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20 Fun English Activities for High School

August 25, 2022 //  by  Jill Webb

Are you an English teacher looking for learning games and activities to help liven your English Language Arts teaching? We know that sometimes teenage students can easily lose interest. So don't be a boring teacher, and bring in some unique classroom ideas to keep them invested! Below is a list of a variety of activities for high school students. It includes a variety of English language learning experiences - poetry to writing!

While these are intended for high school students, some middle school students may also benefit from these activities.

1. Paint Chip Poetry

This is a fun activity for students that is easy to set up. All you need is the game box and to go over the directions. Students will use the unique names of paints to create beautiful pieces of poetry. The game includes prompts. It's also great to add to your classroom party game stash!

Learn more: Amazon

2. Figurative Language Challenge


These challenges tackle different types of figurative language like metaphor, simile, alliteration, and more. They are great for the inclusion classes because they work in stations.

Learn more: Teachers Pay Teachers

3. Six Word Memoirs

A small, but fun activity is to write 6-word memoirs. It makes for a great introduction to memoirs too and students really have to think. You can display them and have them attach memorable images.

Learn more: Six Word Memoirs

4. The Break-Up Letter


If you need a unique creative writing exercise , try this letter-writing activity with a hilarious twist. Rather than write a typical letter, they will write break-up letter! Perfect for teens!

Learn more: Presto Plans

5. Pop Sonnets

Great for high school students learning about Shakespeare's Sonnets! This classroom activity is a great way for introducing sonnets. It has 100 songs that are from popular culture but written in Shakespearean Sonnets. Make a classroom playlist of your favorites!

6. Listening Skills

This blog post provides you with directions and classroom materials for language arts teaching resources related to communication skills. For this activity, practice taking a listening inventory and practice some skills.

Learn more: The Secondary English Coffee Shop

7. Vocabulary Pictionary

Be the coolest teacher when you teach vocabulary review! Bingo Pictionary is simple, but fun and has just a bit of competition. Plus, you can modify it around your lesson or a chapter you are reading!

Learn more: Spark Creativity

8. Poetry Slam

Poetry slams are fun for those who are shy and for advanced speakers. It helps build confidence and gives students a voice. You will be surprised when you see the smooth-talking skills of your kids!

Learn more: Teacher of Vision

9. Truth or Dare Grammar


If you need an easy lesson plan to review grammar, look no further. This fun game is. game for teenager learners and will help students get invested in grammatical skills! Students have to pick a truth or dare card and answer an English-related statement.

10. Book Spine Poems


This is a great lesson to help motivate a lower-level class or those with varying language levels on writing poetry. It uses book titles to help them create their own unique poems! All you need is sheets of paper printed out and some books! Or make it like an online game, and allow them to "hunt" for titles online!

11. Soccer Ball Questions

You don't need to be in the hot seat with questioning skills when teaching a lesson! Make one of these soccer balls that already have general prompts on them. It also helps get more students to answer because they want a turn.

Learn more: Building Book Love

12. Black Out Poetry

Another great activity for lower-intermediate students. This black-out activity for students has them use a page of a book to black out unused words and create a poem. If you have early finishers, ask them to find fun images to pair with their fresh poem.

Learn more: Arapahoe Libraries

13. Review Game

A quiz challenge is a great way to cover all the material for key lessons In this fun game they will play a "Let's Make a Deal" game - based on the popular game show. You will act as the game show host and make deals with the teams.

Learn more: The Hungry Teacher Blog

14. Balderdash

This is an addictive game for more advanced teenage students. It uses nonsense and uncommon words to help students determine if it is a real word. They will give others either a false statement or a true statement with a silly (but possibly real) sounding word. It teaches new vocabulary!

Learn more: Boardgame Geek

15. Free Rice


This is another addictive game, but better suited for lower-intermediate students. The online game can be a long or short game session and has students answer vocabulary and grammar questions. The best part is, every time they get a correct answer, they provide rice to a hungry family!

Learn more: Free Rice

16. NYT Crossword


One of the favorite games in the US is the New York Time crossword! Great for an English class of advanced students, this is a student version of the famous puzzle!

Learn more: The New York Times

17. Inkle Writer

Inkle is a cool tool for an individual student to work on a creative writing prompt while using a text. It had a fun twist because it is interactive and as they read, students can make different choices.

Learn more: Inkle Writer

18. Book Raffle


A book raffle tradition will help to get a lower-level class invested in reading - especially if they don't have many of their own books. This blog post shows you how to start one! You can also modify this and do things like themed book raffles or past class favorites or even raffle old books from your classroom library.

Learn more: Brown Bag Teacher

19. Writing Prompts

This is a batch of writing prompts that have a variety of topics high school students won't get bored with. Perfect for using is a writing journal!

Learn more: Small World

20. Vocab Zee


Similar to the classic game, Yatzee, this game works with dice and a vocabulary list. It has a variety of activities based on what students roll.

Learn more: Go Sadlier

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If you’re looking for a fun group project for 4 or more kids, wacky abstract word art activity is just the ticket. Offering  writing practice  and grammar review, this isn’t your average art project.

Kids practice building sentences with different parts of speech, then create paintings of the silly mad-lib sentences they come up with. In an unexpected fun twist, at the end they get to rip up their paintings and arrange them into wild and unique abstract collages.


In this fun project, you ask the students to detail their life history in an interesting tone. To avoid monotone, ask them to only include those events in life which they consider adventurous or unforgettable. 

Ask them to highlight emotions rather than timeline. 

You can add a twist to the exercise by asking them to write their ideal future life in an epilogue.

This project will focus on verbal communication skills. 

Ask the students to select a book or excerpt from a book to read. You can assign a genre to keep the communication streamlined. 

Students can take turns to give a short review of their reading together with their viewpoints about it. They can talk about the moral values of the characters or change endings or events to discuss if the plot becomes more entertaining with these changes. 

Check out these ideas on how to run a successful Book Club !

Class Magazine

classroom newsletter

This is a perfect project for all classes in middle and high school. You can take it to the next level by asking the whole school to start a competition for the best class magazine. 

You can ask your class to select a theme of environmental, health, literary, or societal topic. 

Then ask them to gather all skills; idea-generation, writing, design, and presentation. You will get the most benefits if you make it mandatory for every student to produce content for one page of the magazine. (You can include the advertisement activity within the activity of class magazine.)

Comic Strip 

This is another extensive project that will not only win the hearts of your students but also allow you to assess their creative capabilities. 

Ask them to illustrate interesting events from their lives, or imagination, in the form of comic strips. 


This activity is similar to the comic activity given above. The only difference is the increased detail that is required in drama writing. An absence of images adds the obligation on the students to describe scenes and expressions. 

Again, students can describe any life event from their reality or imagination. 

You can later ask the students to act on the best dramas to improve their verbal and non-verbal communication. 

