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.
 
Procedure
 
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.
 Follow up:
  • 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.

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