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Unlocking Potential

Engaging Writing Activities for English Language Learners

Writing is an essential component of language learning that helps develop critical thinking skills and fosters self-expression. For English language learners (ELLs), writing can be particularly challenging due to the complexities involved in mastering a new language. However, by offering appropriate writing activities tailored to their needs, educators can create a supportive environment where ELL students feel empowered to communicate effectively through written text.

Understanding Writing Activities for ELLs

To cater to diverse learners' needs, it is crucial to understand the different types of writing activities suitable for various levels of English proficiency. These activities not only help improve language skills but also provide opportunities for students to practice using new vocabulary and grammar structures in context.

A. Types of Writing Activities

  1. Simple Paragraph: This basic form of writing involves constructing a coherent paragraph with an introductory sentence, supporting sentences, and a concluding statement. Simple paragraphs allow beginners to practice organizing their thoughts while focusing on essential grammar rules and sentence structures.

  2. Postcards: Writing postcards is another engaging activity that helps ELL students develop descriptive writing skills. By describing the location they are visiting or have visited, learners can practice using adjectives, prepositions, and other key vocabulary words related to travel experiences.

  3. Emails: Teaching email etiquette is essential in today's digital age. Intermediate-level ELL students can benefit from learning how to write formal or informal emails by following standard formats and using appropriate language for different contexts.

  4. Memos: Memo writing helps develop concise communication skills, which are valuable in both academic and professional settings. Students at the intermediate level should learn about memo structure (To, From, Date, Subject) and practice crafting clear and direct messages within a limited space.

  5. Personal Ads: Advanced ELL students can engage in creative writing tasks like composing personal ads. This activity allows them to showcase their personality traits while practicing using persuasive language and adhering to specific guidelines (e.g., word count limits).

  6. Thank You Notes: Writing thank you notes is an excellent way for advanced learners to express gratitude in a formal manner. By focusing on the recipient, reason for appreciation, and expression of thanks, students can practice using polite language and appropriate tone in their writing.

B. Benefits of Incorporating Diverse Writing Tasks

Including various types of writing activities in your lesson plans offers several benefits:

  • Encourages creativity and self-expression
  • Develops critical thinking skills
  • Provides opportunities to practice using new vocabulary and grammar structures
  • Helps students become familiar with different genres of writing
  • Prepares ELLs for real-life communication situations
A hand holding a pen and writing on paper, surrounded by various writing tools and stationery items.

Writing Activities for Beginners (Level 1)

For beginner-level ELL students, simple yet effective writing activities can help build a strong foundation in English language learning:

A. Simple Paragraph

To create a well-structured paragraph, follow these steps:

  1. Topic Sentence: Start with an introductory sentence that clearly states the main idea of your paragraph.
  2. Supporting Sentences: Add two or three sentences providing evidence or examples to support your topic sentence.
  3. Concluding Statement: End your paragraph by summarizing the key points discussed in the supporting sentences and restating the main idea from the topic sentence.


Fall is a beautiful season. (Topic Sentence) Green leaves change to red, orange, and yellow. People use brightly colored pumpkins and gourds as decorations. The sky is blue, and the wind is soft. (Supporting Sentences) I enjoy fall in the U.S. (Concluding Statement)

B. Postcards

Writing postcards allows beginners to practice using descriptive language while sharing their travel experiences with others:

  1. Greeting: Begin your message by addressing the recipient directly ("Dear _______,").
  2. Description of Location: Use adjectives and prepositions to describe the place you are visiting or have visited (e.g., "I am in New York City, where there are tall buildings and busy streets.").
  3. Personal Experiences: Share some highlights from your trip or any interesting observations about the local culture ("Yesterday I tried a slice of pizza that was bigger than my head!").

Intermediate Writing Activities (Level 2)

Intermediate-level ELL students can benefit from learning how to write emails and memos:

A. Emails

When composing an email, follow this standard format:

  1. Subject Line: Write a clear and concise subject line that summarizes the purpose of your message (e.g., "Request for Meeting").
  2. Salutation: Address the recipient using appropriate titles or names ("Dear Professor Smith,").
  3. Body Content: Organize your thoughts into paragraphs, making sure to use polite language and maintain a professional tone throughout the email.
  4. Closing Remarks: End with a courteous closing phrase (e.g., "Sincerely,") followed by your name or signature block.


