14 comments on “Would you like to be a ghostwriter?

  1. ROBERT Harris wrote the book. He’s written a lot of other very successful ones too. I’ve only seen the film, though. (Richard Harris was an actor.)

    • You are absolutely right of course. How silly of me. I HAVE read Robert Harris’ book (and others by him) and watched, over the years, films with Richard Harris in them!!
      A slip of the keyboard? A mis-type?
      Anyway, I have corrected it. Thanks you.
      Jeremy

  2. Hi Jeremy,
    Loved the post and it made me think a lot about the role of narratives in class.
    The ability to tell stories is something which is so very close to my heart that I sometimes wonder whether I might not induce learners towards something I am particularly fond of. Yet, I think narratives are an integral part of our daily lives and to be able to tell a story in a captivating manner in a second language is a skill which is fundamental.
    I have been focusing a great deal on story telling with students this year and when I manage to borrow groups we get to work on this. It’s been a great experience and I’ve found that provided the stimulus or starting point is interesting enough, tons of varied and fascinating stories emerge. But what has been my greatest learning curve with this all has been the understanding that once narratives start being concocted by students, be they intermediate or advanced learners, the more I simply guide and the less I interfere in the writing process, the better the results. I am not so worried about learners using expected language chunks in the stories. I actually want to see how far they push each other and to this end we’ve adopted a collaborative, process approach which involves a read and tell sort of performance moment which then allows for drafting and redrafting moment.
    We’ve used iPads, mobiles and paper to register the stories.The results have been amazing…. Allowing learners the freedom to select the manner in which they work has been an eye-opener and has forced me to rethink aspects of classroom practice I’d taken for granted.
    So, the idea of allowing the narrative genre a place in the classroom is something I am keen on as I do think it stimulates such a varied use of language, of language exploration which becomes all the more significant and memorable because learners express what they really want to express as they create a story.

    • Hello Valeria,

      thanks so much for coming along. I really appreciate it.

      I find myself completely agreeing with (and admiring) your approach in the comments you make. What I am less clear about in my own mind is the balance between what the students get from each other and/or what the nature of the teacher’s intervention should be. I mean, I guess, how much ‘teaching’ should take place. How can this kind of collaborative narrative creation be a way not just of recycling words and chunks etc (I am sure it does that), but also a way of encountering and using ‘new’ language? Or maybe that’s for another kind of class??

      As for using iPads etc in the class, yes, yes, yes!! I asked my students to use their cellphones/ipads etc to look stuff up in the session in Łodz and some people seemed surprised (or perhaps I misunderstood that).. But how on earth can a 21st-century teacher work at advanced levels without letting/provoking students to interact with the online world!

      Jeremy

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  4. Hi Jeremy,

    it was a pleasure to participate in your lesson in Łódź – I really had fun (telling stories about scars may be dangerous, remember?:)) Anyway, I found it inspiring and I am going to prepare something similar for my upper-intermediate group next week, I am going to use the same trailer to introduce the idea of ghost writing and then I am going to let them write. I have a fantastic group for that so I believe I will not have to interfere too much, I think that when they finish I will have their works’ gallery (papers hung all over in the classroom) and will just observe them peer correcting, helping if needed. I can’t wait!
    thank you
    Kate (the naughty student from the first row using her iPhone passionately:))

    • Hello Kate,

      thanks for coming along to the blog – and for helping to make that session so much fun – for me at least. The scar, one day……!

      Please let me/us know how it goes with your UI students next week. I’d love to see pictures of the classroom walls.

      What’s your view of the quandary I feel – about how to ensure that students learn language while they do this, rather than just flexing their muscles. Is it enough just to get students to go looking for vocabulary etc?

      Naughty students are sometimes good to have around!

      Jeremy

      • Hi Jeremy,

        I couldn’t wait till the next week so I prepared the lesson last night and conducted it today:) I took a lower level students than I had originally planned (they were pre-intermediate and intermediate). We talked shortly about films, we watched the trailer and I asked them, as you asked us, to scribble some dialogues from the trailer… I allowed them to use all devices they had to find out who the ghost writer is and we explained it thoroughly and then I announced that they would be ghost writers – some were very enthusiastic about it:) they worked in pairs, told each other stories, interviewed each other and wrote the first person narratives. I let them use their smartphones and paper dictionaries and was monitoring, helping when they really needed me. Then we created the gallery of their papers on the walls and they were walking round with colourful pens and correcting mistakes. When they finished I read the papers aloud and double checked them.
        I asked my students for feedback and not only did they enjoy the lesson but they said they could practise writing, share some vocabulary, listen and ask questions and they found peer correction very useful because we were explaining some grammar structures and talked about some collocations. It took us two periods but I think it was worth it:)
        thank you,
        Kate

  5. Hello Kate,

    treading your comments has made me really happy! It sounds like an amazing two periods. Constructive work, peer correction, appropriate use of all their devices. Wow.

    Two questions: what did YOU get out of it, and what did the students learn from the whole thing. In other words, in your opinion, what could the students do (better) at the end of the whole procedure that they could not do before?

    But mainly, I’m just thrilled!

    Jeremy

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  7. Hi Jeremy:)

    I did a similar lesson today with a more advanced group and it was fun again:) I changed the activity though. After the trailer and the thorough explanation of the term “ghost writer” (I asked them to use their devices), I announced competitions for the best ghost writer for me, I told my students that as a famous person I needed their help and “hired” them to write on my behalf …. And then a told them a story – they were listening to me carefully and interviewed me afterwards to get more info and details and then started writing… I let them write in pairs and kept monitoring them- to my surprise both students in a couple were engaged in the task:) we don’t have the winners yet – we will vote during the next lesson!

    What I got out of it? I loved the enthusiasm they had for the task, it gave me positive energy and assured me that they had fun:) My students could practise writing a story, which they need for their graduation exams in English. Listening and speaking skills were practised too. I can’t say that they improved all of the skills significantly after one lesson but it was a step forward:)

    By the way, I invited two language teachers for this lesson (German and English teachers) and they appreciated it!

    Thank you:)
    Kate

  8. Ghostwriting is a good way to introduce students to point of view. It helps them to put themselves in the shoes of the other person. I think this is a great idea for students to imagine another person’s life. It would encourage them to be creative so that their stories are more interesting.

  9. Pingback: The Pleasure and Pain of Being a Ghost(writer) | Cheri Speak

  10. Dear Jeremy….reading your description of your lesson plan, i was a bit baffled by its complexity. The Polish lady seemed to have simplified it down to make it more apropriate.

    One idea I really liked was extracting chunks and collocations from the original tapescript to beef up their stories. I definitely will try that out if I get a suitable situation. I know that’s not orginal but I definitely would try and feed back some collocations/chunks to people’s original stories…if it was a small class size and ask them to include them in retelling a story. Dare I say it would be something like a demmand/dogme approach to teaching moment. Thanks for the idea

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