Narrative Writing Activities for ESL

Teaching English as a second language (ESL) can be challenging, especially writing, since writing in a second language is often very difficult. Narrative writing can make both teaching and learning ESL more enjoyable and effective, since it offers students a chance to engage with the material while building language skills such as grammatical knowledge and vocabulary.

  1. Describe This Picture

    • With the "Describe this picture" activity, students write a short narrative piece describing a given picture in as much detail as possible. This exercise is customizable for different levels since any photo -- from the simple to the very detailed -- can be chosen for the activity. Students can focus on specific vocabulary -- for instance, colors or shapes -- or employ general vocabulary to describe what they see.

    Personal Essay

    • Writers are often told to "write what they know." For ESL students, writing about themselves might be the easiest task available to them. The short, descriptive personal narrative gives students a chance to develop several aspects of their vocabulary, including adjectives and pronouns. As a twist on this theme, students can be assigned a partner to describe instead of themselves. Students may also be given a chance to present their essay, which helps build both spoken and aural language skills.

    The Five "W's"

    • With a five "W's" exercise, students write a newspaper-style article describing an event or phenomenon using basic or advanced vocabulary. The goal of the exercise is to describe "who," "what," "where," "when" and "why" in reference to their topic. The length of this activity can be tailored to fit the level of the group, and students may then read their work to the group. Examples of this type of writing can be found in most newspapers, so it also familiarizes students with newspapers -- which are a great ESL tool for reading, too.

    My Fantasy City/Country

    • The fantasy city/country activity is both narrative and creative, since it asks students to imagine their own ideal locale. This requires students to draw on creative words and concepts, which may be a bit more challenging than simply describing something they see; however, while it may be more difficult than other activities, it is also potentially more interesting. Students may pursue this activity in groups and then present their fantasy city/country to the group.

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References

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