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Creative Writing Prompts for ESL Students

Instructor: Matthew Hamel

Matt has degrees in Journalism and Business and has taught a variety of courses at high schools and universities around the world.

Creative writing is a valuable asset both in and out of the classroom. In this lesson, you'll be provided with creative writing prompts specifically designed for use in an ESL (English as a Second Language) classroom.

Write Creatively

While creative writing may seem like a daunting undertaking to many ESL (English as a Second Language) learners, it can be an important skill to develop for a variety of reasons. First of all, creative writing allows students to express themselves imaginatively while in an academic setting. This type of expression can also enable learners to explore different English writing conventions and ideas. Additionally, creative writing encourages students to experiment and test out newly acquired grammar and other English language skills.

The writing prompts in this lesson cover a variety of topics and techniques that should keep your learners entertained and engaged. Before using the following prompts in class, be sure to adjust the difficulty level and other requirements to meet the level, abilities, and needs of your ESL students.

Quick Prompts

These quick prompts are a great way to start or finish a lesson. These prompts ask students to offer creative answers to hypothetical questions. Responses should be limited to one or two paragraphs, and the results can be collected by you for assessment or read out to the rest of the class by volunteers. Students should be given around 10 minutes to compose and answer each prompt.

  1. What superpower would you like to have and why?
  2. What's your favorite and least favorite part of learning English?
  3. Describe your ideal vacation.
  4. What will you be doing 10 years from now?
  5. Which celebrity, historical figure, or famous individual, living or dead, would you like to meet, and what questions would you ask that person?

Movie Prompt

Read the following instructions to your students, then give them approximately 15 minutes to write a response.

  • A Hollywood producer wants you to write the next big summer blockbuster about a character from your culture. The producer asks you to submit two to three movie ideas. Your ideas should include:
    • List of main characters
    • Brief description of the plot
    • What type of audience this movie will appeal to
    • Why you believe this movie will be a hit

Rewrite the Ending

This creative activity works great if your class is currently reading a work of fiction. If not, you can prepare for this activity by giving your students the first half of a short story. Every student should use the same story.

  1. Begin by asking students to recap and summarize the story so far.
  2. Next, ask students to write their own version of the rest of the story. Students should keep the same characters, and if possible, the same tone or writing style of the author, but they can take the story in any direction they choose.
  3. When the first drafts are complete, have students exchange papers with a classmate for some peer editing practice.

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