ESL Letter Writing Prompts

Instructor: Clio Stearns

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

Learning how to write letters is such an important part of becoming competent at communication in English. This lesson offers some prompts that will get your students writing letters!

Importance of Writing for ESL Students

Are you a teacher of English as a second language (ESL) students? If so, you know that as important as speaking, listening and reading in English are, the ability to write well in English can make all the difference in how a person is perceived. One way to get students engaged in English writing is to remind them that learning to write properly opens up all sorts of windows for authentic communication, self expression and even democratic participation. This lesson offers you some prompts oriented toward getting your ESL students to practice writing letters.

Prompts for Elementary School Students

Elementary school students are emergent or beginning writers. Letter-writing practice can be a great way for them to learn to express themselves and use their writing for an authentic purpose, as shown in the following prompts.

  • Write a simple letter introducing yourself to someone you have never met. Make sure the letter is friendly and includes at least four different facts about you and your life. You can write about your family, hobbies and different tastes. You could also include questions to a potential pen pal about his/her own life.
  • Imagine that you are writing to someone in a different country or state, requesting information about where they live. For example, you could ask him or her questions about the climate, geography, school and sports activities. Include as much detail in your questions as you can. Offer some areas for comparisons between life in your home state and where he or she may live.
  • After you finish reading or listening to a book, write a letter to the author explaining what you thought about the book and why. Be as specific as you can, using examples from the text. Ask the author questions about his/her writing process, life and future writing plans. Try to find the writer's address so that you can really send your letter; it would be exciting to get a response!
  • Pretend that you are planning a big party to celebrate your birthday or a major holiday. Write a letter to many people at once, inviting them to join you for the celebration. Your letter should give details about when the party is and what you are planning for it. You should also explain what guests should bring and persuade them to try and commit to joining you!
  • After your party, imagine that you have received a gift you really loved. Write a letter to the friend or family member who gave you that gift, thanking them and explaining what you loved about it.

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