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5 Writing Activities For ESL Lessons

5 Writing activities for ESL lessons

Writing can be one of the most challenging skills to teach in the form of activities in ESL lessons. Many students find writing activities boring and uninspiring, and they often feel like writing is a waste of their time in class. Some students even believe that they’re not creative enough to produce compelling written work in a classroom setting. 

However, you can address these issues and build your students’ writing skills with some short, engaging writing activities for your ESL lessons. These activities are designed to spark creativity, inspire learners, and make the writing process more enjoyable. 

So let’s explore five classroom activities that can transform your ESL lessons and help students develop their writing skills – all while having fun! 

1. The Picture-Prompt Story

Materials Needed: A collection of cool and intriguing images or photos.

Goals: To stimulate creativity, develop descriptive writing skills, and encourage storytelling.

Description: Begin by presenting a selection of intriguing images to your students. These images can range from landscapes to everyday scenes or even abstract art. Ask each student to choose one image that speaks to them. 

Then, instruct them to craft a story around the image, incorporating as many details as possible. Encourage them to describe the setting, characters, emotions, and the overall story behind the picture. After writing their stories, students can take turns reading them aloud to the class, fostering both creativity and speaking skills.

Here’s how you can further elaborate on this activity:

You can suggest that students use their smartphones or digital cameras to capture interesting images from their surroundings. Encourage them to share these pictures in the class, creating a vibrant pool of images for the activity.

Emphasize the importance of sensory details in their writing. Encourage students to describe not only what they see but also what they hear, smell, and feel in the story. This will help them paint a clear picture in the reader’s mind.

To make it more engaging, you can introduce an element of mystery by showing images that leave room for interpretation. Ask students to speculate about what might have happened before or after the captured moment.

2. The Dialogue Dilemma

Materials Needed: A set of conversation starter cards or prompts.

Goals: To practice dialogue writing, develop conversational language skills, and enhance character development.

Description: Provide students with dialogue prompts or starter cards. These prompts should include characters with intriguing statements, or situational scenarios. Ask the students to work in pairs or small groups, writing a short dialogue between characters using the given prompts. 

The goal is to develop dialogue skills, practice using everyday conversational language, and build realistic characters in their writing. Encourage them to consider the context and personality of their characters to make the dialogue engaging and relevant.

To expand on this activity:

To make it even more exciting, consider incorporating role-play. Have students act out the dialogues they’ve written, taking on the roles of the characters they’ve created. This adds a fun and interactive element to the activity.

You can also introduce the concept of conflict resolution within the dialogues. Ask students to create dialogues where characters face and resolve a conflict. This teaches valuable problem-solving and communication skills in addition to writing.

For advanced learners, you can challenge them to write a dialogue that includes specific vocabulary or idiomatic expressions. This can help them expand their language skills while focusing on the art of conversation.

Concentrated students improving their writing skills in class

3. The Travel Blog Adventure

Materials Needed: Travel brochures, destination photos, or maps.

Goals: To enhance descriptive writing, practice narrative writing, and encourage creative exploration.

Description: Transform your ESL students into travel bloggers! Present them with travel brochures or destination photos and ask them to choose a location they’d like to “visit.” In their writing, students become travel bloggers and describe their imaginary journey to the chosen destination. 

Encourage them to include details about their experiences, the people they meet, the places they visit, and the emotions they feel during their “trip.” This activity not only improves descriptive and narrative writing but also encourages your students to learn about other places and cultures. What’s more, if you encourage them to choose destinations where English is the primary language, you’re building a connection between language learning and the opportunity to travel and use English in real world situations.

Here’s how to elaborate on this activity:

To make it more engaging, consider having students do some research about the chosen destination. They can learn about the culture, history, and unique features of that place, which will help them write more authentic and informative travel blogs.

You can introduce an element of audience interaction by having students present their travel blogs to the class. This promotes public speaking skills and allows students to receive feedback and questions from their audience. 

To tie in technology, you can suggest that students create a digital version of their travel blogs with images, maps, and even multimedia elements. This helps them to practice their digital skills as well as their writing skills. 

4. The Time-Traveler’s Dilemma

Materials Needed: Imaginative prompts or historical artifacts.

Goals: To foster creative storytelling, practice descriptive writing, and explore historical periods.

Description: Transport your students through time with this engaging activity. Provide them with a set of imaginative prompts or historical artifacts, such as old photographs, letters, or objects from various time periods. Ask each student to choose one and use it as a starting point for a creative writing exercise.

In their writing, students become time travelers who find themselves in a specific historical era or moment. They should describe the surroundings, the people they encounter, and the challenges they face as they navigate this unfamiliar time. Encourage them to use their descriptive writing skills to bring the historical period to life.

To enhance this activity further:

To make it more immersive, encourage students to research their chosen historical period in detail. This will enable them to make their stories more authentic, engaging and educational.

To make this activity more interactive, get your students to swap stories with a classmate once they’re finished. Students then have to guess the decade in which the story is set, using clues they find in the text. 

For a technological twist, your students could create multimedia presentations to complement their stories. They can use images, videos, or sound to immerse the class in their chosen historical setting, making the activity even more interactive.

5. The Culinary Quest

Materials Needed: Recipe books, food magazines, or online cooking videos.

Goals: To stimulate descriptive and persuasive writing, explore different cuisines, and develop culinary creativity.

Description: Provide your students with recipe books, food magazines, or access to online cooking videos featuring dishes from various cuisines. Ask students to choose a recipe that intrigues them, whether it’s from a foreign culture or a unique fusion dish.

This writing activity is a good opportunity for students to build their food and cooking vocabulary as they describe the process of preparing and tasting the chosen dish. They should use descriptive language to convey the flavors, textures, and aromas they encounter, with the aim of persuading their readers to try the recipe themselves.

To enhance this activity further:

Encourage students to learn about the cultural background of the dish they’ve chosen. This can help them provide context and make their writing more informative and culturally aware. For example, a writing activity based around pumpkin pie could include the history of the dish, and also explore the other traditional foods served at an American thanksgiving meal. 

Consider having a tasting session where students bring in samples of the dishes they’ve learned about to share with their classmates. They could also make a short video of themselves shopping for ingredients and preparing their chosen recipe at home. 

Enriching ESL Writing Activities

These five engaging writing activities offer a dynamic way to enhance English language skills, and teachers can further improve their ESL lessons by incorporating our ELSA Speak app

Our tool assists students in perfecting pronunciation, offers personalized learning tailored to their writing needs, and provides flexibility for practice. Additionally, ELSA’s gamified features and progress tracking keep students motivated and engaged in their writing development. 

By combining these writing activities with Elsa Speak, educators create more interactive and effective ESL lessons, fostering stronger writing skills and language proficiency in their students.

Useful further reading: 5 ESL topics for dynamic classroom discussion

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