THE FCE BLOG by Claudia Ceraso

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Last week I asked my students this:
If you were writers, what would you write about?
I got some puzzled faces for an answer. At least, I got them to wonder.

Perhaps the word writer has an aura of profession that a few gifted people can pursue. This post aims at demystifying writing and -perhaps- bring it to your door.

Today 20th October is the 1st edition of the National Day on Writing. Clicking around their tips for writers, I came across this guideline called Determining What to Write About (pdf).
The guide is short and worth reading through. Here are three samples.
1) I find this advice very useful for writing stories for the exam. Some students focus a lot on big events worth telling, which only lead them to writer's block or the impossibility of doing so in roughly 140 words.
"Think about 'small moments' of life to expand and explore rather than creating large, involved stories"

2) The other complaint I hear from students and teachers who correct compositions is the predictability of the ending. When the story is too fantastic, we know the cliché closing line: abrupt waking up from a nightmare. You needn't try to be that original anyway.

"[...] Most of the time authors decide what to write about from examining their personal lives and interests or by examining the work of other authors and making parts of existing material into something new and different."

Notice that it must be new and different. That is what leaves plagiarism out.

3) The number one obstacle when learning to write for an exam is probably losing the pleasure of writing. You have to find a way to get into your writing. It's a personal road.
My favourite quote from the guide is definitely this one:
"Choosing topics or experiences that you care about will develop a sense of 'you' which only you can create."

So before I end this post, let me share new options for reframing my original question...
I should think of asking you:
What reading topics are so interesting that they make you lose track of time?
What are you keen on? What would you like to know more about?
What is your passion?

If you could share a bit of the learning you've made reading something you love, what would that be?

For more inspiration on pre-writing:
Developing Ideas for Writing from the State University of New York.
Study Guides and Strategies for more than just a pre-writing stage.
The guide at Purdue University for writing at advanced levels.

New questions for you (because I am curious):
Writing on paper or at the keyboard? Do you know that there are electronic versions of the exam? OK. That's for another post.
Do you identify with the opinion of the blog picture author?

"Call it brainstorming, prewriting, or jotting, this is what I usually do before I start writing. I think a lot better and faster with a pencil and a notebook than I do at the keyboard. Sometimes it's specific thoughts, other times it's free ideas. A lot of times I take a conversational tone with myself while taking notes."

Image credit

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  • Hi Claudia!
    I found your post amazing, as usual. I think that for us, the FCE students, these "tips" are great because we usually tend to write things that are out of the instructions that we are given.
    I congratulate you again for being such a great teacher and person.
    Best wishes for the blog.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 7:44 pm  

  • Thank you Flor. More than a comment it's a compliment. I should blush.

    Anyway, we keep trying to reflect. How about imagining we are writers?
    How would that be?

    By Blogger Claudia Ceraso, At 7:46 pm  

  • Thank you for the tips, I will keep them in mind for my next writing task!

    By Anonymous Valen, At 7:50 pm  

  • Writting is a difficult rubric for me. I love reading but when I have to write an story I get lack of inspiration... I think it might be prejudice, because sometimes I have no problems when I like the instructions.
    When I do decide to writwçe it must be with a pencil and a notebook, I really agree with the photo. In my opinion seeing the the white word document makes me imposible to think.
    I truly like this post!
    best wishes,

    By Anonymous Josefina, At 7:51 pm  

  • I think you have three good points here (must read the other ones too). I've never thought about how to write and I believe this could help us to develope in that area.

    By the way, I rather prefer keyboard than pencil and notebook.


    By Anonymous Gonzalo, At 7:53 pm  

  • Well, as you know, I love reading (actually, It's one of my hobbies) and I think that pretend to be a writter is weird. Okey, I'm exagerating because I usually write some things by myself but let's say that I don't want to be a writter for the FCE people.
    Anyway, I can be a writter in your class if you want..


    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 7:56 pm  

  • @Valen
    You're welcome!
    These are just some tips. There is more... but for later.

    That's a good one. We all need some to write. I guess that to be inspired, we need to have some relationship with the topic we write about. The problem with stories, for instance, is the topic sentence. That line the story must begin with and we cannot change it. I do not know what you think about it. I think it is not alsways inspiring.

    By Blogger Claudia Ceraso, At 7:56 pm  

  • @Gonzalo
    I also prefer keyboard to pencil nowadays. It's faster, always a clean copy. But there are moments when I prefer paper. That is when I have to "draw" the steps of a story or the sequence of slides in a presentation (they are a story actually). For slides I prefer to design in paper without any lines.

    By Blogger Claudia Ceraso, At 8:01 pm  

  • @Flor
    An FCE writer sounds strange -to say the least.
    I would like you to feel comfortablew expressing yourself whenever you write.

    By Blogger Claudia Ceraso, At 8:04 pm  

  • Well guys in my opinion I would rather use the pencil because it's more personal, but I agree with you that this is a very slow way of writting.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 8:05 pm  

  • Definitely uninspiring! A phrase about boring subjects where you cannot even change the time of the verbs determines a really boring composition, at least in my case. That's why I prefer to write the letter's tasks, they can sound more boring than a story or an essay but they don't have a rigid phrase.

    By Anonymous Jose, At 9:05 pm  

  • As an English teacher, I hate reading stories precisely because of everything you explain. I totally agree with what you say in your post.

    Thanks for sharing!

    By Blogger Unknown, At 5:01 pm  

  • María del Mar,
    Instead we could feel curious about what our students have written.
    Not just to change our job, but to make the writing a real experience.

    Thank you for joining my student's voices.

    By Blogger Claudia Ceraso, At 12:31 pm  

  • hiii!!!! i will bear in mind those steps in order to succeed!!!!!11 thanks!!!!!!!!

    By Blogger gabriela, At 10:42 am  

  • Gabriela
    Hope you do succeed!
    If you have other tips, let us know. My students would love your input.

    By Blogger Claudia Ceraso, At 11:10 am  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Anonymous Writing a Research Paper, At 7:20 am  

  • Excellent tips and great blog!! I'll ask my students to have a look at it... if you don't mind
    Thanks a million and best wishes.

    By Blogger Alejandra, At 7:15 am  

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