One of my favorite activities is to combine a writing assignment with a vocabulary test. I get two to three grades with one “opportunity” and not only does it make narrative writing more fun to grade, but it is also one less vocabulary test I have to create and then grade. As an added bonus, students must delve deeply into their novel in order to write their stories and do not even realize they are conducting sophisticated literary analysis in the process.
My writing assignment also involves a style component; students have to write in the style of the author we just finished reading. The assignment is basically to write either an episode that occurred “10 years later” when the characters encounter each other again, or a “hidden chapter” of an incident that could have occurred at any point throughout the novel.
The story has to include all steps of the plot arc (exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution).
The story must be written in the author’s style in terms of point of view, syntax, use of figurative language, etc. Students must justify their choices in an end analysis reflection.
The story must include 20 vocabulary words from a specific unit or units.
The story must stay consistent with the novel in terms of tone and themes.
In the past, I have used this assignment with Lord of the Flies when Ralph and Jack meet up ten years later. Students have envisioned the meeting in a variety of scenarios: Ralph is a public defense attorney defending Jack, who is on trial for murder; Ralph is a psychiatrist evaluating Jack in the insane asylum; Ralph is an IRS agent investigating Jack, a corrupt stockbroker, etc. The scenarios students come up with are fascinating, as are the ways they synthesize vocabulary into the stories.
In terms of the further logistics of this assignment, I usually give students about a week to draft, critique and revise their stories. I do count their final product as a vocabulary quiz grade even though students have had the opportunity to look up the words’ meaning. Having to agonize over how and where to put each word forces students to truly learn the lexicon and the application of learning is much higher on the Bloom’s taxonomy than rote memorization.
Overall, most students enjoy the creative outlet and find that working the words into their narrative seems daunting at first, but really quite feasible after starting. So if you need to teach creative writing, analyze an author’s style and conduct literary analysis, go ahead-give a vocabulary quiz!
 Or, if students are each reading a separate novel, the author of their choice book.