Pre- writing activities

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  • Pre-writing helps you to get started with writing. Pre-writing is an important tool for writers.

  • It is a valuable step in the writing process. It breaks through writer’s block, getting the ideas flowing and helping you find a starting point.

  • As a result, it reduces the anxiety and frustration that you might have felt in the past as you began writing.

ACTIVITY 1: Getting to Know About Pre-Writing Activities
Task 1
Read the extract below on the benefits of using pre-writing activities.
Match the headings with the appropriate paragraphs in the box provided. Do this task individually.


  1. On those occasions when you write your essay about a topic of your own choice, pre-writing can help you think of one.

  1. When your topic is assigned, pre-writing can help you narrow, or limit, your topic to one that is more manageable for the essay. In addition, pre-writing can help you discover an aspect of the topic that is interesting to you. When you write about a topic that interests you, you will be more enthusiastic about the essay. As a result, you are more likely to write a better essay.

  1. Not only can you pre-write to discover a topic, but you can also pre-write to find out what you know about a topic. You probably have some knowledge or beliefs about most topics, and pre-writing can help you unlock this information from where it is stored in your mind. At the same time, pre-writing allows you to get a better understanding of what you do not know about a topic.

  1. Once you have decided on a topic and explored what you know about it, you can use pre-writing techniques to help you formulate the idea or opinion that you want to express about that topic. In addition, you can use pre-writing as a tool to help you begin to sort through your thoughts about the topic so that you can determine which of those thoughts you want to include in your essay.

2: What are the different types of pre-writing activities?

Brainstorming is a widely used and effective way of getting ideas flowing. These ideas may be ideas for actual content, or ideas for organizing the content. Carried out individually, or better still, among a group of people, brainstorming involves thinking quickly and without inhibition so as to produce as many ideas as possible in a given area or on a given topic or problem.
Some of the ideas you write will be good. Others will not be useful. After you brainstorm you should read your ideas and choose the ones that you want to use in your writing.
Brainstorming is best done in a group, and it therefore both benefits from and contributes to a cooperative approach to learning. By using it, pupils learn that writers can profit from drawing on other people’s ideas as well as their own.

Brainstorming can be used to:

  • choose a topic

  • identify a reason or purpose for writing

  • find an appropriate form in which to write

  • develop a topic

  • work out a plot

  • develop the organization of ideas

To brainstorm for ideas to write about, you ask yourself questions about your topic. The answers can provide details for your essay. Sometimes the question that offers up the most is the simple question “Why?” In addition, you may find the following questions helpful:

Why did it happen?

What is it like?

How did it happen?

What is it different from?

Who was involved?

What does it look like?

When did it happen?

Why is it important?

Where did it happen?

Who would care about it?

Could it happen again?

What causes it?

What does it mean?

What are its effects?

How does it work?

What is it related to?

Why does this matter to me?

What examples are there?

Why does this matter to my reader?

How can it be explained?

Source: Clouse, B.F.(1993) Working it out. (p.22)

Graphic Organiser
A graphic organizer is a drawing that shows ideas connected to each other in different ways. The purpose is to write down as many connected ideas as possible.
The advantage of a graphic organiser as an organizing strategy, particularly with descriptions, is that all the aspects of a topic can be seen in relation and in proportion to each other, and possible links between paragraphs or sections of an essay become easily apparent.

Source: Fellag, L.R.(2002) Write ahead. (p.4)

You can organize your notes with a graphic organizer like the one below.

Source: Singleton, J. (2005). Writers at work (p. 39).

An idea generation list looks just like your shopping list: It is a vertical listing of things that occur to you, written in phrases rather than sentences.
To be successful at listing, you must not censor yourself; write down everything that occurs to you. Even if you are sure an idea is perfectly rotten, get it down anyway because it may prompt you to think of another, more worthy idea. Here is an idea generation list for staying healthy:
do not smoke cigarettes

exercise regularly

eat plenty of vegetables

get a medical check up

After listing, look over what you have and cross out ideas you do not want to use and/or add new ideas that occur to you.
A benefit of listing is that by numbering the ideas in the list in the order you want to treat them in your draft, you can easily develop a scratch outline.
Sometimes you may wish to write a second list focusing only on one of the points in your first list.

Source: Clouse, B.F.(1993) Working it out. (p.21)

Below you will see many exemplars of pre-writing activities.

Exemplar 1A - Describing a place
In this activity, you will write a description of the hometown of one of your classmates. Ask your partner questions about his hometown.

Imagine you are a tourist guide and you want to include some information about your friend’s hometown in a travel brochure. Talk to your partner about his or her hometown. Follow these steps.
Activity A

Make a list of questions to ask your partner. Here are some suggestions.

  • Where is it located?

  • What is the name of your hometown?

Activity B

Based on your discussion, identify the topic sentence and the details.
Topic sentence – Name of your friend’s hometown

Details -


Exemplar 1B - Describing a place
Write a letter to a friend who is coming to visit you. You plan to take him/her to visit the places of interest in your hometown. Write to him/her and inform him/her about your plans.
Activity A
Work in pairs.

Before you write, make a list of the places to go and things to do.

Places to go

Things to do











Now, put a tick on two places you want to focus on in your essay. Then, make a list of the things to do based on the two places you have chosen. Organize your points according to your proposed plan.

Activity B

An incomplete letter is given below. Complete the letter using your points above.
Dear ________________,
I was so happy when you called to tell me you were planning to come to ____________________ to visit me. There are lots of places to go and things to see and do here. We can ______________________________________________________________




Exemplar 1C - Describing a room
When you describe a place, you use space order to explain where things are located. The easiest way to do this is to choose a starting point.
Then you describe where things are located in relation to your starting point. For example, when describing a room, choose a starting point and move clockwise around the room. Other methods are left to right, top to bottom, and back to front.

Your brother is away studying overseas. His room is vacant and you would like to rent it out. Look at the picture of your brother’s room. Then, write a short description of his room that you can put in the advertisement section of the newspaper.
(Describe the room clockwise).
Activity A

In small groups, discuss the picture and make a list of the things in the room. Develop a word bank and list down the things that are in the room.

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