One of the first writing activities we embarked on with my AMC College 1st year Speech and Language Therapy students (Intermediate Level) this year was participating in the Witness Project of the Online Edition of the Guardian https://witness.theguardian.com/
What is the Witness Project
As they explain on their page, ‘GuardianWitness is the home of user-generated content on the Guardian. You can contribute your video, pictures and stories, and browse all the news, opinions and creations submitted by others‘.In other words, it’s a place where the readers can contribute their own written material along with a video or a picture.
The contributions fall into 3 main categories : a. assignments, b. live news tie-ins and c. open suggestions. The main requirement is that you post your own material (photo, video, etc.) or have permission for what you post. Also, posts are reviewed by their team and suitable contributions are published on the Guardian Witness. So, permission is required for your post to appear on their pages. Finally, some of what the Guardian’s team consider the best pieces might be featured on the Guardian site – on an appropriate page each time.
How the students participated
My students browsed through the page’s topics, picked the topic they were interested in, chose one of their own pictures or videos to write about, or took a new picture or video. The Project’s topics vary and change on a regular basis (there are new ones every 7-10 days and not all of them have the same duration – some of them are open for 10,20,25 days, etc.). There are , in fact, so many that it is difficult for someone NOT to find something interesting.
The objective was for the students to practice writing short grammatically correct texts. The most important objective though was to motivate them to write something that they could choose themselves using a medium such as photography or video, quite popular among young people, and not only. Even though it was a short project, it could increase the students’ engagement in writing.
- We checked the topics and decided which students would work individuallyand which in pairs. Also, we decided which topics they were going to write about.
- The students had a week to produce and deliver their work.
- After deciding on the topics, we needed to discuss the kind of help they needed: a. brainstorm ideas? , b. did they need help with new vocabulary?c. help with the content and structure of the assignment.
- Some of the topics themselves included specific questions that the writer should focus on. This served as a kind of guidance and I insisted that the students use it. Also, there is a word limit on the text you submit every time, which was also convenient for all of us.
- The following week, when they brought their material back in the class, we all looked at their work. We talked about the way it was written, the language, the photo chosen etc. Any mistakes which could cause any misunderstanding, were corrected.
- In the end, after all of their posts were submitted and accepted, a Pinterest Board was created and all of them were pinned on it along with some photos of them working on their projects in class.
As was mentioned earlier, once you submit your work on the Witness Project, permission is required for your post to appear on their pages. A few of the students’ work did not get permission (the reason is not known, it could be a problem with the email verification or even a problem with the photos submitted). So, we needed to work on a different topic with 2 of them. Since, there is no limit in how many posts one can submit, I suggest that each of them writes at least 2.
I hope you enjoy their work. I know that my students did!