A little history first!
The Exquisite Story is a simple writing activity based on the Surrealist drawing game, the Exquisite Corpse. When studying Fine Arts at university, this was a favorite pastime of my friends and I! While I wouldn’t recommend drawing games for EFL classes, I think the original game is too interesting to not share:
The Exquisite Corpse
In the drawing version of this game, three (or more) artists fold a paper into sections equal to the number of players. Each begins by drawing the “head” or top section. In the drawing game, it is important to add small continuation lines from the above section to the section below. After finishing the top section, the players fold it back, allowing the next player to only see the small continuation lines in the “body” or middle section. Each player then draws the middle section as they wish. The process is repeated for the “legs” or bottom section of the paper. At the end, everyone marvels at the bizarre final products with great esteem:
The Exquisite Story
The premise of collaborative creation lends itself well to writing! This activity can be used for vocabulary, grammar concepts, or as a backup activity at the end of an early class. You should use a worksheet with a number of rows equal or double to your number of students. This ensures the first student gets their worksheet back at the end of the activity.
Students are shown an example completed story before beginning. The teacher demonstrates how to fold back each section after writing. At any given time, a student should be able to only see one sentence above where they write. If students need more structure, I will recommend that they use the subject or object of the previous sentence as a starting point.
I usually will arrange seats into a circle to facilitate the passing of papers. Depending on the class size, I may use a timer for each sentence to keep things moving along. Depending on your students’ level, this activity can take 1-3 minutes per sentence.
At the end of the activity, students read their completed story. Depending on your class, the results can be quite funny! I will often invite students to read their completed story aloud the the class. Alternatively, you could incorporate a Gallery Walk interaction, where students display their stories on the wall or board for all to browse and read.
I’ve included simple instructions at the top of the worksheet. Students are inclined to fold these worksheets into a roll, which the instructions will inhibit. You can always use a paper cutter to trim off the instructions and borders!