Use Your Creativity: 10 Ways to Bring Creative Writing into the ESL Classroom

Use Your Creativity: 10 Ways to Bring Creative Writing into the ESL Classroom

Students are often daunted by the thought of having to write creatively however if they are given good direction and prompts they often rise to the challenge.

Giving clear instructions is vital and with good preparation and lead in exercises you will be surprised by the results. Having a clear objective in mind is essential for the students but the opportunities presented by creative writing for widening vocabulary is immense.

Apply Some Fresh Ideas for Quality Writing Lessons

  1. 1

    Make it Personal

    To engage students with any subject it is always a good idea to personalise it and a great way to do this for a creative writing lesson is to turn the table and find out what the students like to read. Give them a Reading Habits Questionnaire to complete for themselves and then ask them to interview two or three other students to find out about their habits. The students can then get together in groups to discuss the results of the questionnaire. This can also be helpful for the teacher to find out about the students’ preferences for future lesson planning but the main aim is to get the students talking about books.

  2. 2

    Story Telling Warmer

    Write a first line on the White Board. E.g. It was a dark and stormy night ……. Ask the first student to continue the line and so on until every student has participated in making a story. You may find that some students are reluctant but start with a stronger student and they will soon be in full flow.

  3. 3

    Speed Writing Warmer

    Write a prompt on the White Board. For example “It was raining cats and dogs.” Give the students three minutes to write anything that comes into their head. It’s a great way to get a writing class started and also to introduce new vocabulary such as idioms. Be strict with the timing and when the time is up they should compare what they have written with other students.

  4. 4

    Writing Prompts

    Write several prompts on slips of papers and give them out to the students either individually or in pairs. These prompts could be geared towards practising certain vocabulary or grammar points. For example:

    “You buy a newspaper from your local newsagent and see that it is dated one week in the future. There is an article in it which makes it clear that you have to take action now to prevent a catastrophe.”

    “You go to an antique market and buy a box of bric-a-brac. On looking through the box you find a photo of a young girl/boy in period clothing from 100 years ago and written on the back is your name. You have to find out what the connection is between the girl/boy in the photo and yourself.”

    The students then either individually or in pairs write a short story connected to their prompt. The stories should be kept at around 150-250 words. When they have written their stories they should join up with another student/pair and read and discuss their stories.

  5. 5

    Creating Character

    Ask the students to create their own characters by first of all deciding the following: Age, name, appearance including eye colour, hair colour, distinguishing facial features etc., hobbies/studies/job. Then give them a questionnaire to complete. It could include questions like: What makes your character angry? What makes them laugh? What is their biggest fear? Do they have a secret? For higher level classes you could expand this even more by adding more complex questions such as: Is there anything that makes your character feel safe? Something comforting? Describe what it is and why it makes them feel safe? Your character is being lectured by someone in a position of authority, how do they react? These prompts can be adjusted to level but the aim is that the student ends up with a rounded character profile.

  6. 6

    Writing Monologues

    The aim of this lesson is for the students to use a character that they have previously created and write a monologue. It is a good idea to show the students examples of monologues from literature in order for them to see how it is done. You should choose examples based on the age/level of your students. Stress that monologue writing is writing your character’s thoughts in the first person as if they were thinking out loud.

  7. 7

    Creating Dialogue

    Give out an example of a short dialogue. Ask your students what their observations are. Elicit: Naturalness, length of sentences, tension/mood, dialect – speaking habits. What is important about writing a dialogue? Ask your students to form pairs; they should pair up with someone that they are not already sitting with. They should tell each other about the characters they have created and discuss their similarities/differences. Ask them to imagine a situation in which their characters might meet and write a short dialogue about what happens. Stress that they should try and include some conflict in their dialogue. Role-play the dialogue.

  8. 8

    Fun with Poetry

    Many students have an aversion to poetry but it can be used in a fun way. Haikus are a good form to use. Give out some examples and ask the students to count the syllables in each line. They should see that there is a pattern: 5-7-5. In pairs ask them to create a Haiku about what they can see out of the window sticking to this pattern.

  9. 9

    Fun with Poetry 2

    Use acrostics to create a poem. Ask the students to write their surname in acrostic form. For each letter they should write a short line about their observations of the place they are staying in. Then in pairs ask them to read the lines as a poem.

  10. q

    Fun with Poetry 3

    Write some prompts on the White Board. These could include ‘Getting lost’, ‘The house where you were born’, ‘The shapes of the clouds’. Ask the students to write a short poem based on these prompts.

Using creative writing in the classroom will give your students the chance to have fun whilst practising grammar points and expanding their vocabulary.

It also gives the teacher the opportunity to create fun lessons with tangible results.

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