Online short story competition gets language students writing
During an economic crisis, resources (books, budgets, infrastructure) are limited but high standards and qualifications are required so that learners can survive on the job market. Can the use of technology help learners and teachers overcome this problem? If so, how?
Why not try the Extremely Short Story Competition (ESSC) for a fun, free, online writing activity for your students?
The project is the brainchild of Peter Hassall a professor at Zayed University Dubai who has run the competition for several years.
Language students have to write a short story on any topic they like in exactly 50 words and enter it on the ESSC administrative website. They can add a title which is not included in the 50 words and even a visual, if they wish, but it must be the exact number of words. The competition is free and students can enter as many stories as they like, but they must undertake that the work they enter is their own without help from anybody else.
The competition can be run through language schools who have to find prizes and arrange a prize-winning ceremony, but that offers great scope for publicity, coverage by local media, and exhibitions of students’ work. Basically the administration (processing, editing, judging by an international panel of judges) is taken over by the website which relieves the teachers of any work: all they have to do is encourage students to write in English. The ESSC can be done as a class activity or done privately at home, especially where students get enthusiastic about expressing their thoughts in the target language on any topic. There are a lot of exercises available too to help language teachers make use of the activity.
The material on the website www.zu.ac.ae/facets shows where this writing activity originates. It is also the best website for seeing the potential of the project. The Facets material (in fact an anthology of short stories produced with sponsorship as a result of a recent run of the competition) shows the use of nicknames to provide anonymity so entrants can express themselves freely, a feature that is important in the Arab World, as many of the writers are female.
As an international project, the ESSC has also been run for several years in Japan with high school students. With translation of the short stories, there is a rich source of teaching material as well as displayable material to show how good the students are.
So why not try the ESSC for your language students? For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com if you want to give it a try.
After teaching in Saudi Arabia, UK, and Singapore, Ken Collins acquired extensive ESOL teaching experience. The last part of his working career was in Dubai where he eventually became Head of the Centre for ESL at the University of Dubai until 2007. He was also Middle East consultant for EAQUALS (Evaluation & Accreditation of Quality Language Services). He now is Project Co-ordinator for the Extremely Short Story Competition in Europe and resides in Southwest France.