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.
Let’s check out the top ESOL writing exercises and activities to consider trying out with your students.
ESL Writing Activities and Games for All Ages
Are you ready to get into the ESL writing exercises? Then let’s get to the best English writing ideas. Also, check out some great writing prompts ideas to use in your writing lesson.
#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 a 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. It makes a nice free write activity.
#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 for ESL Writing Practice
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:
#7: Dictogloss ESOL Writing Exercise
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:
#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
Try out these activities to give students some ESL writing practice opportunities.
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 helping students with this writing skill: ESL Proofreading and Editing.
- Amazon Kindle Edition
- Bolen, Jackie (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 146 Pages - 06/18/2020 (Publication Date)
Spending some time working on self-editing skills, instead of relying on the teacher-editing model is a nice way to improve student autonomy in English writing classes.
#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 in English essay 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. But, this nice free write activity helps students with writing more quickly.
Check out this ESOL writing exercise to help our students out with this: Fluency ESL Writing Activity.
#14: How to Teach ESL Writing on the Let’s Talk TEFL Podcast
#15: Word Association
I like to use this quick writing activity if I know that students 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.
#16: 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.
- Amazon Kindle Edition
- Smith, Jennifer Booker (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 134 Pages - 03/31/2016 (Publication Date)
#17: 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:
#18: 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:
#19: 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.
#21: Write an Interesting Story in English
It can be fun to get students to write their own stories in English. Check out these 6 simple steps to get started:
#22: TEFL Writing Activities and Games
#23: Brainstorm Games and Activities
One of my favourite, simple ESL writing activities is to get students to brainstorm words or things related to a certain topic or category. It’s a nice way to get some creative juices flowing and can also be used for a quick warmer or review activity.
There are a number of engaging, student-centred activities to consider. Here are some of my favourites: Brain Storming Games.
#24: Freeze Writing Activity
Group writing activities for TEFL classes are few and far between. However, freeze is one of the best ones to consider. Students have to work collaboratively to make stories, line by line is a fun and engaging way.
Want to give it a try? Find out how: Freeze Activity.
#25: Five-Paragraph Essay Writing
For higher-level students, it can be a worthwhile activity to teach students how to write academic essays. Here’s an outline and some tips for how to do that:
#26: More Ideas for TEFL Writing
#27: Fill in the Blank Sentences Games
A nice option for beginners in English writing is to use fill in the blanks. This adds a bit of structure to it and makes it much easier for students! Have a look at some of my favourite options:
#28: Round Robin Story
Try out this simple story writing activity that can be used for speaking & listening, or writing. Learn more:
#29: Five Senses
Try out this simple activity that involves a lot of adjectives. It can be done with speaking or writing.
#30: Story Starters ESOL Writing Exercise
Provide students with a sentence or a short paragraph to serve as a story starter. Students then continue the story, adding their own ideas and developing the plot. This game encourages creativity, storytelling, and writing fluency. Try out one of my favourite ESOL writing exercises!
#31: Picture Prompts
Show students a captivating image or provide them with a set of pictures. Ask them to choose one or a combination of pictures and write a story, description, or dialogue based on the visuals. Pictures can stimulate imagination and inspire students to write.
#32: Sentence Relay
Divide the class into teams. Give each team a writing prompt or topic. The first student from each team writes a sentence based on the prompt, then passes the paper to the next student, who adds another sentence. The relay continues, and students build a coherent piece of writing. The team with the most creative and well-structured writing wins.
#33: ESL Writing Olympics
Create a series of writing challenges that test different writing skills, such as grammar, vocabulary, sentence structure, or creative writing. Set a time limit for each challenge, and award points to students based on their performance. Students can compete individually or in teams, making it a lively and competitive writing activity.
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.
What types of writing assignments are suitable for English learners?
Start with simple assignments like journal writing, personal narratives, and gradually progress to more complex assignments such as essays and reports.
How can I make writing more engaging for English learners?
Make it engaging by using interesting prompts, creative assignments, and real-life scenarios that connect to their experiences and interests.
Should I focus on grammar and vocabulary in writing instruction?
Yes, grammar and vocabulary are essential components of writing. Students should learn to use them correctly to convey their ideas effectively.
What’s the role of peer review in teaching writing to English learners?
Peer review helps students develop critical reading and editing skills, and it allows them to receive feedback from peers before finalizing their work.
How can I help English learners overcome writer’s block?
Encourage them to start with a simple outline, use writing prompts, and create a supportive, low-pressure writing environment in the classroom.
What strategies can I use to assess English learners’ writing effectively?
Use rubrics and clear criteria for assessing content, organization, grammar, and vocabulary. Offer specific feedback to help students understand their strengths and weaknesses.
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’ 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:
Tips for Teaching Writing to English Learners
Teaching writing to ESL learners requires a combination of strategies to develop their skills and confidence. Here are some tips to enhance your ESL writing lessons:
Provide Clear Instructions
Begin each writing task by clearly explaining the objectives, requirements, and expectations to the students. Break down the task into smaller steps to make it more manageable.
Show students examples of well-written texts in the target genre or format. Analyze the structure, language features, and organization. Model the thought process and decision-making involved in writing.
Teach the Writing Process
Introduce students to the writing process, which includes prewriting, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing. Emphasize the importance of brainstorming, organizing ideas, and revising for clarity and coherence.
Develop Vocabulary and Language Skills
Help students expand their vocabulary and language skills by providing word banks, relevant phrases, and sentence starters. Teach them how to use transition words and cohesive devices to enhance the flow of their writing.
Focus on Grammar and Sentence Structure in TEFL Writing Games and Activities
Address common grammar errors and sentence structure issues that students may encounter. Incorporate targeted grammar exercises and provide feedback on their writing to improve accuracy.
Encourage Pre-writing Activities
Engage students in pre-writing activities, such as brainstorming, mind mapping, or outlining, to generate ideas and organize their thoughts before starting to write. This helps students structure their writing more effectively.
Provide Writing Prompts
Offer a variety of engaging and relevant writing prompts to spark students’ creativity and interest. Ensure the prompts are aligned with their language proficiency level and encourage critical thinking and personal expression. Here are some ideas:
Peer Feedback and Revision
Incorporate peer feedback sessions where students exchange their writing with classmates for constructive feedback. Encourage students to revise their work based on the suggestions provided, promoting collaboration and revision skills.
Offer Individualized Support
Provide one-on-one guidance and support to students who may require additional assistance. Offer personalized feedback and suggestions for improvement based on their individual writing challenges.
Recognize and celebrate students’ progress in writing. Highlight their strengths and areas of improvement, and provide specific feedback on their achievements. Encourage a growth mindset and foster a positive writing environment.
Encourage Frequent Writing Practice
Assign regular writing assignments to give students ample opportunities to practice their writing skills. Provide a variety of writing tasks, such as descriptive essays, opinion pieces, narratives, or reflective journal entries.
Use Authentic Materials for ESL Writing Activities
Integrate authentic materials like newspaper articles, short stories, or blog posts to expose students to real-life writing and develop their understanding of different writing styles and genres.
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 2022-07-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API