Paper Mache Activity

creative english assignments for high school

In this messy yet super fun project, students make paper mache futuristic Earths or other imaginary planets as described in science fiction.

This was my cross-curricular activity based off of our Literature reading of  Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?  and a unit topic in English about the environment and recycling. Of course, you can do paper mache for any lesson or unit that you have!

This article gives you the step-by-step instruction on how to do paper mache in the classroom!

Editorial/ Fan Letter

Editorial is one of English project ideas most suitable for high-schoolers while fan letters work for learners from all English expertise levels. 

Ask your high-schoolers to analyze a societal issue that is close to their heart. Next, they need to define the problem from the viewpoint of aggrieved parties. Ask them to write out the problem and get it published in a local or national newspaper. 

(Be ready to proofread and edit the piece before they send it to relevant personnel.)

Younger students can write fan letters to their best actors, authors, and singers. 

This is another English project which will combine societal, and practical, understanding with English learning. In this project, the students will learn problem-solving skills. 

Ask them to understand a societal or scientific problem. Once they have understood and defined this issue, they have to provide a solution to this problem. 

In the end, they have to present their solution together with the need which gave rise to it in front of the class. (You may want them to include a video presentation with visual effects .)

diorama project

This activity is one of my students’ favorite s not only because it’s fun but also because it facilitates their learning. I tried this project on two literature readings I had before (The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain and Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe) and both achieved the same fantastic end.

In this project, students are tasked to illustrate the setting or a specific part of the book in the form of a three-dimensional miniature scene. Students will pick a favorite scene from the story they are reading and decide how they want to represent it using the materials given (above) and a variety of design strategies.

This writing exercise contains the most fun among all the given projects. You will excite their creativity as well as their inner critic.

Start by inquiring about the literary work which fascinates or inspires them most. 

Ask them if they can add humor to that piece. Let them edit a single character or scene or if they want they can give a humorous outlook to the whole plot. 


This open-ended English writing project will ask the students to select one event in their life. This event should be intriguing as well as contain a life lesson. 

Then, they have to retell this piece in third person pronoun. Ask them to keep the tone conversational as well as engaging. 

In the end, ask them to write a conclusive moral of the story. 

POPULAR: 5 Project-based Learning for High School English

Self-Portrait Project

self-portrait project ideas

These self-portrait ideas were part of a short project that went really with my middle school ESL class so I thought I’d share them with you.

My students were able to come up with three products in one activity: a mind map, a self-portrait and an essay. The unit topic was about “Identity” or “Personality” but I guess this will work for general descriptive adjectives lesson as well. 


If you want to include futuristic touch to your English lessons, include a thing or two from STEM subjects. One great way is to ask them to explain or detail a mathematical chart. (You can come up with variations in this original plan. For example, you can ask future businessmen to interpret graphics related to market studies.)

See, if they have enough vocabulary and concepts to comprehend and convey the message to their fellows. 

Fictional Pen-Pals

Just like fan letters, this activity asks the students to write letters to their favorite characters in fictional and non-fictional worlds. 

Ask them to pinpoint the era, region, settings they like most in a given novel or historical account. Next, they would show interest in one of its characters and the reason for this interest. 

In the end, they need to write a letter to this character praising or advising him/her regarding his/her role in the piece. (You can reply on behalf of that character if you think the point made by the student inspires further dialogue.) 

Book Trailer Project

book trailer project

Book Trailer Project  is a digital storytelling activity for middle school or high school students after they finish reading a book. Students need to take the key idea from the book to create a short video that persuades people to check out a book they have read.

Doing the book trailer project requires students to summarize, synthesize and analyze the book and put that analysis in their trailer. Furthermore, having students create book trailers is a great way to incorporate  technology in the classroom  and encourage reading. Thus, book trailer project is a great alternative to boring book report assignments, and can easily be done individually or in groups.

So these are some of creative English project ideas you can use in your English class to prompt your students to express their creativity and language skills. These are fun, practical, and learning-inducing. 

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creative English project ideas for middle school and high school

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4 Engaging Writing Tasks for High School Students

Short, authentic writing tasks can encourage high school students to compose richer long pieces.

creative english assignments for high school

It’s quite likely that many of your students dislike writing. After all, they’re often expected to compose lengthy pieces that typically require lots of brainstorming, researching, planning, outlining, drafting, revising, and editing—and that can be exhausting. My class of high school boys had the same attitude, and their short, underdeveloped, and passionless pieces were most telling. I had to overhaul my approach.

During my quest for an alternative practice, I quickly learned that by building students’ knowledge about the topic on which they are expected to compose, and by initially assigning them shorter and more authentic writing tasks, we can successfully motivate them to write longer, richer, and more compelling multiparagraph pieces. Yes, baby steps—from a creep to a stable walk—can work wonders.

Incorporate Knowledge-Building Activities

Judith Hochman and Natalie Wexler said it best in  The Writing Revolution: A Guide to Advancing Thinking Through Writing in All Subjects and Grades : “Writing and content knowledge are intimately related. You can’t write well about something you don’t know well. The more students know about a topic before they begin to write, the better they will be able to write about it.”

Documentaries, podcasts, TED Talks, and other authentic and engaging audiovisuals can facilitate this knowledge building. Field trips, as well as interviews with relevant community-based experts, can also offer students significant fodder for their writing.

Moreover, when students have interesting discoveries to share, they’ll be excited about the writing tasks, and their compositions are likely to be longer, more detailed, more affecting, and more compelling. Because they have a rich knowledge bank, they’re less likely to get stuck and frustrated as they write. Knowledge stimulates ideas.

But information gathering is not all. It’s also important to show students how to use the newly learned content. We don’t want them to plagiarize information or inadvertently silence their own voices by over-quoting others. Their research should enhance what they write, not substitute for their initial thoughts or suppress their creativity.

What can you do then?

Go beyond lessons in citation format. Model, through write-aloud, how to make decisions about the content included in written work, how to paraphrase and summarize from the original source, and how to ensure that the added content actually strengthens what you already have.

Offer Authentically Rooted Writing Assignments

Finally, make sure that the writing assignments are authentic—with realistic, real-world communicative goals and true-to-life audiences (not just the classroom teacher). Here are some suggestions that you can implement in your teaching practice:

Travel blogs:  Take students on virtual field trips. Nearpod , Google Earth, and YouTube are excellent for this. Following this activity, have students write a blog post to describe the place they visited. If your students have visited resorts or attraction sites locally, they could write about that experience, recommend activities for prospective visitors, and simultaneously persuade them to visit when it is safe to do so.

Their insights might even persuade others to travel to this site. Students could use pictures to supplement their writing. They could also convert their written piece into a mini-video production for a real or imagined YouTube channel that promotes exotic getaways. Their composition would become the audio narration, and, with some background reggae, R & B, or any other culturally popular music, their piece would be beautifully transformed into a riveting marketing pitch.

