Students working with a teacher at Albany Senior High School, New Zealand (Photo credit: Wikipedia)By Aaron Whirl
Let's face it: ESL writing classes can be boring and predictable. Many students have an instinctive aversion to writing due to the fact that most writing lessons are routine and tedious. That's why ESL writing activities are among the most useful tools that a teacher can have in his or her ESL arsenal.
Writing activities are, at their core, simply more enjoyable ways of putting pen to paper, and they elevate writing from a boring and routine task that students will tend to dread to an interactive assignment which students can look forward to and enjoy.
After all, writing is an art form, comparable to music, painting, or dancing, and it is the role of the teacher to inspire students to think of writing as a way to express themselves creatively.
So how can a teacher accomplish this?
First of all, teachers should consider the age and level of the class when devising an appropriate activity. Certain assignments or activities may need to be simplified, for example, if the students are younger or at a lower level.
Then, there are several different kinds of assignments that can be given out. Some students enjoy journal writing, and the teacher can allot 5 or 10 minutes per class for writing in a journal and answering a predetermined question.
Alternatively, rather than giving the students a predetermined topic, it may be useful to allow the students to simply write extemporaneously about anything they want for a period of time. The teacher can choose to check the students' journals periodically, but it may also be useful for the journals to remain private, viewed only by the students, as this could help foster an appreciation of writing that can be exploited later in the class' writing assignments.
For a more fun and interactive activity, the teacher could write the first sentence of a story, then print this out on several different pieces of paper. Each student can begin writing his or her own version of the story, and the teacher can encourage them to be creative and unique, letting the students vote on their favorite story and offering a prize to the top-ranked student.
Finally, as a variation on this activity, the students can write only two or three sentences instead of the entire story, then pass the story to their neighbor to continue, and so on until the story has passed through several students.
Some of these stories will inevitably become so silly that they may not make much sense, but as long as the students are having fun while writing and doing so while still trying to write correctly, the content of the stories is of secondary importance.
The most important thing is that students are writing and having fun while doing so; only in this way can students learn to think of writing as a form of artistic expression instead of a means of tedious classroom punishment.
ESL writing lessons can be either an inspiring and enjoyable part of ESL classes or simply another part of class to be dreaded. It is up to the teacher to make this distinction. For several useful activities as well as printable writing activities, check out the materials on this site >> ESL for kids
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