Writing Prompts for Advanced ESL Students

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.

Once ESL students have reached a certain level in their pursuit of the English language, it's important to provide them with more challenging material. This lesson provides teachers with writing prompts specifically designed for advanced ESL students.

Who's Advanced?

Before unleashing the advanced writing prompts detailed below, it's important to take a moment to assess whether or not your English as a second language (ESL) students are ready for these types of tasks. To begin, ask yourself the following questions.

  1. Are the advanced prompts appropriate for my learners?
  2. Will advanced writing prompts challenge, confuse, or discourage my students?
  3. Will some students excel and others fall behind or lose interest?
  4. What questions are likely to come up when I assign these prompts?
  5. Do my students have a solid grasp of English writing conventions including grammar, spelling, punctuation, structure, format, etc.?

After reviewing these questions, try to come up with a game plan in terms of the type of formatting you'd like to see (essay, report, case study, etc.) and a timeline. Should work be completed in class or as a homework assignment? You may also want to consider occasionally assigning prompts as pair or group work in order to foster collaboration and teamwork. Also, ESL students tend to prefer fairly obvious guidelines, so consider giving a specific minimum word count.

Advanced Creative and Narrative Prompts

  1. Aliens have just landed on Earth and you have been selected to represent humanity at the first meeting. What do you say and do?
  2. A human with superpowers has started to terrorize a major city. You have no superpowers. How do you stop him or her?
  3. You are given the ability to read minds for 24 hours. Describe your day.
  4. You wake up one morning to find that everyone else on Earth has disappeared. What do you do?
  5. You have been asked to deliver a speech to the United Nations about a topic that is important to you. Write the first draft of your speech.

Advanced Opinion and Persuasive Prompts

  1. What roles should women have in the military?
  2. How can communities improve race relations?
  3. Who, if anyone, benefits from war or other types of military conflict?
  4. Write a letter to a young student to persuade him or her to pursue higher education.
  5. In a persuasive essay, convince the reader that your hometown is either a great or horrible place to live.

Quick Instructive and Descriptive Prompts

These instructive and descriptive prompts are a great way to begin or end a lesson and typically require a shorter amount of time and word count than the other prompts.

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