Movie reviews:  Due to the pandemic, we know that many of our students may be watching far more movies than ever before. Therefore, let’s repurpose this social activity and use what they love or do for pleasure to help them refine a key academic skill. Have students write a review of their most recently watched or favorite film.

Prompt them to provide a summary of the movie, share their impressions of major characters and the plot’s unfolding, and examine the techniques used to create suspense and mounting tension. Later, when they’re writing their own narratives or putting on drama productions, they can adopt and adapt some of these techniques.

Song or music video reviews: Some students enjoy listening to music, so a song or music video review could also motivate them and facilitate interest-based differentiation. State where the review may be published—a local tabloid, a social media page, etc. Have students keep that in mind as they write so that their finished pieces are authentic and fitting for the context and audience intended.

Social media:  Based on your content area, you could have students make discipline-specific posts and write related captions. For instance, if you are looking at rocks in geography or soil types in science, have students photograph different types and post related descriptive or explanatory captions. They’ll be learning and teaching concurrently.

Provide Mentor Texts

These activities are exciting, but before you scuttle off to assign them, find or create models of the kinds of writing that you want your students to produce. Discuss the sample by prompting students to keenly attend to the content and the writer’s craft (style and techniques) throughout the piece.

Finally, make arrangements to have your students publish their pieces—through a safe online space or through an in-school magazine or newsletter—for authenticity at its finest.

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creative english assignments for high school

Thursday, January 21, 2021

  • 3 Creative Writing Projects for High School Students

English teachers have the tough job of helping students grow their comprehension, grammar, argumentation, and persuasive writing skills. While literary analysis, research papers, and basic essays are important in that journey, sometimes creative writing projects can provide students with a nice break from the more mundane aspects of writing. 

Creative writing projects serve multiple functions. While utilizing their creativity and individuality, students will also learn the ins and outs of writing and crafting an argument. And, students will usually learn about other topics while they’re working on the project as an added bonus.

These types of projects can be more long-term and require students to plan accordingly, allowing them to learn time management and planning skills. Meanwhile, the level of effort required will most likely help them learn class material more effectively.

If you’re looking for some fun ideas for creative projects to complete with English students, here are three comprehensive options that will help students improve their reading and writing skills, draw on their creativity, and learn new skills in the process.

Create a Website, Blog, or Podcast

During this project, students will create a website, blog, or podcast based on an area of interest in their lives, a historical or cultural topic of their choice, or a theme related to a book or set of books they’re reading in class. 

The type of website, blog, or podcast they are allowed to create is up to you and the parameters of your classroom. But the project will allow students to ultimately make some choices about how they want to present information.

The benefits of this project are nearly limitless, since students will learn to synthesize and communicate information, write their own copy, and exercise their creativity and individuality. Students will be able to take ownership of the information they choose to share on their website, blog, or podcast.

Depending on the type of project they choose, they will also learn the technical skills required to create these mediums. Of course, you as the educator can choose a medium that you are confident you can help students create or even possibly find a way to partner with another educator to combine coursework with this project. 

Students can either work independently or in groups, especially for the podcast, which will also help them practice accountability and teamwork.

And, if they are required to create a project based on material they’re reading in class, they will have a completely new understanding of the material and remember it potentially for the rest of their lives.

Give a Speech or Presentation as a Book Character

This is a fantastic project for English teachers who want students to really connect with reading material. For this project, educators can require students to choose their own author or books to read and then choose a character from a book to embody, or they can ask students to all read the same book and choose a character from that book.

Students will have to understand the story itself and also do some deep thinking about the character they choose--their personality, wardrobe, speech patterns, interests, etc. This will help students better understand character development and how people might act based on their circumstances.

Students will also need to write their own presentations or speeches, allowing them to practice their writing and communication skills as well.

Of course, this might be a more difficult project for shy students, but theater enthusiasts will love it, and other students will gain public speaking skills from having to step outside of their usual comfort levels. 

You might even invite parents and students from other classes to come watch the students’ speeches or presentations as their book characters, adding stakes and a finality to the project.

Turn a Book Chapter into a Short Film

An effective way to help students better understand the theme and meaning of a text is to have them work in groups to turn a chapter of a book into a short film. You could even allow students to choose to turn material into a talk show or reality show to add more creative elements and variety to the project.

This will require students to understand the text they’re reading in a deeper way than if they were just discussing the material, taking a test, or writing a standard essay. Students will have to write scripts for their short film or talk show and create a concept for their reality show, which will help them learn more about writing in a different format.

Then, students can choose which role they want to play in the project, whether they want to spend time behind the camera writing, producing, directing, or filming or if they want to act in the film.

They will have to understand character relationships and development and choose the tone they want their film or show to take that will accurately represent the book--or represent the book in a more abstract, thematic way.

Students will enjoy watching all the group films and shows together and understand the book in a completely new way. They are likely to remember the project for years to come!

These are just three ideas out of endless possibilities for creative writing projects your students will love. Perhaps reading about these ideas will spark your imagination and help you come up with a project all your own!

Hopefully, these creative English projects will allow you as the educator to also have more fun teaching and shake up the environment of the classroom for both you and your students.


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The best writing prompts for high school

Ah, high school. The birthplace of future geniuses, the setting of a million Young Adult books — and the cutting ground of many a brilliant young author. Writing in the classroom is often the best outlet of creativity for kids, and what better way to get your students excited about it than through creative writing prompts for high school students?

Whether you use journal prompts or story ideas to kickstart your high school student’s imagination, writing prompts are sure to help broaden their thinking, sharpen their writing skills, record their thoughts, and get them to engage with the world around them.

If you're looking to cut to the chase, here's a top ten list of writing prompts for high school students:

  • In the form of diary/ journal entries, write about someone who's just experienced a big "first."
  • Just then, your phone rings. It's your friend and they have some interesting news...
  • Write a short story where the protagonist has a doppelgänger.
  • Write a story about a misunderstanding.
  • Write a story about a strange family tradition, with at least two characters from the family narrating in the course of the story.
  • Write a story about someone who would be described, above all else, as: kind.
  • Write a story that centers on an Instagram post.
  • Write a story that spans a month during which everything changes.
  • Write about a group of people determined to win an award for making the biggest cookie ever.
  • Write about someone going to extreme lengths to return an overdue library book.

If you have a high school student who’s interested in becoming an author, check out our free resources on the topic:

Develop a Writing Routine (free course) — Any high schooler who’s serious about becoming a published author should know that writing a book doesn’t just take talent. 90% of the process is sitting in front of a blank piece of paper, and having the drive and commitment to put words to paper. That’s why we created this free course, which shows people of any age how to develop a writing routine that works for you. It’s never too early to start the process today!

Want to encourage your high school students to start writing? Check out Reedsy’s weekly short story contest , for the chance of winning $250! You can also check out our list of writing contests or our directory of literary magazines for more opportunities to submit your story.


