If you’re teaching writing and are looking for some of the best ESL writing activities, along with worksheets, lesson plans and more then you’re in the right place. Keep on reading for everything you need to know about teaching English writing.
ESL Writing Activities and Games: Top 20
Are you ready to get into the ESL writing exercises? Then let’s get to the top 20 English writing ideas.
#1: 3 Things ESL Writing Activity
I’m ALL about simple and easy for writing activities in emergency situations when you don’t have a lot of time to prep. 3 Things is ideal because it requires nothing except pen and paper and also requires no prep time.
The way it works is that students think of 3 random things. Then, they give those words to a partner who has to write a short story using them. It can be serious or silly and kind of depends on the words chosen.
Do you want to give it a try with your students? Check out all the details here: 3 Things English Writing Activity.
#2: Journaling for English Learners
When I teach ESL writing classes, I always have students keep a journal. It can either be with pen and paper or online. It’s a fun way for students to work on writing fluency and have some freedom to write about topics they want to write about, not just the ones that I assign.
If you want to see how I set up this ESL writing exercise, check out the following: Journaling for ESL Students.
#3: Postcards ESOL Writing Exercise
If you’re looking for a simple, fun ESL writing activity, then you may want to consider having your students write some postcards. Ideally, you could get your hands of a stack of blank, unused postcards. But, if not, students can design their own and then trade with someone else who can fill in the back.
Learn more about this fun writing activity here: ESL Postcard Writing Activity.
#4: A to Z Alphabet Game
Remember that writing is more than a 5-paragraph essay. It’s any time a student is writing something, even one word. With that in mind, you may want to try out this ESL writing game for beginners.
The way it works is that you name a topic. Jobs or animals for example. Then, students have to think of one word for each letter. I give my students a certain amount of time and the team with the most words is the winner.
Do you want to give this writing activity for beginners a try? Check it out here: A-Z ESL Writing Activity.
#5: Conjunctions and Transitions
Words like but, so, and, however, etc. are key in English writing because they join ideas, sentences and paragraphs together. This makes writing easier to understand and helps it to flow better. Even beginners can learn about using things like and or but.
Here are some of the ideas for teaching these words: ESL Conjunction and Transition Activities.
- Amazon Kindle Edition
- Bolen, Jackie (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 85 Pages - 02/02/2020 (Publication Date)
#6: Whiteboard Games
I don’t know why, but students really love to write on the whiteboard. There are a ton of relay type ESL writing activities that you can do. Here are some of the best ones:
If you want to challenge your students with some serious listening and writing, then consider this dictogloss ESL activity. The way it works is that you find a passage or write one at an appropriate level for your students.
Then, put the student into pairs and read out the passage at a slightly faster pace than normal. Students have to take notes and then attempt to recreate what they heard by writing. Read the passage again and students add to what they have. Finally, they can compare their version with the original one.
Do you want to give it a try? Read this first: Dictogloss ESL Writing and Listening Activity.
#8: How to Teach English Writing to Beginners
Back when I did the CELTA course, my tutor told me that writing doesn’t have to be a 5 paragraph essay. It can actually be any time the students are writing something in English. With this in mind, here are some of the best activities for absolute beginners to English writing:
Or, check out this video below for even more tips for teaching writing to ESL beginners:
#9: Fill out an Application Form
One very practical writing activity that we can do with our students is getting them to fill out an application form. If they plan on living in an English speaking country, they’ll certainly have to do this. And, there’s often some very specific vocabulary and expected answers that you can help them with.
More details here: ESL Writing Application Form.
#10: Sentence Structure Activities
In speaking, our students can sometimes get away without having great sentence structure. This is because people often speak in sentence fragments and rarely in full sentences.
However, in writing, sentence structure is key and vital to helping our students get their ideas across on paper. Here are some of the best activities to help our students practice this:
#11: Is that Sentence Correct?
A simple reading and writing activity is this one that focuses on error correction. The way it works is that you make some sentences, some of which have errors and some that do not. Students have to decide which ones are incorrect and them correct them. It’s ideal for review at the end of class or the beginning of the next one.
Learn more about this writing activity here: ESL Error Correction Activity.
#12: Proof-Reading and Editing
A key part of writing well is proof-reading and editing. Everyone does it, even professional writers! Instead of the students relying on me to correct their errors for them, I like to teach them do to edit their own work. It’s a key skill in the writing process but often overlooked by many English teachers.
Check out this activity for helpful students with this writing skill: ESL Proofreading and Editing.
#13: Focus on Fluency Activity
Many ESL writing textbooks (and teachers too) focus on accuracy in English writing at the expense of fluency. However, both are needed if students are to become proficient at English writing. After all, no employer is going to appreciate an employee who can write a simple, but perfect email in half a day! Most would expect it to happen in a few minutes.
Check out this activity to help our students out with this: Fluency ESL Writing Activity.
