Two Short Writing Activities

ESL teachers sometimes need donuts. They also need writing lessons that students can finish in 20-30 minutes. Here are two activities.

Short ESL Writing Activity #1: Cubing

A cube is an object with six sides. In this exercise, we use a cube to ask six kinds of questions about something.

Each question gives students a different way to look at an idea or object. The answers generate lots of information. That information helps students add depth and detail to their writing. 

This is a kind of guided writing exercise – because of the question prompts – so it works well with students who say they don’t know what to write.

Six Questions

  1. DESCRIBE: What is the idea? What does the object look like? Describe it with words about the senses.
  2. COMPARE: Is it similar to another idea or thing?
  3. CONTRAST: How is it different from others? What makes it unique?
  4. ANALYZE: Divide the whole thing into smaller parts.
  5. APPLY: How can it be used? Who uses it? What can we learn from it?
  6. ARGUE: What do you think about it? Good or bad? Right or wrong? Yes or no? Explain your decision with reasons. 

Lesson Flow

Step 1 Explain Task

Use the Cubing questions to write a short passage about this hamburger set. Click here to open the lesson resource pdf file with the information you need for steps 2, 3 and 4.

Step 2

Show the hamburger picture on the lesson resource pdf file. It has a photo of a hamburger set and the 6 Cubing questions.

Step 3

Show students the model answer on the next page of the resource page. Give students time to read the text and see how the story answers every Cubing question. 

Step 4

Show students a different picture (two photos are in the lesson resource pdf file). Give students 10-15 minutes to write a short, coherent passage that answers all of the Cubing questions. 


Short ESL Writing Activity #1: 4 Elements 

This activity asks students to think carefully about how they describe places and things. There is also a little surprise at the end the activity.

Get the lesson resources pdf here.

Lesson Flow

Step 1 Explain Task

Students write a short story; probably 2-4 paragraphs. The aim of the assignment is to write detailed descriptions of places and things.

Step 2 Rules

Explain that there are a couple of rules. This is a time limited writing activity. Students have 10 minutes to write a short story about an adventure. In this story, students include 4 things in detail:

  • woods
  • water
  • a key
  • a barrier

Step 3

Students write for 10 minutes.

Step 4

Now the surprise. Tell  students the 4 things in the story have a special power. Each thing tells us about a different part of the writer’s character. This part works best with a partner.

Partner A asks:

  • How did you describe the woods?
  • How did you describe the water?
  • How did you describe the key?
  • How did you describe the barrier?

The code is on the last page of the pdf file.


About the activities

These activities come from two of my ebooks: If you and your students enjoyed these activities, why not buy an ebook? That would help support this website and all the free resources.


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