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Language Arts Classroom

Writing Assignments for High School: Getting Started

Writing assignments for high school should engage young writers. High school writing assignments can be diverse and cover a range of topics.

What writing assignments for high school students will you introduce to a new class? High school writing assignments can shape the learning environment you want and provide important data.

The back to school rush will end. Routines, established. New shoes, broken in. Fresh notebooks, scribbled on. Maybe you’ve discussed the power of writing and language .

First writing assignments, assigned. Students will write a paragraph, a paper, a reflection of some sort. Diving into teaching writing can be a slow process, or with older students, it can begin those first days of class. Here is what I know from teaching over a dozen years: Those first writing assignments with a new class, matter.

Students likely won’t produce papers at the start of the year with polished elements, meeting the standards for that particular class. (Of course.) Older students will have an idea of your expectations, of the work a paper requires. Still, it is important to establish expectations so students understand your goals with them. It is only fair that students understand the standards.

Today, I’m talking about those first writing assignments. Dependent upon your community and classes, these ideas will look different for most teachers.

For the sake of this blog post, we’ll imagine a regular class. A class that doesn’t immediately produce near-perfection, and a class that has an overall idea of how to create a paper. I think the majority of classes fall into this segment. Some students enjoy writing; some don’t. A percentage want to be better writers; others don’t.

How do you determine which writing element to address first? How do I start writing assignments for high school students?

This is my process for those first writing assignments for high school students in a new class.

These free writing activities will help young writers.

Gather data

Students appreciate knowing that their teachers are on their side and that teachers will help them. As I first learn about my students as writers, I explain that I want to see where they are. Older students appreciate teachers not reteaching, which they rightfully see as boring.I’ve found that the writing prompt doesn’t matter much. As I read their writing, I’m gathering data.

The data that I gather is a starting point. I want to:

  • know areas where students are proficient or excelling.
  • identify areas where students need help.
  • understand my students as writers.

I’ve established data in many ways. Typically, I ask students to write a paragraph. (You can download my first day writing activities for free.) I also use that opportunity to respond to students’ ideas. Doing that builds relationships.

After that initial writing exercise, I move to a larger assignment, our first writing assignment. Before assigning that, we work together to create expectations.

Provide students with expectations for their writing assignments.

Outline expectations and rules

As a teacher, I worry that I don’t present information that I believe I have presented. I never want my error to cause a student to stumble. Plus, students often appreciate having material to consult as they work at home or in study hall.

I have an extremely long presentation that I break up into weeks because showing it all in one or two days would put students to sleep. No one would pay attention, and I can’t blame them. This presentation is always modified and is always built together with students.

And yes, I want students to add their ideas to our collaborative presentation. However, I want to establish common terms and expectations. For instance, I use the terms “topic sentence” and “thesis statement.” I know other teachers who use “claim.” Never do I want students to be confused! We discuss the ideas together, and practice writing them together; we take notes and discuss ideas together. Instead of making the process boring, I work to build relationships with students through this process.

Next, we collaborate and add details together as a class to this presentation. Our brainstorming methods, inside jokes, and collaborations sit in this presentation for anyone to access. We consult the presentation throughout our semester together.

Then, if I need to review throughout the year, all of our ideas are in one location. I typically share mine on Google Classroom . As we continue with this first writing assignment, I am sure to reference the presentation that we were building together. One piece of our master presentation is prewriting methods, a very valuable high school writing assignment.

Explain to students the power of prewriting and brainstorming with this fun writing activity.

Establish prewriting habits

Students think you’re giving them extra work with prewriting, so stress that you’re not: You’re saving them time. Writing assignments for high school students should allow for brainstorming, thinking, and prewriting. I model the writing process with students with a fun activity that allows everyone to participate.

Overwhelmed students give up on their papers, or they become increasingly frustrated, less willing to work. Prewriting provides a concrete reference point. It gets all the ideas out in the open. It gives students a direction, and it provides you with an opportunity to restructure a paper and provide feedback before students devote tons of time.

Concerning prewriting, a key aspect I acknowledge is the amount of strong ideas from students. This is true! Teens have interesting perspectives; getting those ideas on paper in a sensible fashion becomes the obstacle. Lots of modeling on my part builds strong prewriting habits for students. I am also honest with them: Every prewriting method is different for every person.

Any format (web, outline, list) works, and I allow students to choose which format works best for them. (This is a bonus for teaching older students!) If you’re assigning points for prewriting, clarify that effort is the goal. Prewriting needn’t be neat or perfect.

I ask students to list what each body paragraph’s focus will be. Then I read over those ideas  with the students.  We decide if ideas are too similar, out of focus with the topic, or are illogical. With the first writing assignment, I conference early. Not only do these conferences allow for the prewriting and organizing of a paper, but they also allow me to focus on difficult areas.

Common grammar errors can hurt high school writing lessons.

Identify errors

What are the most egregious errors? Right away, I don’t jump into difficult concepts like parallelism, but rather, I focus on grammar errors that are causing breakdowns in papers—confusing parts. In some high school classes, I’ve had to review confusing words along with possessives. That’s rare, but most often I cover sentence problems such as fragments, run-ons, and comma splices at the start of the year. As we work through those first papers, I target where students struggle.

The assignments to help students identify and correct these errors vary. I’ve never used the same exact material in the exact order from year to year. Each class has unique needs and learning styles. Some classes will never need to cover misplaced modifiers; others will need grammar sorts and direct instruction to understand the problem of punctuation, parallelism, and on.

Address those reoccurring problems that multiple students face. This not only will provide direction for grammar and language instruction, but will also show students they are capable of improving their writing in small ways.

Writing graphic organizers make a great writing activity for high school students.

Strengthen the core

The core of papers, the nuts and bolts, the thesis, introduction, conclusion, and such will probably need strengthened. Older students know these terms, but they might not realize the expectations yet. As they mature and their writing develops, those elements should mature too. A thesis written in fifth grade should differ from one written in tenth grade.

With the first writing assignment, students might benefit from samples and mentor texts. Writing alongside students helps too.

Introductions and conclusions should relate and wrap a paper together. Write with students, and model the struggles you face. Provide varying ways to develop these elements. If I don’t use graphic organizers , I will create anchor charts. Then, we as a class have developed expectations and can reference that chart.

Encourage young high school writers.

Writing is difficult. Some students will never care for writing. Encouragement can begin immediately with a new class. I begin building relationships immediately, and I am intentional in incorporating encouragement into conversations.

I assign writing assignments for high school students right away. Actually, I assign one the first or second day of class so that I can gauge where students are. Students get full credit for this paper as long as they produce a paper, normally a paragraph. I also keep this paper so that as class progresses, I can return it to students on a particularly rough day. You know: the days when multiple students confide that they can’t do it, that they are terrible writers, that grammar is the devil’s spawn.

Show them that they are good writers, that they have grown, and that their writing assignments have improved. Mark great examples for your writing lesson plans ! The process will come together for you and them.

