Activity Corner: Six Word Story

(I thought it might be helpful to readers and myself if I described some of my favorite activities from time to time. See all my ESL Activity Corner posts here.)

This is a nice little activity you can use as a warm-up, a mini-quiz, summary practice, or even grammar exercise, about basically any content.


We have that famous so-called six word novel:

For sale: baby shoes, never worn.

What else can our students convey in just six words?

In Six Words Or Less…

  • Introduce yourself to the class
  • Summarize the article/chapter you just read
  • Share your goals for the semester
  • Write down what you learned today
  • Describe someone important to you
  • Propose a topic for the next writing assignment

The possibilities are pretty much endless! Give it a try!


Idea Credit and further reading: Students Write Life Stories in Six Words or Less

Photo Credit: Rachel Torgerson on Flickr

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Activity Corner: Jigsaw Reading

(I thought it might be helpful to readers and myself if I described some of my favorite activities from time to time. See all my ESL Activity Corner posts here.)

"Scattered puzzle pieces next to solved fragment" by Horia Varlan on Flickr
“Scattered puzzle pieces next to solved fragment” by Horia Varlan on Flickr

In Jigsaw Reading, students read different sections of the materials and then share their knowledge with one another.  Their bits of expertise come together like the pieces of a puzzle.

In phase one, students to do a small amount of reading with a very high level of comprehension.  Different groups of students read different materials.  Each group becomes an expert on its single part of the materials.

In phase two, students make new groups and tell each other about their own sections.  This way, everybody learns about all of the materials.

Jigsaw Readings are a great way to combine reading with listening, speaking, and summarizing.  They can also make a great segue into higher-level learning tasks such as analyzing, evaluating, and even creating.


  • Divide up the information you’d like your students to have.
    (i.e. different but related readings, or sections of one long reading)
  • Divide the students into groups.  Give one section of information to each group.
  • Have the students in each group work together to thoroughly understand the information.  Be sure to check for comprehension.
  • Make new groups.  There should be at least one expert for each section in each new group.
  • The students take turns teaching the others about their sections.
  • Check for comprehension and better yet, use extension activities to further explore the topic.

Example (from Level 3):

I selected four short readings for the class – only a couple of paragraphs long each.  Each story was related to the theme (Personal Goals), but each one was quite different.

The class made four groups.  Group #1 received Reading #1, Group #2 received Reading #2, etc.  The students read their stories.  They all discussed their stories within their groups and answered the same three basic comprehension questions (provided on the board).  Thus the students in Group #1 became experts on Reading #1, and so on.

After checking their comprehension questions and asking for points of confusion, I felt satisfied that they could each represent his/her story to others.  Within each group, we named Student A, B, C, and D (there were 15 students, so I was able to fill in as the last Student D).  We then grouped the students by letter.  Our new groups had one representative with knowledge of each story.

Each student had about 2 minutes in which to tell the others in his/her group about the story.  Many students wanted to read the story to their group, but I encouraged them to talk about the comprehension questions instead (we’ll get into summarizing soon – this was an intro to that skill).

Then, once everyone had knowledge of every story, I asked them in their groups to pick which goal from the readings was the most important.  This was difficult and very interesting because all of the goals had merit.  The students formed their opinions, explained their reasoning, and tried to convince each other, both in their small groups and as a whole class.

Related Posts:


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“The Art of Teaching Adults” – Overall

The Art of Teaching Adults from
The Art of Teaching Adults from

I spent about a week going through “The Art of Teaching Adults” by Peter Renner.

I picked it up because it was available at my local library and because the title was pretty spot-on with what I was looking for.  I was expecting a nice overview of the field, and I pretty much got one.  Renner defines “the field” a little differently than I do – he doesn’t relate anything specifically to English Language Learners, or even to remedial education in general, but his discussion was still useful to me.

As Jen mentions in two comments, Renner seems to go back and forth between “educational miopia” and “practical and helpful ideas.”  (Jen, I’m not 100% sure I know what you mean by ‘educational myopia’, but I’m about to go off on my own interpretation.  Feel free to hit the comments to add your two cents as it was intended.) I see him as myopic in two ways – in that he doesn’t really seem to say anything new or see beyond his time, and in that he’s looking closely to dissect but not necessarily at the big picture.  These limitations worked pretty well for me – I needed some reflection of the time and some small bites of methods and techniques. And Renner does a great job of citing some big-picture people his work is derived from.

RI - Newport: The Breakers Gateway by wallyg on Flickr
RI - Newport: The Breakers Gateway by wallyg on Flickr

In fact, I’d say that one of the chief values of this book for me was that it was a gateway. Renner introduced me to other authors’ work, noted his discussion pretty thoroughly, and I’ve been able to identify and include works on my syllabus that I want to peruse.  I’m considering making note of his whole bibliography for future reference – we’ll see.

You should know that I’m going to have frustrations with pretty much any book I read.  I’m picky.  One of my chief frustrations with this book was when I felt his content to page-space ratio was page-space-heavy.  At times I also found myself wondering about his editor – why was Renner allowed to write fluff (i.e. his discussion of Kolb’s learning style inventory), include “classic concepts” where they made no sense (i.e. an overview of underlying assumptions of adult education at the end of a chapter focused on overhead projector how-tos), and focus on silly content (i.e. when to throw out markers) while glossing over key content (i.e. how to plan an effective lesson)?  Aren’t editors there to help authors avoid these kinds of things?

Despite some frustrating moments, this book was valuable to me for its introduction to the field, its bibliography, and its concrete ideas for running an adult class.