Relief Teaching Ideas

Sharing ideas to help make relief teaching fun, enjoyable, and meaningful.


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Sentence Stretching

– A good activity to highlight the importance of editing, the use of adjectives & adverbs and being selective with word choice.

Hand each student a piece of paper & get them to write a very basic, short sentence (eg: The boy went to the park).
Pass it along to 5 people, with the rule that each person must ADD another word or CHANGE one word to another word to make the sentence more specific and more interesting.
The sentence then gets passed back to the original writer. Compare & discuss how the sentence has changed. Discuss how writers constantly revise & edit their work by adding, changing or removing words.

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50 Word Story Challenge!

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A 50 Word Story is more of a snapshot in time, rather than a full length story. Like the name suggests, it is only made up of 50 words, including the title, and usually has a surprise ending or twist.

This task is best suited for middle to upper grades. It hones a student’s writing skills & focuses on writing concisely, careful word choice & ruthless editing!

I saw this writing exercise in a creative writing for older grades book that I had & then unfortunately lost many, years ago. I’m so sad that I misplaced this book because it had so many great ideas in it! If I could remember the name of it I would list it here as the source. My apologies!

Because I lost the book I had to come up with my own examples when I ran a 50 Word Story Competition with a year 4 class.

Here are two of my examples:

1. The Ballerina
Music fills the room. The ballerina, always poised and delicate, dances, arm held high, feet pointed. Her pink dress sparkles as she twirls around. Her audience, a little girl, watches in awe and claps with delight.
“Dinner!” her mother calls.
The girl closes her jewellery box.
“Coming mum.”

2. And the winner is…
Crouching at the finish line, heart pounding, nervous tension in the air. Starter’s gun goes off with a BANG! Muscles spring into action. Must win. Everything focused on the finishing line. Concentrate. Ignore distractions.
“Run! Run! Run!” the crowd yells.
Then…Splat.
Face first on asphalt.

After reading my examples to students I would show them my draft copies. I told them that before I started writing I worked out the twist or ending of my story & worked towards that. I pointed out how, as I wrote, I crossed words out, rewrote sections, added & took away words, until I had a 50 word story that I was happy with.

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I would also stress that it wasn’t like a normal story with character development, great descriptions of setting or problems & resolutions. Instead it was a snapshot in time.
We would brainstorm other ideas & I would start another example on the board for students to contribute to & see the writing process that I would go through.
When they were confident I would then send them to their seats to have a go by themselves.
Even the more reluctant writers were happy to have a go. The 50 word limit made the task of writing a story not as daunting!
As students wrote, edited & rewrote we had some valuable conferencing time discussing how important word choice was. They needed to make every word count!