ESL Describing & Writing a Process Activities

Instructor: Yolanda Reinoso Barzallo

Yolanda holds a CELTA Cambridge, a Juris Doctorate, and a Master of Public Administration. She is a published author of fiction in Spanish.

Your ESL students need a lot of practice in order to describe and write well about processes to do things. Since this is an essential skill for communication, the topics in this lesson are engaging and adaptable to oral or writing activities.

Time Order Words and Topic Sentence

Your ESL students are ready to describe a process in writing or orally once they know a comprehensive list of time order words. Ideally, your students have already had the opportunity to see time order words in the context of a process.

Before you begin, ask your students to tell you about the last time they had to explain a process to someone. Tell them to describe this in one sentence, so they get some practice in creating topic sentences. For any of the topics below, make sure your students have time to think about steps in the process. They can prepare a draft of the steps, which you would revise. Then, your students can work on the final piece based on your recommendations. Let's take a look at the topics now.

Process Topics

Any of the topics below are good for your students to practice oral or writing skills. If you choose to give a topic to be presented in oral manner, you could encourage your students to make a visual presentation to accompany their speech. The visuals enhance the presentation and get students excited about creating, say, a cool PowerPoint.

Routine Processes

The activities your ESL students do every day as part of their normal routine are a great first resource for describing processes. You could get your students to speak or write about how they get ready in the morning to go out. Similarly, your ESL students could tell about how they make their breakfast. The main point is that your ESL students use a process that is the most familiar to them to describe how they get to a result. Finally, since routines have commonalities, your ESL students could compare how their routine processes are similar to or different from the ones their peers describe.

A Big Future Goal

This activity is very engaging because it is based on your students' personal goals for the future. You could begin by briefly telling your students about your own personal goal for the future. The goal should be something big and important (i.e. 'I plan on getting my Ph.D by X year). Then, you would describe to your students the different steps you would have to take in order to achieve that goal. This way, your students know what they are expected to do when it is time to speak or write about their future goal.

Cooking Recipes

For this activity, it would be great to engage students by presenting your own cooking recipe first. You could choose a traditional dish from the English-speaking world. This way, your students get to learn about the culture attached to English language. As you present the recipe, you could emphasize time order words. Your students can then ask any questions they have about the recipe.

The next step is to get your students working on their own recipes. You have two options, and both are engaging.

1. The first option is to assign each student a traditional recipe from the English-speaking world that includes only the ingredients and the steps in disorderly fashion. The students could describe the correct process using common sense.

2. The second option is to let students present a cooking recipe from their country of origin. This is perhaps the best one because they feel emotional attachment to their own food plus it can be very interesting for the other ESL students to learn about cuisine from around the world. You only need to keep in mind that there might be some ingredients that do not necessarily translate into English, which means the student may have to explain what they are.

Science and Nature Topics

This activity is easy to do if you present to your students a visual diagram of how different natural processes happen. For example, you could have a visual of how clouds form, how photosynthesis occurs, how insects pollinate plants, etc. Luckily, the Internet is generous on visual diagrams for this topic. Your students would have to tell you what vocabulary words come to mind by looking at the diagram. Once you elicit the necessary words from your students, make sure to ask questions to check that students are clear enough in terms of the order of events. Once this is done, your students can begin writing about it.

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