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How to Create Enthusiasm for Writing in Teaching EFL and ESL Students

Paul has spent many years teaching English as a foreign and second language. He has taught EFL in Taiwan and Thailand, and ESL in the U.S.

Minions Used for Writing Prompts


The Need to Create Enthusiasm for Writing

Writing is beyond all doubt the most difficult of the four acquired language skills. That is because it is an active skill requiring a lot of self-confidence. EFL and ESL students, in particular, have a hard time writing. Many of these students are hesitant to write because their lack of self-confidence has made writing boring and difficult. Writing assignments on topics that don't stimulate student interest will more than often be done very poorly, copied, or not turned in at all. While teaching fifth and sixth-grade EFL students during the past few years, I have come up with eight strategies to create enthusiasm for writing which I share with you in this article.

Eight Strategies to Create Enthusiasm for Writing

1. Keep a Diary

Students are more interested in themselves than others. For this reason, kids will jump at the chance to write about themselves. One of the best ways to do this is through a daily diary. In a diary, I have my girls write as much or as little as they choose about themselves. The important thing is for students to write about at least one thing special or different that they do each day.

2. Write Captions and Speech Bubbles for Comic Strips

Many kids test my patience during class by either sketching pictures or reading non-English comic books and strips when I'm not looking. God knows how many of these I have confiscated during classes! However, the sketched pictures and comic books can work to the teacher's advantage during writing classes. The teacher has to have students write captions and speech bubbles in English for the sketches they are drawing and comics they are reading. This exercise is best done by having students work in groups of no more than four and choosing the comic strips or pictures they will write about. At least one or two weaker students should be included in each group.

3. Write Recipes, Directions, or Instructions

Writing recipes, directions, or instructions are good activities for students because they stimulate the use of all of the senses. In previous writing classes, my kids have written recipes for making spicy shrimp soup, given directions for cooking shrimp fried rice and given instructions on how to transfer photos from a cell phone to a notebook computer. Before doing these written assignments, students demonstrated all of these activities in spoken exercises with appropriate props or visual aids. These exercises were also done in small groups of four composed of both stronger and weaker students.

4. Write Emails From Guided Formats

Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter have been extremely popular with students over the past few years. When I told my fifth and sixth-grade students two years ago that I was on Facebook, I attracted about 200 followers who were all students. All of them wanted to communicate with me in English. After exchanging a lot of two to three-sentence short texts, I decided it would be best for all my kids to learn how to write emails from guided formats. I first introduced sample emails between friends and then had my students work again in small groups to compose emails to their friends. One of the students' assignments was to compose and send an email to my Hotmail account.

5. Report on School News Events or School Trips

School extra-curricular activities and especially school trips are extremely popular among students. Every school year at my school there are colorful events such as Sports Day, a Christmas Fair, and a special English Day in addition to a school trip for all classes. In a writing exercise on a school trip, for example, students will choose a trip in the past that they went on, and then answer the basic journalistic questions of who, what, when, where, how, and why in their report.

6. Write a Play Script with Lots of Dialogs

In the past, I have had sixth-grade students write play scripts with lots of dialogs. These play scripts were spin-offs of well-known fairy tales like Snow White and Jack in the Beanstalk. After students in small groups wrote the dialogs with guidance from the teacher, the kids got to perform the short plays in class with costumes and props.

7. Whiteboard Competitions

Most of my students like competitive games. Consequently, I employ them in my classrooms often to stimulate student interest. When practicing headline writing with sixth graders, I would have at least three teams of two to three students each come to the board to write news headlines. After ensuring that all the girls understood a good headline including answers to the questions who or what, when, and where, the teams would have a maximum of five minutes to compose a headline. The team completing the task the quickest with the fewest errors was the winner.

8. Acrostics

According to Wikipedia, acrostics are poems or other forms of writing in which the first letter, syllable, or word of each line, paragraph, or recurring feature in a text spells out a word or a message. As an example, look at the following acrostic:


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By examining the above, we can see that acrostics can be used as a spelling aid. They also can be used to practice the correct placement of parts of speech in a sentence. In the example above, we can readily see that adjectives come before nouns, auxiliary verbs precede the main verb, and an adverb may be placed between an auxiliary and the main verb.

If we want our students to be enthusiastic about writing, it must be made interesting and appealing to kids. One way to do this is to identify student interests and channel them into enjoyable learning activities.

Middle School Students' Enthusiasm for Writing

Being a Good Writer

Strategies for Creating Enthusiasm for Writing

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2013 Paul Richard Kuehn


Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on April 22, 2013:

Au fait,

Thank you very much for your praise of this article. I hope I am an excellent and popular teacher. If only school administration felt the same way, I wouldn't be forced into retirement next year. Even though I will be 70 next year, I feel I still have something in the tank to continue. Thanks for sharing this hub.

C E Clark from North Texas on April 21, 2013:

This is a great hub that should be helpful to teachers generally and to home schoolers too. I have said in all my hubs on home school that learning should be fun, especially for very young children. When learning is fun people of all ages just naturally learn more easily because they want to. They're engaged and interested.

I believe that when teaching a child to read it is good to include material as much as possible that interests the child. If boys are into football or baseball, then find stories about those subjects for them to read and they will read more and longer. If the point is to teach someone to read, then matching the material to their interests will speed up that process. Plenty of time after a student learns how to read or write to ask them to diversify the subjects they read and write about.

I think you listed some very good examples of how teachers and parents can make learning more interesting and fun. You must be an excellent and popular teacher in your school there!

Voted up, useful, and interesting. Will share!

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on April 15, 2013:


Thank you very much for reading and commenting on this hub. Yes, it is very challenging teaching someone who is not proficient in their native language. You have given me an idea for a future hub. I appreciate you voting this hub up.

Kalmiya from North America on April 15, 2013:

This is an interesting hub with useful tips! I have taught ESL in Mexico and tried in some European countries. One of the challenges is that the student is not always proficient in their native language so this can be challenging. One way to engage is to get students to talk about activities and interests in their own lives and interests of their age group and then write about it. Voted up!

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on March 12, 2013:


Thanks for reading this hub. I'm happy you like my strategies, and appreciate the sharing of this hub.

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on March 11, 2013:

Paul, writing is the toughest of the four language skills but with perseverance and application of these fine techniques suggested by you, one will be more comfortable tackling this task.

Thanks for sharing such wonderful strategies. I'm sure these will help out the diffident ones.

Voted up, useful, interesting and shared here and on Fb too.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on March 09, 2013:


Thank you very much for reading this hub. I'm glad you like my suggestions and hope that they are helpful in your class with ELLs.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on March 09, 2013:


Thanks for reading my hub! I appreciate your insightful comments and am happy you like this article. Thank you also for your votes.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on March 09, 2013:


Thank you very much for reading this hub. I appreciate your comments and votes.

gypsumgirl from Vail Valley, Colorado on March 09, 2013:

Love your suggestions! Thank you for the hub! I'll have to give them a try with my ELLs. :)

torrilynn on March 09, 2013:

Hey Paul,

i agree I feel that writing should be seen as being fun and interesting

the more that you write, the more that you can express yourself creatively

thanks for this hub. Voted up

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on March 09, 2013:

Writing is such a wonderful experience if only you know what to do. You made good points and I voted up and interesting.

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