Learn English: Short and Easy Writing Lesson Ideas

Writing lessons take too long? Effective writing in the ESL class doesn’t always require a period or more of concentrated composition. Students can learn much from short English assignments with specific outcomes. Here are three fun, quick writing activities with video prompts that can be adapted for almost any class level, including elementary school.

The Big Boy Dreamer

It’s a simple story that some students (especially boys) might find a tad boring: there’s no blood, killing, or transforming cars.

I like this video as a writing prompt because there is so much detailed language to focus on (e.g. prepositions and past tense verbs). Equally important, it’s a good summary piece that can be completed by most students in one or two tight paragraphs.

For extra oomph, ask each student to describe one of their own dreams and now you have the foundation of a bold writing challenge.

The Big Boy Dreamer from Michael Swearingen on Vimeo.

2 The Wrathful Cloud

This video can help students learn, practice and refine past tense writing. For high intermediate students, consider using it is a surprise assignment with the goal of error free writing. You could even ask them to speculate on the motivations of the three main characters in the video.

With low level students, and beginners in elementary school, it’s a great prompt to work on verbs and simple descriptions.


The Wrathful Cloud from Michael Swearingen on Vimeo.


3  Coca-Cola Advert – Grandpa – Living a Healthy Lifestyle

A fun and amusing video just right for a compare and contrast piece.

On the left, the way we were. Everything seemed so perfect back then, didn’t it?

On the right, today’s post modern distopia of stress, work and nihilism. Well, it’s not that bad.

Use this video as a drill, if you wish.

  • In the past people used to …
  • Today, people …

Bonus marks for anyone who can name the singer and title of the groovy soundtrack.


Enjoy the video prompts.


2 thoughts on “Learn English: Short and Easy Writing Lesson Ideas”

  1. Very interesting idea to use silent video prompts for writing assignments (or an oral discussion as well). As a business English teacher, I can see myself using the Coca Cola ad in class because it was more concrete perhaps, but I’m afraid I wasn’t inspired by other two videos. Could you post examples of paragraphs written by your students using the first two videos? As a former newspaper journalist maybe I’m too factual and not enough fictional?

  2. Hi Ellen,

    Thanks for the comment and question. I don’t post student writing anymore. Posting other people’s work, even students, edges into the gray area of copyright infringement.



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