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5 End-of-School-Year Activities for High School English

5 End-of-School-Year Activities for High School English

You’ve finally made it to the last few weeks of the school year, but you still need to continue teaching. Oh, and the students are only getting more restless by the day. With students’ attention spans even shorter than usual, what can you do to survive until the end of the year? Here are 5 end-of-school-year activities for high school English that won’t require a ton of prep but will still be enjoyable for students!

And, if you’re looking for some more end-of-the-year tips to help make returning next year easier, you can check out this blog post!

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End of School Year Activities for High School English #1: Have Students Reflect On All That They’ve Read

Chances are your students have read at least one book at some point this year. Why not use the end of the school year as an opportunity to have students reflect on everything they’ve read?

There are so many ways to do this!

If you have a classroom library and do independent reading , you can have students write a review for their favorite read of the year. These reviews can then be placed in your classroom library. (Imagine the reviews you see around indie bookstores.) Or, they can be saved to share with next year’s students. 

You could even turn them into a bulletin board (and check off next year’s back-to-school decorating!).

Cover for It's Lit Teaching Teachers Pay Teachers Resource: #Bookstagram Instagram Activity For Any Novel

Book trailers are another fun and short project . These could also be repurposed into teaching content for next year.

The best book trailers can also be added to a class website. Next year, this page can serve as a reference page for students looking for their next read. 

One last quick and easy activity I love is to have students make an “Instagram post” about a book. This could be any book they loved or the most recent whole-class novel. 

For this, start with a paper template (I have one here). Let students draw and write a “post.” For the image, give students some parameters for what to include. Having them design a book cover, decorate an important quote, or include symbols from the novel are good ones.

The text below the “post” should connect their image to the book with a few key hashtags. 

This activity is great for two reasons. First, it requires no prep from you! Second, it lets kids be creative during the part of the year when they’re most checked out. (And these will also make a great bulletin board.)

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End of School Year Activities for High School English #2: Keep Reviewing Grammar Concepts

Just because you’ve almost made it to the finish line doesn’t mean you can stop teaching. But it probably is time to let up on new concepts and make sure the old ones actually stick. 

creative english assignments for high school

Grammar is one of those concepts that are really hard to get to stick. You need to keep reviewing and reviewing until the very last day. 

Review doesn’t have to be boring, though. Now’s the time to play some grammar games, let kids review parts of speech using Mad Labs, or have students compete in a grammar review.

You can also keep things simple and hand out some grammar review worksheets. If you want to make them a little more fun, pass out candy or treats for students who get every problem correct. 

Alternatively, extra worksheets can be offered as a way for students to raise their grades. You can let students earn back points on old grammar quizzes or assignments by doing some extra review. 

If you need some grammar worksheets, I have a collection of Summer-themed Grammar Review Worksheets here ! They cover a variety of topics and each has a summer-y topic throughout. They’re the perfect end-of-the-year review!

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End of School Year Activities for High School English #3: Have Students Write a Letter

Writing a letter is an essential skill that not many students actually practice. Teens today just don’t have much reason to write them, but that doesn’t mean they won’t need to know how later in life. 

You can use the last few weeks of the year to teach a simple but essential skill like letter writing.  

creative english assignments for high school

And there are so many kinds of letters students can write at the end of the year!

You can have students write a gratitude letter to a member of staff for Teacher Appreciation Week (the first week in May). 

Or you can have them write letters to your next class with tips and advice for the incoming students. 

Students could even write cover letters for summer jobs they might be interested in.

I definitely recommend teaching students the different parts of a letter and reviewing formal and informal tones. If they’ll be physically mailing the letters, don’t forget to review how to address an envelope. I know I was surprised by how many of my students couldn’t address an envelope when we wrote letters.

Need a letter-writing lesson? Grab this Letter Writing & Envelope Addressing Lesson right here! It also includes directions for writing that gratitude letter!

End of School Year Activities for High School English #4: Write Some Poetry

Because poetry can be quick to both read and write, it’s the perfect topic for the last few weeks of the year. 

Creative Writing Ode Poem Writing Activity

Obviously, there is a neverending supply of poetry to read or write. But I think having students write an ode poem works especially well for the end of the year.

Students can write odes to the last day of school, summer vacation, or to their favorite teacher/class/activity/memory from the school year. The structure of odes is rigid enough that it provides the opportunity to review some literary vocabulary but loose enough that students can still have fun with it. 

(If you want more information on how to teach odes, I have a whole post here.)

Plus, as the weather gets better and better, you can score some bonus points with your students by taking them outside to write. 

Don’t want to prep an ode lesson? I don’t blame you. Get my Ode Writing Lesson right here. It includes a slideshow, student worksheets, and can be done digitally or in person.

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End of School Year Activities for High School English #5: Enrichment Project

If you wrap up your last big unit and still have a few weeks left in the year, it might be the perfect time for an enrichment project! An enrichment project can be anything that gets students thinking creatively–even if it’s not quite on the curriculum. If you’ve ever wanted to incorporate project-based learning or genius hours into your classroom, now’s the time. 

There are endless possibilities for enrichment projects. I encourage you to think about what you’ve taught this year and your students’ interests. The best projects will take inspiration from both. 

Cover for Teachers Pay Teachers product by It's Lit Teaching: Creative Writing Author Study Project

Maybe this is the time to have students listen to some podcasts before recording their own. Or maybe they can give speeches or presentations on a topic/hobby/interest that they’re passionate about. 

One idea that will keep students learning as they investigate their own interests is an author study. Letting students choose what authors they want to study provides a learning opportunity with differentiation, scaffolding, and high interest. 

Students can study the work of their chosen author for a week or two before attempting to replicate that author’s style in an original story or collection of poems. 

And you don’t even have to plan this one. Get everything you need for an Author Study Project right here. Included are the directions, student worksheets, tips, and rubric you’ll need.

Finding that balance between maintaining rigor, using every minute of class time available, and sheer survival is really hard. If your last few weeks of the school year are spent enjoying time with your students more often than driving home content, that’s ok. 

Let them write raps, tell goofy stories, and play word games. They’ll end the year on a positive note, and so will you.

I have one last word of advice–don’t be too hard on yourself at the end of the year. You probably have lots of papers to grade, final meetings to attend, and might even be prepping for summer school. Don’t make your last few weeks harder than necessary by dragging your students through dull curriculum or doing something all of you hate.

Find a way to end the year that creates a smile for you and your students.

creative english assignments for high school

My Favorite High School English Activities of the Year

My Favorite High School English Activities of the Year

This past school year was a great one. With every school year that passes, I like to take a moment and reflect on activities that were successful in the classroom and really think about why they worked.

Here are nine of my top activities from this previous school year.

SWIFT Poetry Analysis Collaborative Poster Projects

As a way to have my students practice their poetry analysis skills while also building their self-efficacy, my students worked on these collaborative posters.

