My students find it hard to brainstorm ideas,plan what to write and present balanced opinions. This activity seems to help because it works from a fun speaking base.
Use big pieces of paper. Write a different word within a group on four pieces of paper and stick in different corners of the room(eg. animals: horse, elephant, dog, monkey) Tell the sts to go and stand next to the (animal) you like best/fear most/want to be" etc. Students go to corners and justify their choice to other students.
This can be done in various ways to suit the situation; I sometimes end up with teams having to offer and counteract arguments publicly across the room. The topics can become more abstract, depending on the level of the students.
Finally, bring the activity together by choosing the basis of an essay topic,eg "The Rainforests". Elicit single words for the big pieces of paper, eg 'fuel/building materials/ oxygen/medicines (the brainstorm) and stick them on the board. Then invite students to sort them into two overarching groups; eg reasons for forest conservation or reasons for using the wood (the plan) Repeat the verbal argument 'game' in teams but keep notes of the submissions on the board or on paper(the body of the essay)
Finally write a sentence on the board eg:
"Although it is important to ___ because ___(give one reason) I believe it is more important to ___ because (give two main reasons."
Students then go to one of the two main groups they broadly agree with and produce their final pronouncement(the conclusion).
Review the process overtly. Get the students to write in groups next time, then go it alone with the same methods.
Submitted by Jane King, New Zealand