Narrative Writing Activities for ELL Students

English language learners, or ELL, face the added challenge of learning a new language while also learning subject material in the classroom. Narrative writing helps them bridge the gap between conversational English and the more challenging academic English that they will need to succeed as students. By starting with simple activities, teachers can help ELL students progress steadily.

  1. Fill In the Blanks

    • Isolating different aspects of language helps prevent students from becoming overwhelmed. Present students with a paragraph describing a common event such as the birth of a sibling or the first day of school. Leave some of the words blank and have the students fill in the blanks. The blanks may be verbs, perhaps with a suggested verb that the student must use in the correct tense, or nouns, used to test vocabulary and understanding of context.


    • Improved reading and oral comprehension in a child's native language leads to improvement in English skills. Help students gain proficiency in both languages by either reading aloud or having the children read a story in their native language, and later write the story in English. If a student is not sufficiently fluent in English to complete the task, ask them to draw pictures of the story, and use the images as a springboard for learning new English words.

    Picture to Story

    • Add an element of imagination to narrative writing in English by asking ELL students to view a picture in which action is taking place, and tell them to write a short story about what they think is happening in the picture. Ask more advanced students to write the story from the point of view of a single character within the image, and to describe the events that might have led up to the situation, as well as what might happen afterward.


    • Ask students to write an essay comparing two different things, like the city and the countryside, or day and night. Advanced students can describe the two things and tell which one they prefer and why. Students with limited grammar proficiency can list things that describe or can be found in the two choices. Students with no English proficiency can draw pictures of the two things. A teacher may then use the pictures to teach the student some basic vocabulary words.

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