Using the acronym SWIFT (structure/symbolism, word choice, imagery, figurative language, and theme and tone), my students analyzed a variety of poems about a similar subject. Not only did the read and annotate the poems, but they also identified each of the SWIFT elements, provided a quote, and explained how each element impacted the poem. 

My Favorite High School English Activities of the Year

Once students complete the poetry analysis posters, we spent some time in class conducting informal presentations. Student groups presented the posters. I completed this project with my sophomore classes.

Why this worked: Students collaborated with one another to help each other as they worked on a new skill. 

For more information about this project, you can read this blog post.

Hero’s Journey Literary Project

Toward the end of my short story unit with my sophomores, I like to review the Hero’s Journey archetype. We watch a quick video, discuss the various stages of the Hero’s Journey, use some familiar animated movies as examples, and then my students work together to create this Hero’s Journey poster.

My Favorite High School English Activities of the Year

Usually, they work together in small groups of three, and I give them about two days in class to work on the assignment. Once my students are done with the poster and have demonstrated that they understand the archetype, we read a short story as a class and analyze the Hero’s Journey elements of that story.

Why this worked: Students were able to choose their own Hero’s Journey story for this project, so that generated a lot of student interest. Whenever kids get a say in what they do, there is more buy-in.

Rhetorical Appeals Learning Stations

Rhetoric is one of my favorite units to teach. I love reading significant and persuasive speeches with my students and teaching them how to analyze the language. I love seeing that moment when they get it -that moment when they realize just how powerful language is. 

My Favorite High School English Activities of the Year

This year, I added rhetorical appeals learning stations to my rhetorical analysis unit. For this activity, students spent one station analyzing ethos, one station analyzing pathos, and one station analyzing logos.

Why this worked: Adding movement and collaboration to the classroom is a great way to break up the monotony of traditional learning. Students learn best when they are active participants in the process.

You can see more about my rhetorical analysis unit here.

Intro to Transcendentalism Exploratory Posters

Before my juniors started learning about transcendentalism, I had them explore the five tenets of transcendentalism as an inquiry-based introductory activity. 

My Favorite High School English Activities of the Year

For this activity, I placed my students in small groups, and I assigned each group a different tenet. This type of poster project is a quick one, and I don’t even give my students an entire class period, roughly 55 minutes, to work on the poster. As I explain this activity to them, I make sure that I emphasize that I am looking for content. I want to see that they explored the tenet and that they are beginning to understand it.

For the posters, students wrote their own definition of the word, three synonyms, a quote about the tenet, and a visual representation.

Once students completed the posters, the groups presented their posters to the class as the class took notes on the five tenets of transcendentalism.

Why this worked: This introductory activity was student-focused. The students were in charge of their learning, and they essentially became the experts of their group’s tenet. Furthermore, they were also responsible for teaching their peers about the tenet they researched. I completed this activity with my juniors.

Listening Skills ELA Test Prep Escape Room

In my state, juniors take the standardized state test -the SBAC. This test contains a listening portion of the test that requires students to listen to nonfiction articles and answer comprehension and analysis questions.

My Favorite High School English Activities of the Year

To help my juniors prepare for this test, they completed a listening-skills escape room. This escape room is one of my favorites because it closely imitates the state test. My students listened to an audio file. In fact, I had them listen twice and also take notes to practice good test-taking skills. Then, my students worked together in groups of six to complete all of the tasks.

Escape room days are always a blast. They are high-energy, fast-paced days that engage even the most reluctant learners.

Why this worked: Escape rooms are one of the best ways to engage students. I’ve done a handful of escape rooms in my classroom, and I always have 100% participation. It is amazing.

You can see more about my ELA Listening Skills Escape Room here.

Short Story Collaborative Review Poster Projects

This short story poster project has quickly become a staple in my classroom. At the end of our short story unit, and before we take a comprehensive test on all of the stories we read, my students work together in small groups to complete short story collaborative review posters.

creative english assignments for high school

Each group is assigned a different short story that we read in class. They then go back and review their designated short story and identify and analyze various literary elements. I also have my students include a summary of the short story as well. Since this serves as our review, students usually have about a class period and a half to work on their posters. I encourage them to divide and conquer; I also emphasize that I am looking for content over aesthetics.

When students complete their posters, each group presents the poster to the class. Since I do this as a review activity before our end of unit test, presentations are a bit more formal. I require student groups to come up to the front of the classroom to present. I also require every student to present an aspect of the poster. As students are presenting their posters, the rest of the class takes review notes to help them prepare for the unit test.

Why this worked: This is a fun and engaging student-centered review activity that generates discussion about the texts. Since we already read, studied, and analyzed the text in class during the prior weeks, students are able to dig a little deeper and discover more about the text.

Dialectical Journal Concepts

When I teach novels, I like to have my students complete notebooks as they read. The notebooks contain two main elements: dialectical journals and basic comprehension questions that we answer together in class as we read (one, to keep up engagement as we read, and two, to help prevent copying and cheating. If we answer the questions together in class as opposed to assigning them as homework, students are less likely to text each other pictures of the answers). 

My Favorite High School English Activities of the Year

For the dialectical journals, I provide my students with a handful of big-picture thematic concepts that all relate to the novel. For each dialectical journal entry, students write and cite the quote, explain its significance, and then connect it to one of the concepts. I do this because once we are done reading the novel, students will then have categorized quotes pre-selected that they can use for their essay at the end of the novel.

Why this worked: When I plan my units, I like to plan backward. I always have the end-goal in mind. With that said, I make sure that the concepts we use are ones that students can apply and discuss in their essays.

You can read more about how I assign dialectical journals and even download a free template in the classroom in this Secondary English Coffee Shop blog post.

Lord of the Flies Mid-Novel Review Escape Challenge

I love the day when my students compete against one another in this Lord of the Flies review activity. When I assign this activity, my students need to place all of the events in chronological order from chapters 1-6. I have them complete all six chapters together at once because it is more challenging.

My Favorite High School English Activities of the Year

This activity works well because it generates authentic conversation about the story. Students review the events of the story, which then helps them prepare to read the final half of the story.

Why this worked: It is a fun activity and the kids get super competitive. Since students complete this activity in their teams, they are already familiar with working with one another. Plus, it gets pretty intense. The kids debate and even argue about the events in the story.

You can see more about my Lord of the Flies Mid-Novel Review Escape Challenge here.

Lord of the Flies Team Competition

Teaching novels from the literary canon can be a bit cumbersome sometimes, especially if students cannot relate to the characters or the conflict. One way that helps overcome this is by teaching Lord of the Flies as a team challenge. 

My Favorite High School English Activities of the Year

I started doing this a couple of years ago, and I keep refining my challenge. It still isn’t quite where I’d like it to be, but it sure is fun.

Before we read the novel, I place my students into six groups of six students each. I carefully group my students to make sure that each group is pretty even in regards to ability level; this is especially helpful in my inclusion classes.

