Quick ESL Writing Warm Up Exercises

Here are a few writing activities to help ESL students learn writing by getting their mind into the words and ideas. A creative head space, to use the parlance of the 1980s.

Writing Warm Up #1: Free Association

This is a five-minute activity to help students think about connections between words.


  • Students add a word to each blank. Each pair of side by side words must be connected in some way.
  • They might be opposites, synonyms or rhymes. Any connection is okay as long as the student can explain the link in a reasonably logical way.
  • Add five words between the beginning and end.

It’s a free flowing game, so it’s meant to be creative and fun.

  1. UP ___   ___   ___   ___   ___   SPIDER

  2. BLACK   ___   ___   ___   ___   ___   NICE

  3. SMALL   ___   ___   ___   ___   ___   BEST

  4. DRINKING   ___   ___   ___   ___   ___   LIGHT

  5. SUNNY   ___   ___   ___   ___   ___   AIRPLANE


Writing Warm Up #2: Looping

This is a ten-minute free writing activity with a twist.

Look at these words. Pick one for your topic.

  • afraid – pollution – movie – water – pencil – cool – hip – baby

Free write for five minutes. Don’t think too much. Don’t worry about spelling, grammar or neatness. Just create.

  1. At the end of five minutes, draw a line under your writing.
  2. Under that line, summarize your free writing in a single sentence, like a topic sentence.
  3. Now rewrite your story in a proper paragraph with a controlling sentence and good organisation.

What’s the point?

You might be surprised by what you can write when you don’t feel the pressure to produce a perfectly written paragraph in one draft. Somebody once said there are no good writers, just really good editors. Maybe that’s true.

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