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ESL Writing Topics

Lesson Transcript
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.

There are numerous topics designed for ESL writing practice, as it can be challenging for students to come up with topics. Explore writing topics ranging from basic to advanced to help ESL students in the classroom. Updated: 12/23/2021

Developing ESL Writing Assignments

While creativity is an important aspect of English composition, it's not always beneficial to require students to generate their own writing topics. Providing a framework, even something as basic as a title, can enable ESL students to open up and explore themes they may have not thought of otherwise.

When assigning any of the following topics, be sure to give your students a clear outline of what is expected in terms of style, format and length. ESL learners often prefer having a well-defined set of requirements. One suggestion is to write expectations on the board and discuss them before assigning a topic.

You should provide beginning and intermediate students with guidelines for style, format and length.

In terms of style, you can discuss the difference between formal and informal writing.

When discussing format guidelines, you can specify that the assignment requires an:

  • Introduction (2-3 sentences)
  • 2-3 body paragraphs (4-5 sentences each)
  • Conclusion (2-3 sentences)

Finally, you can specify the paper's length:

  • 200-250 words

Laying things out so explicitly can be very beneficial for beginning and intermediate students. However, more advanced students may enjoy the challenge of being able to determine which format and length is appropriate for the assignment.

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Basic Writing Topics

Writings focused on basic topics should be one paragraph and no more than 100 words. These topics are simple because it can be difficult for beginning ESL students to write much more than 100 words due to limited vocabulary and grammar skills.

There are many examples of basic writing topics. Many of them talk about what the student knows best, like their own history, likes or dislikes. Students may like to discuss:

  1. My favorite holiday
  2. My happiest memory
  3. My childhood pet

More recent memories can offer many topics as well. You could ask students to discuss:

  1. My last birthday party
  2. What I did on my last vacation

Other topics can include writing from the student's perspective about:

  1. My best friend
  2. My favorite subject
  3. My least favorite teacher

Even something as simple as food preferences can offer a variety of interesting topics, like:

  1. How to cook my favorite dish
  2. The best meal I ever had
  3. Foods I don't like

Finally, you can ask the student's perspective on something like:

  1. The best animals to keep as pets
  2. My favorite sport
  3. A place I'd like to visit

Intermediate Writing Topics

Writings based on intermediate topics should make use of multiple paragraphs and more sophisticated writing structures, such as introductions, body paragraphs and conclusions. These topics are a bit more complex than the earlier writing. Still, many of these writing topics ask the student to express things about their life and culture.

The student may discuss:

  1. A traditional festival or holiday from my culture
  2. An art form I enjoy (music, dance)
  3. A famous person I'd like to meet

Building on the earlier topics, you might want the students to write about themselves. These topics include:

  1. Where I will be and what I will be doing 5 years from now
  2. A funny event in my life
  3. Why I could/couldn't live without my phone

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