As we read the novel, my students compete in a variety of activities that assess and challenge their literary knowledge. Some of the challenges include a map-making challenge, mask-making challenge, quiz challenges, and the mid-novel review that I mentioned above.

Why this worked: This is a fun and engaging way to get through a pretty tough text. Because they are working together in teams, the students have more ownership in their learning.

To read more about how I game-ify Lord of the Flies, check out this blog post.

My Favorite High School English Activities of the Year

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39 Fun ESL Games and Activities for an Exciting English Classroom

Getting playful with the English language is a great way to push your students’ creativity and show them how useful their knowledge really is.

And the best way to do that is with fun ESL games for the classroom!

There’s nothing like a room full of friendly competition and laughter to make learning more fun.

Read on below for 39 ESL group activities that will get your students engaged and practicing their English. We’ll also discuss grouping strategies for effective gameplay.

ESL Vocabulary and Spelling Games

1. vocabulary showcase game show, 2. how’s yours, 3. fly swat, 4. shiritori showdown, 6. jeopardy, 7. backdraw, esl listening games, 10. flash art, 11. find someone who…, 12. telephone, 13. song puzzle, esl games for communication and teamwork, 14. question volley, 15. my name is x, and i like x, 16. reporter, 17. secrets, 18. find a partner, 19. what sweet treat am i, esl speaking games, 20. who am i what am i, 21. question master, 22. time trials, 23. balloon truth or dare, 24. word warm ups, 25. mayor (a.k.a. don’t vote for me), 26. reading race, 27. i took a trip to the usa, esl games for creative thinking, 28. storytelling memory game, 29. two truths and a lie, 30. funny papers, 31. dictionary, 32. oral storytelling, 33. written storytelling, esl grammar games, 34. would you rather, 35. conjugation pyramid, 36. tic-tac-toe, 37. shootin’ hoops, 38. hot potato, 39. word chain, 4 ways to group your students, group by varying skill levels, group by same skill level, group by same first language, group by different first languages, why esl games are an essential part of the classroom.

Download: This blog post is available as a convenient and portable PDF that you can take anywhere. Click here to get a copy. (Download)

esl games

Best for: Big groups; communication

In the Vocabulary Showcase Game Show, students will learn new words through firsthand communication. Students must explain the chosen word to their teammate without saying the word.

All you need is a whiteboard, a timer and a list of vocab words that students already have a fairly good grasp on.

How to play:  

  • Review the vocabulary words if needed or desired.
  • Divide the class into two teams. Team A will choose their first contestant to start the game.
  • Student A from Team A will stand with their back to the whiteboard.
  • The teacher writes a vocabulary word on the board and starts the clock. Two minutes per word is best practice in order to get multiple students involved.
  • Once the clock starts, Team A will do their best to describe the vocabulary word. They cannot use the word or spell it out.
  • If Student A guesses the correct word, Team A gets a point.
  • Switch. Now Team B will send up their first member to guess a new vocabulary word. Same rules apply.
  • At the end, the team with the most points wins.

Best for: Small groups; beginners

This ESL game will have students guess the object everyone is talking about by asking the eponymous question: “How’s yours?”

You don’t need anything to play this game, though it may be helpful to have some slightly more challenging words to offer your students if they’re struggling as the game leader.

  • Select a student to go first (or ask for a volunteer).
  • This player is sent into the hall or somewhere out of earshot.
  • The teacher will be game leader first. Pick a body part, type of clothing, common person or common object and inform your students of the secret word. Possibilities might include: shoes, mouth, car, mother, teacher or ring.
  • The first player comes back into the room.
  • The player’s goal now is to figure out what the secret word is by asking each student, “How’s yours?” Each student should respond in just two or three words. Remind them—no pointing!
  • Once the first player has an answer from each student, they must guess what the object is. Use points or rewards as desired.
  • Continue by having the first player become the game leader; a new student will go into the hall and be the guesser.

Tip: Pick the shy students early so they can play more confidently after they’ve been the guesser.

The secret word is “teeth.”

When the player asks their question (“How’s yours?”), students might respond:

Best for: End of the lesson; practicing synonyms/antonyms/homonyms

This fun ESL game is a race to the board! Students will compete to be the first to find the answer and swat it with their fly swatter.

You’ll need two fly swatters, PowerPoint and a projector. You can substitute the PowerPoint/projector combo for a simple whiteboard, but just know you’ll probably have to do some rewriting throughout the game. It also helps to prepare your questions ahead of time.

  • Using PowerPoint, prepare a slide with vocabulary words scattered everywhere.
  • Split the class into two teams.
  • If needed, inform students they can only swat one word on their turn to make sure they really think about their answer.
  • In turns, each team sends up one person to the board. They are each given a fly swatter.
  • Read a question/definition aloud. The first student to swat the answer on the board wins the round!

Feel free to ask the same question more than once (repetition is part of the learning process!).

Best for: Warm ups; quick thinking

The word shiritori is Japanese for “chicken’s behind.” Each student will use the last letter of the previous word to make a new one. If the timer goes off—you’re out!

It can be played in any sized group, and the only thing you need is a timer.

  • Choose a student to start the game.
  • Enter the time on the timer, perhaps 1-2 minutes depending on the class. Begin.
  • The chosen student starts the game by saying any word they’d like.
  • The next student has to say a word that begins with the last letter of the previous word.
  • Play continues until the timer goes off.
  • The student who failed to think of a word may have to write on the board, or elimination can continue each round until there’s one winner.

(Teacher sets the timer to 30 seconds.)

Teacher: I’ll start. Mois t .

Student 1: Umm… T owe l .

Student 2: Hmm… L ik e .

Student 3: Like. Like. Like. Umm…

(Timer beeps. Student 3 is out.)

Best for: All lesson types

Hangman is an oldie but a goodie. Students must guess the letters of the alphabet to figure out a word or phrase before the hangman’s drawing is complete.

All you need is paper and pencils—or just a whiteboard if you want to play as a class. Let students take turns picking the word and drawing the blanks. Encourage using new vocabulary words so they can practice spelling.

(I found the original drawing inappropriate for younger students, so I usually drew my stick figure on the plank of a ship over a sea of monsters. As a bonus, students loved being chosen to draw one of the sea monsters on the board before the game began!)

  • The leader draws the setup and the blanks for the chosen word or phrase.
  • Students take turns guessing letters of the alphabet to fill in the blanks. Correct guesses are written into place in the blanks. For each incorrect guess, the leader adds one body part of the “hangman” to the drawing.
  • If the guessers get the correct word first, they win. If the picture of the person is completed first, the leader wins.
  • Switch out the leader and play again!

For extra fun, watch a video clip first, then play Hangman using only words from the clip. And for extra practice, at the end of each round, ask students to talk about the definition of the uncovered word or try to use it in a sentence.

