Easy ESL Writing Activities

Quick Start Writing Lesson Ideas

Here are some ESL writing activities that work well at the start of a new semester. They get students writing during the first class, which sets the tone for the course. They also give teachers a chance to quickly assess the class level.

ESL Writing Activities

1. Basic Writing Concepts

This short activity helps students remember a few basic grammar terms. These terms are important because they allow the teacher and student to have intelligent conversations about writing during feedback sessions.

Here’s the worksheet: basic writing tools.

  • Review terms with students.
  • Ask students to write sentences for each practice question.
  • Review student sentences on the board.

2. Before and After

Most students want to improve their writing skills. That’s the overall aim of a writing class. This short ESL writing activity provides students with evidence of their improvement (or lack of improvement) at the end of the semester.

Step 1: Read the Model

During the first week of classes, students read a story about a place. Ask a few questions to draw the students’ attention to the details.

  • How does the writer use verbs to activate our senses?
  • How does the writer evoke a sense of the place?
  • Is this a good example of an old writing rule: show me, don’t tell me?

Step 2: Student Writing

Ask students to:

  1. choose a place
  2. brainstorm a list of verbs, nouns and adjectives
  3. start writing a story about that place
  4. submit to teacher

Step 3: Hold, Wait and Repeat

The teacher keeps the stories until the end of the semester. During the second last week of classes, repeat the exercise with the same assignment. Collect the second assignment. Return both pieces of writing to each student the following week with feedback. Compare the first and last stories and identify any improvements.

3. Error Correction

In order to become an independent writer, students need to be able to find and correct their own errors. During the semester, use error correction practice exercises to build skills and help students learn to notice details.


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