The activity should work at most levels above elementary, as long as your students have some knowledge of past tenses, but it works best when they also know past continuous / progressive too. All you need to get things started is a sheet of plain paper for each pair of students.
The listening part comes first:
- Ask the students to draw the face of a person in the top right-hand corner of the page.
- Once they've done this ask them to give the person a name.
- Then on the top left of the page ask them to write five adjectives to describe the person's appearance.
- Next ask them to write five more adjectives to describe the person's character.
- After they've done this ask the students to write three things that the person likes doing.
- Then ask them to write who the person lives with.
In this way they build up a character profile for the person they are going to write about.
The writing part:
- Now dictate the following sentence to your students: 'It was a dark and stormy night and'. Stop at this point and ask them to write in the name of the person they have drawn and followed by the word 'was'.
- Then ask the students to complete the sentence from their imagination and add one more sentence.
- Once all the students have added a sentence to their stories, get them to stop and pass the paper to the pair on their right (this means that every pair of students now has a new character).
- The students then read through the information and the beginning of the story and then add one more sentence to it.
- Once they've done this you ask them once more to pass the paper to the next pair on their right. Continue to do this with each pair of students adding a sentence to each story, gradually building up each story as the papers are passed around the class.
- Continue with this until you decide that the students are starting to lose interest or have written enough and then tell them to finish the story.
- Once all the stories are complete there are a number of follow-up options you can try.
- Put the stories up around the class and get the students to read them all and decide which is best.
- Give each pair of students a story and get them to try to find and correct errors.
- Get the students to write the stories up on a computer and then ask them to add more description and detail to the stories.