Writing can be the most difficult language skill for English as a Second Language (ESL) students to master, especially since some ESL students have not had formal schooling in their home country. You can make writing activities enjoyable, however, by giving students creative assignments that incorporate plenty of discussion beforehand.
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Writing the endings to stories gives students the ability to change the outcome of even the most familiar stories. Give beginning and intermediate students relatively short stories to work with, so they don’t get bogged down in the reading portion of the assignment. Advanced students can work with longer stories.
If the stories are familiar to students, emphasise that the ending must be different from that of the original. For a lighthearted presentation, give everyone the same story and ask students to share their unique endings with the class. To change this assignment, take out the middle of a very short story and challenge students to fill in the details that match the beginning and end.
The study of adjectives can create plenty of laughter in an ESL classroom, simply because so many of them are humorous—smelly, slimy, greasy—you get the idea. Give students simple sentences to transform and even beginning ESL students will begin to feel a mastery of the language as they change,“The girl walked to the store” into,“The short smelly girl walked to the giant grocery store.” Intermediate and advanced students can add adverbs as well. Ask students “How did she walk?” and elicit answers such as “quickly,” “gracefully” and so forth.
Oranges and Apples
Oranges and Apples elicits descriptive writing from ESL students. This activity works well when added to a unit on food or adjectives. Teach students vocabulary that will be used to describe fruit, such as “pit,” “rind” and “peel.” Put a piece of fruit in a paper bag and give one to each student. Students may not look in the bag, but must use their senses to describe the fruit. They may smell it, feel it—even taste it if you are using blindfolds.
Initiate a discussion in which each student has the opportunity to describe the piece of fruit in their bag. Ask students to write a description of the fruit without naming it. Beginning students may simply make a list of words they know that relate to the fruit, while more advanced students can write a paragraph.
Pictures stories give ESL students the opportunity to practice creative writing and sequencing without being faced with a sheet of blank paper. Teach students the words “first,” “then,” “next” and “last.” Give each student a set of pictures to use as writing prompts. Beginning students should have pictures that clearly show a sequential order of things, such a picture of a sunny day, one of rain, one of a storm and one of a damaged house. Advanced students can be given random pictures and develop them into a sequential story.
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