5 Creative Writing Activities for the ESL Classroom
Much of language learning comes through language experimentation; steering away from examples and formulas and attempting to arrange your own ideas into words. No matter what a student's goal may be in learning English, they will eventually have to do this by leaving the classroom and using English on their own. Activities like creative writing are one method to encourage the practice of experimentation and expression in ESL students. In this post, we're going to look at five different activities students can use to put their thoughts into writing.
1. (New Year's) Resolutions
Celebrating a new year is practically a universal tradition, and all students have goals. Writing down New Year's resolutions allows students to practice various usages of the future tense. These include using the future simple to talk about plans (I'll start a band); expressing future hopes or wishes with the present simple (I hope I can pass my exams); and expressing desires for the future with the present simple (I want to go abroad).
Before you conduct this activity, decide what specific language points you want your students to practice, and make a few sets of decorative cards. These can be anything from squares of different colored paper, to more ornate card templates found online.
To begin the activity, show your students some New Year's resolutions of your own as examples of what you expect them to write. Have students write three of their own resolutions, and check for mistakes once a student is finished. After correcting any mistakes, let students choose one decorative card to copy their resolutions on. They can keep these cards in notebooks, folders, bags, or anywhere else where they can easily see them and remember their goals.
Also read: Guide To Writing Your First TEFL Syllabus
2. Letters to the Future
Even though the letters students will write in this activity are addressed to the future, that doesn't mean the language in them has to be limited to future tenses. A few different themes for letters to the future include:
Obligations and Rules: Have students write letters to their future children, explaining their family's rules. (It's important to take care of yourself, so you must sleep well. Also, I don't like to study, so you don't have to study.)
Memories: Students write letters to their future selves, describing something that happened recently that they hope to remember in the future. (Do you remember the school festival? I ran in the relay race. I helped our team win.)
A Day in Your Life: Write a letter to people thousands of years in the future describing what daily life is like in your present. (I wake up at 7:00. I cook breakfast. I usually eat...)
3. Cultural Ambassadors
Students choose something unique to their country or culture (holidays, foods, clothing, etc.) and write a description of that thing as though they were introducing it to someone who had never heard of it. The language points used for these explanations can be as simple or as complex as you want them to be depending on the language level of your students.
If you really want to get in-depth and creative, everyone in class could work together to compile a cultural guidebook. Everyone writes one description, and then provides drawings or photos to accompany their writing. You can put all of these together later on paper or online.
4. Travel Itinerary
Individually or in small groups, students choose a place they want to travel to, either within their home country or abroad, and write up their dream travel itinerary. In addition to the imaginative aspect, you can help students practice practical skills by requiring them to look up and include things like real bus/plane/train departure times, real hotels, or short descriptions of sights they want to visit.
You can format this activity in a variety of ways to match the language levels of your students. For example, students at the elementary or pre-intermediate levels could create a table of each travel day with a short, simple schedule of their plan for each day (Day One: I take the bus at 8 am. I arrive at 10 am. I check in to Hotel Plus). Meanwhile, students at the intermediate or advanced language levels could write fuller, more detailed descriptions of their travels (First, I'm going to take the 8 am bus. I'll arrive at about 10 am. After I check in to Hotel Plus, I want to visit the tourist information center).
If you want to expand this activity a little bit more, you can have students present their travel itineraries to their classmates in order to introduce each other to different destinations.
Show your students something interesting or thought-provoking (a popular song, a current event, a picture of a treehouse, etc.) and have them write a few sentences that either describe what you've shown them, or express what they think about what you've shown them. This activity can be a good regular warm up to help students practice grammar you have already gone over in class.
As your class goes on, you can prompt students to write more and more complex sentences. For example, when you first introduce this activity, you might ask students to write something like, "I like this song. I think the singer is cool." Then, some time later, you might ask students to write something like, "I like this song because it's upbeat. I had never heard of it before, but I want to listen to it again."
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