Subject Line: Request for Meeting

Dear Professor Smith,

I hope this email finds you well. I am writing to request a meeting with you next week to discuss my progress in your class and ask any questions I may have about the upcoming exams. Please let me know if there is a time that works best for you so we can schedule our appointment accordingly.

Thank you very much for considering my request, and I look forward to hearing back from you soon.

Sincerely, [Your Name]

An example memo layout with sections labeled "To," "From," "Date," "Subject," and "Body Content" on a blank document.

B. Memos

Memo writing helps develop concise communication skills by adhering to specific guidelines:

  1. To: List the names of all recipients who need to receive the memo (e.g., "To: All Faculty Members").
  2. From: Include your name or department as the sender of the memo (e.g., "From: English Department").
  3. Date: Write the current date in month-day-year format (e.g., "January 1, 2022").
  4. Subject: Provide a brief summary of the main topic or purpose of your memo (e.g., "Subject: Upcoming Writing Workshop").
  5. Body Content: Keep your message clear and concise while addressing any relevant details or action items related to the subject matter.


To: All Faculty Members From: English Department Date: January 1, 2022 Subject: Upcoming Writing Workshop

Dear Colleagues,

We are excited to announce an upcoming writing workshop for faculty members interested in improving their students' academic writing skills. The workshop will be held on February 15th from 3-5 PM in Room 201 and will cover topics such as effective feedback strategies, teaching grammar rules, and promoting critical thinking through writing assignments.

Please RSVP by January 15th if you plan to attend the workshop so we can ensure enough materials are available for all participants. We hope to see many of you there!

Best regards, English Department

Advanced Writing Activities (Level 3)

Advanced ELL students can engage in creative writing tasks like composing personal ads and thank you notes:

A. Personal Ads

Writing a personal ad allows advanced learners to showcase their personality traits while practicing using persuasive language:

  1. Introduction: Start with an attention-grabbing opening line that highlights your unique qualities (e.g., "Adventurous world traveler seeks like-minded companion for exploring new cultures.").
  2. Description of Self: Provide a brief overview of who you are, including any hobbies or interests that might appeal to potential matches (e.g., "I love trying new foods, learning foreign languages, and volunteering at local animal shelters.").
  3. Desired Qualities in a Match: List the characteristics you're looking for in a partner, making sure to use positive language and avoid any negative statements about yourself or others (e.g., "Seeking someone who shares my passion for adventure, enjoys spending time outdoors, and appreciates a good sense of humor.").


Looking for an intellectual companion with whom I can share my love of literature, art, and philosophy. I am a voracious reader, avid museum-goer, and passionate debater who thrives on stimulating conversations about life's big questions. If you enjoy discussing the works of Shakespeare over coffee or attending poetry readings at local bookstores, then we might just be a perfect match!

A handwritten thank you note on stationery with a closed envelope and a pen next to it, symbolizing gratitude and formal communication in writing.

B. Thank You Notes

Writing thank you notes is an excellent way for advanced learners to express gratitude in a formal manner:

  1. Recipient: Address the recipient directly by using their name or title (e.g., "Dear Dr. Johnson,").
  2. Reason for Gratitude: Clearly state why you are writing the thank you note, whether it's to express appreciation for a gift, gesture of kindness, or professional opportunity (e.g., "I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for your generous donation towards our school's literacy program.").
  3. Expression of Thanks: Use polite language and an appropriate tone when conveying your gratitude, making sure not to overuse flowery expressions that may come across as insincere (e.g., "Your support means so much to us, and we are truly grateful for your contribution towards helping our students develop essential literacy skills.").


Dear Dr. Johnson,

I hope this message finds you well. On behalf of the entire English Department at ABC High School, I would like to express our sincere gratitude for your generous donation towards our school's literacy program. Your support means so much to us, and we are truly grateful for your contribution towards helping our students develop essential literacy skills.

Thanks to your kindness, we will be able to purchase new books and educational resources that will enrich the learning experience of all our students, regardless of their background or socioeconomic status. We believe that every child deserves access to quality education, and your donation has brought us one step closer to achieving this goal.

