writing what they think will happen next, point to the first or topic sentence and explain how it sets the scene.
“When Constable Johnson saw the bank robber tied to the tree he was amazed.”
The next sentences give information but ends with the reader wondering what Constable Johnson will do.
The first line of the next paragraph gives the answer.
“He thought for a moment and then said, “I won’t try to take him in alone.”
The students will need a great deal of practice before they are able to fully understand this concept and apply it to their writing. Rather than having them attempt to write two paragraphs that are properly bridged, give them plenty of practice writing the first one, with a good topic sentence and a final sentence that leaves the reader wondering what will happen next.