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ESL Story Writing Prompts

Instructor: Clio Stearns

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

Helping students learn to exercise their creativity in English is a great way to get them feeling confident as writers. The prompts in this lesson are oriented toward helping your ESL students write stories.

Why Story Writing?

Teaching ESL (English as a second language) students can come with a lot of responsibilities. It is your job to help your students learn conversational English, but you also want to help them develop academic and technical skills as well as confidence in expressing themselves in writing in English.

Incorporating creative writing into your instruction is one good way to work toward all of these goals at once. When your ESL students write stories, they work on vocabulary, syntax, and grammar, but they also work with self-expression and creativity. The story writing prompts in this lesson will help get your students going, and you might be surprised by the delightful writing they can produce!

Prompts for Early Elementary School

Students in grades K-2 are emergent writers who are often most comfortable with simple stories. These prompts will help them express themselves without moving out of their comfort zones. Students in these grades will also benefit from drawing alongside their writing.

  • Think back on your last week. Zoom in on one moment that was especially funny, scary, or meaningful; something that happened and gave you a strong feeling. Now, write about that moment as a story with a beginning, middle, and end.
  • Make up an imaginary character who is like you in some ways and different from you in other ways. Write a story about that character having an adventure. Write about what happens and how your character responds.

Prompts for Upper Elementary School

In grades 3-5, students are ready for slightly more sophisticated work and often have more diverse genre preferences. The prompts in this section honor these developments.

  • Imagine that you and several of your friends wake up on a different planet or in a different time period, past or future. Write a story describing how you respond to this surprise and what happens to the group of you as you move through your day.
  • Think about a fairy tale or folk tale you love. Rewrite this story from the point of view of one of the minor characters. Try to get at that character's perspective while still remaining faithful to the usual plot line.

Prompts for Middle School

Early adolescents, in grades 6-8, might especially enjoy writing stories that help them think about their increasingly complex social worlds and ability to think abstractly about the world around them.

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