ESL Descriptive Writing Prompts

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Learning to write descriptively will help your ESL students express themselves with depth as well as enhance their vocabularies and communication. The prompts in this lesson will help students of a variety of ages write descriptively.

Descriptive Writing Counts

Have you ever read something that made perfect sense but just did not evoke any feelings for you? Chances are, this piece of writing lacked description. While learning to write in a logical and organized way is important, it is the descriptive aspect of writing that brings written language to life.

Not every student automatically has a knack for descriptive writing, however, and ESL (English as a second language) students in particular might struggle with the extra vocabulary or more complicated syntax involved in descriptive writing. This makes practice more important than ever!

The prompts in this lesson are oriented toward helping your ESL students develop and hone their skills as descriptive writers.

Prompts for Elementary School

In the elementary grades, descriptive writing often has to do with paying attention to mentor texts, experimenting with new vocabulary, and learning to express one's self freely and confidently. These prompts will help get these young writers going on the right foot.

  • Go outside and look at a plant, flower, or tree. Write a list of as many different words that come into your mind while looking at this natural object. Then, go back inside. Use all the words you have written to compose a paragraph or poem describing what you looked like in your own words. Try to get beyond physical description to capture what the object smells like, feels like, and makes you feel.
  • Think of a person you really love and admire. Write a letter to this person. In this letter, tell the person exactly what you admire about them, challenging your self to be as specific in your description of their personality and actions as possible.

Prompts for Middle School

Middle school students might be ready for more sophisticated writing tasks, though they can also be newly self-conscious about playing with language. The prompts in this section will appeal to their adolescent sensibilities.

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