Beginning Writing - Short Writing Assignments

Writing Skills
Writing Skills. PhotoAlto/Odilon Dimier/Getty Images

These short writing assignments are designed for lower level classes and give students an opportunity to write about a number of basic subjects including: studies, hobbies, travel, likes and dislikes, application forms, and work emails. Feel free to use the writing exercises in class or expand with further topics.

Improve Descriptive Writing

Students need to improve sentence level writing skills in order to expand into paragraphs.

One problem students often face is a lack of descriptive language. Provide a list of descriptive adjectives, prepositional phrases, descriptive verbs, and adverbs and ask students to expand simple sentences into more descriptive language. 

Descriptive Writing Exercise

Use the following phrases to expand the simple sentences by adding details with adjectives, prepositional phrases and adverbs: 

in the morning, slowly, twice a week, down the street, at the moment, sweetly, fun-loving, a quick game of, quickly, difficult, long hot

  • The children played soccer.
  • I take classes.
  • The man is singing a song.
  • I get up early and take a shower.

Application Forms

Help students become fluent in understanding and filling in forms. If students are preparing for job interviews, create an extended application form using a standard job application template. Here's a less ambitious exercise to get students started.

English Studies

You want to go to a language school to study English.

Fill in the application form. Finish the application form with a short paragraph about why you want to learn English.

English Learners Plus

Last Name
M.r/Mrs./Ms.
First Name (s)
Occupation
Address
Zipcode
Date of birth
Age
Nationality

Why do you want to learn English?

Home Stay Program

You want to stay with a family while you study English.

Fill in the application form. In order to find the right family to stay with, write about your interests and hobbies.

Family Exchange Portland

Last Name
M.r/Mrs./Ms.
First Name (s)
Occupation
Address
Zipcode
Date of birth
Age
Nationality

What are your hobbies and interests?

Emails and Posts

Students should also feel comfortable making short posts online and writing emails.  Here are a few prompts to help them practice:

  • You are on vacation at the beach. Write an email to your friend about your vacation.
  • Write an email to a close friend with some new information about another friend.
  • Post a comment on social media about a topic you are interested in.
  • Write a short blog post to let your online friends know about your latest hobby.

Short Emails to a Colleague

Many students also need to use English for work. Provide prompts for students to help them practice writing work related emails. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Email a colleague to arrange a meeting for next week. Remember to arrange the time and meeting place.
  • Reply to a colleague's email about a problem at work. Be sure to provide a solution or some advice for the problem. 
  • Contact a business to ask some questions about one of their products. Use product and technical information found on the internet to ask more precise questions. 

    Continuing the Discussion

    Students should also practice carrying on a conversation via email. Use short prompts loaded with questions that demand a response:

    Read this email from your friend and respond to the questions:

    .So, the weather has been great and we are having a fun time here in Switzerland. I'll be back at the end of July. Let's get together! When would you like to see me? Also, have you found a place to live yet? Finally, did you buy that car last week? Send me a pic and tell me about it!

    Comparing and Contrasting

    Help students become familiar with comparative language by asking them to use specific language such as subordinate conjunctions or connective adverbs. Here are a few suggestions:

    • coffee / tea - even though, however, but
    • shopping / hanging with friends - while, on the other hand, yet
    • playing soccer / watching TV - although, similarly, and
    • cooking / eating - though, also, so, 
    • studying English / studying math - like, even though, and

    The key to helping lower level students with writing is to keep the task very structured. Teachers sometimes ask students to produce longer writings such as essays before students have a control of sentence level writing skills. Make sure to help them build the skills before they move on to more ambitious writing tasks.