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How to Teach English as a Second Language to Adults (Part 3)

Updated on January 30, 2018
Improve students' writing skills using task-based activities in class.
Improve students' writing skills using task-based activities in class. | Source

This is the third installment of ESL classroom activities that English teachers can implement for their language courses. In the first article, we focused on how teachers can improve English language learners’ listening and reading skills. If you haven’t read them already, go to the bottom of this hub to access the links.

In this final part of the article of how to teach English as a second language to adults, we will focus primarily on effective ESL writing activities that you can use in the classroom.

How to Teach English as a Second Language to Adults using ESL Writing Activities in Class

For writing-based ESL classes, it is important to find a course textbook that covers essential elements of writing, such as proper grammar usage, sentence structure, punctuation, paragraph structure, and academic essay writing.

With a reputable textbook that focuses on all of these areas of writing, it will provide English language learners with all of the important skills to elevate their writing.

In addition to the textbook, supplemental activities can reinforce what they learn from the textbook and can provide an interactive way to improve their writing skills even further in the classroom.

Outlined below are some of these useful activities that you can use with your own students.

Academic Essay Structure and Writing

Teaching essay structure to foreign language learners can be an essential tool for students who are entering university if they haven’t learned it during their high school years of education.

Outlining basic essay structure can help students build proper form to their writing and can help them understand an important fundamental of academic writing.

When explaining essay structure, you can start by drawing a blueprint / birds-eye view of what a traditional 5-paragraph essay looks like on the board.

First, draw large boxes for the introduction, three body paragraphs and concluding paragraph. Elicit what should be featured in the introduction, such as a hook, background information on the topic and the thesis statement.

Next, focus on what content to writing in the body paragraphs, including the topic sentences and supporting details which could include examples, quotations, and other supporting sentences.

Finally, for the concluding paragraph inform the students to add a restatement of their thesis, summarize the main points of the essay and finish up with a concluding sentence which could be a suggestion or opinion about the topic they have written about.

After showing and explaining the main components of an essay, you could give them printouts and examples of different essays that follow the structure that you outlined. Try to find variations of different types of essays, such as process, compare/contrast, cause/effect, descriptive, and narrative-type essays etc.

The next writing activity will explain how to use comic strips as a way to improve students' writing skills.

Using comic strips for teaching writing skills is fun for all ages.
Using comic strips for teaching writing skills is fun for all ages.

Comic Strips Writing Activity

If you want to know how to teach English as a second language to adults more effectively, it helps to add some fun elements to your lessons. Try to capture their attention and use writing activities that are not always so serious.

An engaging writing activity for all ages and levels involves creating dialog for comic strips. There are two ways in which you can do the activity.

The first method is the easiest to prepare.

Simply hand out some paper to the students and have them create 3 columns and 3 rows. In each box, they must draw a simple comic graphic. They can make a complete story using all 9 boxes or three shorter comic stories across each row.

After they have finished their drawings in the boxes, have them hand their papers to a partner. The partner must then create dialog (or description) based on what they see from the drawings. Encourage them to be as creative or witty as possible emphasizing a particular grammar point or vocabulary from the course curriculum.

When they are finished writing the dialog, have them present it to the class or in smaller groups. It’s an entertaining and engaging method for getting students to write more creatively.

The second method of the Comic Strips Writing Activity is done in a similar way, but the only difference is that you print out an actual comic that you find online.

After printing out the comic, white out the dialog from all the speech bubbles and make copies. The students then create their own dialog using the original comic book story.

The final writing activity will explore how you can use chocolate or snacks as a way of elevating students' descriptive writing skills.

Help students develop their descriptive writing skills using chocolate.
Help students develop their descriptive writing skills using chocolate.

5 Senses Descriptive Writing Activity

Another activity you can try to improve your students' descriptive writing skills involves creating sentences emphasizing the five human senses: sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste.

To start the activity, give each student a small piece of chocolate or some form of snack. You could even buy a bag of potato chips and give them each a chip or “crisp.” Tell them NOT to eat it or it will spoil the activity.

Tell them that the aim of the game is to have them write one sentence describing the chocolate (or chip) using one of the human senses. For instance, first, tell them to smell it.

Next, get them to write a descriptive sentence emphasizing how the chocolate smells. Everyone writes a sentence and highlight a few examples from a number of students.

After eliciting a few sentences, move on to one of the other five senses and repeat the task. Of course, remember to do the “taste” of the chocolate last or else the students won’t have anything to work with for the other senses!

Once you have completed all of the five senses, the class will have a massive collection of descriptive sentences describing chocolate.

You could finish up the activity by getting them to write a descriptive paragraph or do some peer editing to fix up any errors they made with their writing.

More ESL Activities for Adults

If you missed the first two publications about this topic, check out How to Teach English as a Second Language to Adults Part 1 and Part 2. The first article focuses on teaching listening and reading skills. The second article features suggested ESL speaking activities for adults.

For more classroom writing activities to use in your classroom, have a look at the ESL Writing Activities for Adults and Kids on ESL Expat’s website.

Recommended Video: Teaching Writing to ESL Students

Writing Activity Poll Question

Which writing activity featured in this article is your favorite?

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    • wiserworld profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago

      Thanks for your comment Paul.

      Are there any other writing activities that you use in class which your students really enjoy?

    • Paul Kuehn profile image

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      3 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      I enjoyed reading this article very much and think you have some excellent ways of teaching writing. I used all of these techniques, but before I could get my students to write an essay, I had to teach them how to write sentences and then a paragraph. The use of comic strips helped me a lot in class and my students really enjoyed this activity. Thanks for sharing an excellent hub.


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