#14: Word Association
I like to use this quick writing activity if I know that student have studied the topic of the day before. For example, jobs and weather are very common in almost all ESL textbooks and if students are at a high-beginner or intermediate level, I guarantee that they already know some of these vocabulary items.
You can find out how to do it right here: ESL Word Association Activity.
#15: ESL Surveys
I love to use surveys in my classes. They are a super versatile activity that covers all 4 skills, including writing. It’s also easy to make a survey for just about any topic or grammar point. See why I love them so much?
If you want to know more, then you’ll want to check this out: TEFL Surveys.
#16: Opinion Activities and Games
Opinion essays are a classic writing activity for both English learners and students in high school or university. That’s why I like to give my students some chances to practice writing and supporting their opinions in my classes. Do you want to try out some of the best ones? You can find out all the details right here:
#17: Parts of Speech Activities for ESL
English writing is ALL about parts of speech. After all, if you don’t know where the verb, subject, object, adjectives and adverbs go, how can you have any chance of making a coherent English sentence? It’s nearly impossible!
That’s why I like to do some worksheets and practice with my students related to this. If you want to try it out too, here are some of the best ideas:
#18: Spelling Challenge Game
Spelling is an important, but often neglected part of writing. In my opinion, it’s worth spending some classroom time on and one way to do that is with this word challenge game. Because it’s done on the whiteboard, it’s ideal for smaller classes.
Want to find out what it’s all about? You can right here: ESL Spelling Challenge Activity.
A nice TEFL writing activity that you might want to try out is dictation. It covers not only writing, but also listening, spelling, punctuation, grammar and vocabulary in a big way. Is it obvious why I like it so much?
Try it out with your students today. Learn more here: ESL Dictation Writing Activity.
#20: Fun ESL Writing Game for All Ages and Levels
ESL Writing FAQs
There are a number of common questions that people have about teaching English writing. Here are the answers to some of the most popular ones.
What is ESL Writing?
ESL technically refers to English as a Second Language but the more common usage is anyone who is a non-native speaker of English, whether or not it’s their second, third or fourth language. ESL writing focus specifically on writing skills.
How can ESL Students Improve Writing?
There are a number of ways that ESL students can improve their writing skills:
- Practice, both in class and outside of class is key.
- Give students a reason to write.
- Use peer correction.
- Offer self-editing checklists.
- Give students some freedom to choose what to write about.
- Use a variety of writing activities and games.
- Give students a chance to revise their work based on feedback.
- Strive to make English writing fun and engaging
- Make it relevant to real-life.
- Ensure that your ESL writing classes target the level of the students.
How Can ESL Beginners Learn to Write?
Remember that ESL beginners will not be able to write a 5-paragraph academic essay. Instead, you may want to focus on things like filling in the blanks on a worksheet, or writing very simple sentences with a subject, verb, and object.
Why is Writing Difficult for ESL Students?
Writing can be a little bit difficult for ESL students because it not only involves vocabulary and grammar, but things like punctuation, capital letters as well as style and other writing conventions. What does make it easier is that it doesn’t happen in real time like with speaking.
Did you Like these ESOL Writing Exercises?
- Bolen, Jackie (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 72 Pages - 12/09/2019 (Publication Date) - Independently published (Publisher)
Yes? Thought so. Then you’re going to love this book you can easily find on Amazon: ESL Writing Activities, Games & Teaching Tips. It’s the first and only ESL activity book dedicated exclusively to teaching writing and it’s a must have if you’re teaching these kinds of classes.
You can easily get these ESL writing activities in both digital and print formats. Consider keeping a copy on the bookshelf in your office and using it as a handy reference guide. Or, bring the digital version with you on your phone or tablet to your favourite coffee shop for some serious lesson planning for your English writing classes.
It really is that easy to have ESL writing classes! Check out the book on Amazon, but only if you want to get yourself a serious dose of ESL teaching awesome in your life:
Do you Have an ESL Writing Grading Rubric?
If you’re looking for a bit of guidance on how to evaluate your students’s writing, then you’re in the right place. We strongly recommend using a simple rubric that’ll save you a ton of time. Plus, students will understand why they got the grade that they did. All the details can be found here:
ESL Writing Lesson Plans
If you’re looking for some ready-made writing lesson plans that can help your students improve their skills in a big way, you’ll want to check out our top recommendations:
ESL Writing Worksheets
The good news for English teachers is that there are a ton of English writing worksheets to help you out with just about anything! Why reinvent the wheel if another English teacher has already done the hard work, right? Here are some of the best ESL writing worksheets:
ESL Writing Assignments
If you’re not sure about writing assignment options for your ESL/EFL students, here are some of the best ideas that you’ll want to check out:
Teaching Writing to ESL Students
Do you want to find out more details about teaching ESL writing? Then you’ll certainly want to check out this short video on YouTube:
Have your Say about these ESL Writing Activities and Exercises
What do you think about these writing ESL activities? Did you try out one of them from this or have another that you’d like to recommend? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think. We’d love to hear from you.
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Last update on 2020-04-16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API