Once again, thank you for your generosity and commitment to promoting literacy among young people in our community. Please do not hesitate to reach out if there is anything we can do to assist you further or answer any questions you may have about the program.

Warm regards, [Your Name]

Differentiation Strategies

To cater to diverse learners' needs, consider implementing differentiation strategies like the Language Experience Approach and Sentence Auction:

A. Language Experience Approach

The Language Experience Approach draws on instructional techniques used with younger children who have not yet developed literacy skills. In this approach, the teacher presents information to the students or they have an "experience" of some sort (e.g., a field trip or acting out a scene in a book). Then the students tell the teacher what to write on the board to explain the experience:

  1. Experience something: For example, the students have listened to the story "The Little Red Hen" and then acted it out.
  2. Write down the story: The teacher stands by the board or a large sheet of paper and says to the students, "Tell me the story of the Little Red Hen." As each student tells a part of the story, the teacher writes it down on the board, just as it was stated.
  3. Revise the story together: After reading the story, the teacher asks students if they want to change anything. If they agree that it was a bad sentence, then the teacher helps the student analyze the suggested change.
  4. Copy the corrected text: When students have analyzed and corrected the whole text, they can be instructed to copy the text with the corrections included.
  5. Share the story: As a final activity, students are instructed to take the story home and read it to three people and bring it back with signatures.

The teacher may want to give a little prize or certificate to the student.

A group of students participating in a sentence auction activity, where they bid on sentences with various grammatical and spelling errors to identify and correct them.

B. Sentence Auction

This activity helps students analyze common writing errors through a personalized activity since they are trying to buy their own sentences:

  1. Give each student an account: Each student is given an "account" of perhaps $300.
  2. Bid on the good sentences: The students are told to "bid" on the good sentences. The winner is the student with the highest number of "good" sentences.
  3. Identify errors and correct them: After all the sentences have been sold, the teacher goes through the list and the students say whether they want to change anything. If they agree that it was a bad sentence, then the teacher asks them to explain how they can make it a "good" sentence.
  4. Count the number of good sentences: Finally, the students count how many "good" sentences they have (since they may have bought some bad ones) and a winner is declared.

The teacher may want to give a little prize or certificate to the student. In a variation of this activity, students can work in pairs or groups to buy the sentences.

Tips for Teachers

To create a supportive learning environment that fosters success in writing activities, consider these tips:

  1. Encourage a growth mindset: Emphasize the importance of effort and persistence when it comes to language learning. Encourage students to view mistakes as opportunities for growth rather than failures.
  2. Provide constructive feedback: Offer specific suggestions on how learners can improve their writing skills without being overly critical or discouraging. Focus on areas where improvement is needed while also acknowledging the progress they have made so far.
  3. Model effective writing strategies: Share examples of your own writing process, including brainstorming techniques, outlining methods, and revision tips. This will help students understand that even native English speakers struggle with writing at times and need to develop strategies for overcoming these challenges.
a man surfing the web on his laptop

How Linguisity Can Help

As English language learners (ELLs) strive to enhance their writing skills, they may encounter difficulties in identifying suitable types of writing activities that meet their unique needs and proficiency levels. Fortunately, with Linguisity's AI-powered language mastery tool at their disposal, they can easily access personalized feedback and suggestions tailored specifically for ELL students. By analyzing written content in real-time, Linguisity assists non-native writers in refining their style while offering valuable insights into the most effective writing techniques suitable for varying levels of English proficiency.


In conclusion, incorporating diverse and engaging writing activities tailored to the needs of ELL students is essential for fostering language development and building confidence in their ability to communicate effectively through written text. By offering appropriate writing tasks at different levels of English proficiency, educators can create an engaging and supportive learning environment that fosters success in language development for all students.

Remember that every student has unique strengths and challenges when it comes to language learning, so be sure to adapt your teaching strategies accordingly. With patience, dedication, and a willingness to try new approaches, you can help ELL students unlock their potential as writers and communicators in the English language.

Resources and References

For further reading on writing activities for ELLs, consider exploring these resources:

By incorporating a variety of writing activities into your lesson plans and adapting them to meet the needs of diverse learners, you can create an engaging and supportive learning environment that fosters success in language development for all students.


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