Best for: Big groups; comprehensive review; critical thinking; speaking skills; teamwork

Jeopardy is another classic English classroom game that helps students build their confidence. You’ll set it up just like the TV show: a big board with answers and points, where students will need to provide the missing question.

For Jeopardy, you’ll need PowerPoint or an internet connection with an online jeopardy board, plus a projector.

  • Prepare a jeopardy board with questions on the chosen subject matter. You can do this on PowerPoint with a premade template , or use Jeopardy Labs  for easy set up.
  • Assign point values that align with the difficulty of each question to ensure a fair distribution of points. Don’t forget to include a “Daily Double” for extra fun!
  • In class, split the students into even groups of four, five or six. Adjust the number according to the number of students in the classroom. For the ideal playing situation, there should be 4-6 groups.
  • After the class has been split into groups, the first group chooses a subject and point value.
  • Read the corresponding question aloud. Anyone in class can raise their hand to answer the question.
  • The first hand up gets to answer. If they’re right, their group receives the points and gets to pick the next question. If they’re wrong, subtract the points from that team; another group gets a chance to answer.
  • The group with the most points at the end of the game wins!  

Note: You may want to select a spokesperson for each group to keep chaos to a minimum. Rotate the spokesperson every few turns so everyone gets the opportunity to speak.

Best for: Big groups; all lesson types; spelling and vocabulary skills

Backdraw is one of the most popular games in classrooms and works for any level. In this game, the students aren’t allowed to talk.

  • Put the students into equal teams and line them up facing the blackboard. All the students must face the blackboard and cannot turn around.
  • Inform the students that they cannot speak during the game, or their team is out.
  • Give a word to the last student in each team (the student furthest from the blackboard). Usually, it’s best to write the word down and have them read it, so nobody can overhear it.
  • When the teacher tells them to begin, the last student must silently write the word on the back of the student in front of them. Once they’re done, the next student then writes the word they “felt” on the student in front of them. This continues until the first student has the word.
  • The first student goes to the blackboard and writes the word, spelled correctly.
  • The first team to complete the task correctly is the winner.

Best for:  Big groups; teambuilding; from beginner to advanced students 

This game focuses heavily on spelling and team skills, and it’s a great way to cement the difficult words on your vocabulary list.

  • Divide the students into teams. The number of teams doesn’t matter.
  • Approach the first team and give them a word to spell. The following steps should be conducted with each team, one at a time. The other students may listen, or practice silently spelling the words, but there shouldn’t be talking from the other teams.
  • The first student on the team may only give the first letter.
  • The next student says the second letter, and so on.
  • Once the word is complete, the next student must repeat the whole word, to signal they’re done spelling.
  • Each correctly spelled word earns the team a point.

This game can also be made more or less challenging by choosing higher or lower level words. Also, for more advanced students, they can be asked to spell the word backward.

Best for: Beginners; big groups; pronunciation practice

This game is an excellent way to use physical activity in the classroom while also engaging the brain in language learning.

  • Line up the students in the front of the classroom. If you have a large classroom, have them line up in groups of six students at one time. While each group of six students plays, the other students are encouraged to watch and be engaged in the game.
  • Assign each student a different word. Encourage them to repeat the word back to you.
  • Now the game begins. The teacher (or a designated higher-level student) must say one word at a time.
  • The student who is assigned that word must repeat it back and do a squat right away. A deep squat means they hold their arms out in front of them and bend their knees until the thigh bones are horizontal.
  • If the student forgets, says the word incorrectly or is extremely late, they’re out and must sit down.

This game can be made more challenging by having the teacher speak faster, or having the students say and spell the word.

esl games

Best for: Creative students; reading comprehension practice

You’ll give your students scenarios in English and let them create quick interpretations through drawing. This ESL game offers a break from tough topics and traditional book learning.

For this game, you need plenty of paper and drawing materials like colored pencils, markers or crayons.

  • Decide whether you want to work on students’ listening comprehension, reading comprehension or both.
  • Say a scenario out loud or write it on the board.
  • Students will transcribe or copy the scenario on a piece of paper.
  • Give students an allotted amount of time to draw out the scenario on their paper.
  • At the end of the session, students may present their drawings. You may also have them vote on their favorite piece for each scenario.

Note: You may only have time to do one or two Flash Art scenarios per session.


  • There is a man running in a park. He is being chased by a dog.
  • A mother and daughter are baking cupcakes.
  • Many cars are stuck in traffic due to rain.

Best for: Big groups

Students must be quick to listen and comprehend the spoken statement, or they’ll end up in the middle where they’ll have to come up with the next statement themselves.

The teacher can have a prepared list of “Finds,” or students can make up their own in this fun ESL game.

  • Have everybody begin in a big circle.
  • The teacher calls out something like: “Find someone who… is wearing glasses.”
  • Everyone runs to grab the hand of a person wearing glasses. Assuming each student has two hands, only two people can be partnered with each glasses wearer.
  • Whoever is left without a hand to hold stands in the middle.
  • Select a student in the middle to call the next statement.

The possibilities are endless! Students can find someone who:

  • is wearing red.
  • has words on their shirt.
  • can curl their tongue.

Best for: Big groups; speaking skills; pronunciation practice

Telephone is another classic. Students will whisper a given phrase down the line. The last person will announce the likely convoluted sentence to the class for everyone’s amusement.

This ESL game is easy to play—no materials needed!

  • Have all of the students sit or stand in a straight line or a circle.
  • Make up a phrase or sentence and whisper it in the first student’s ear.
  • That student then whispers the phrase to the next person, and so on and so forth.
  • If a student would like the phrase repeated to them, they can say “Operator!” This can only be done once per person.
  • The last person to hear the phrase will repeat it out loud. It’s always funny to see how different the phrase turns out!

To make this game competitive, split the class into two teams and see who gets closest to the original phrase.

Best for: Small groups; sentence order review; listening practice; speaking skills

Song Puzzle is a fun ESL classroom game that will get your students jamming along to music. You’ll play a song while they arrange the lyrics in the proper order.

To set up this game, select an appropriate song (if you have young students, check out this resource for some suggestions). Print a copy of the lyrics for each small group in your class. Cut each one into strips to create a complete set of lyrics for each group.

  • Make sure all your materials are prepared before class begins (the song is printed and cut into strips, and you have enough sets for each group).
  • Separate students into small groups of two or three. Give each group a complete set of lyric strips.
  • Play the song. Groups will try to organize the lyrics into the correct order.
  • Continue replaying the song until a team is done. Check the order of their lyrics.
  • The first group to organize the lyrics correctly wins.
  • Continue playing until all groups have figured out the correct order of the lyrics.
  • Use the lyrics to sing the song aloud as a class!

Depending on the song you choose, you can use the lyrics to teach a specific set of vocabulary or a grammar concept. For example, check out this list of songs with passive voice in the lyrics !

esl games

Best for: Big groups; speaking skills

In Question Volley, students will ask and answer questions on the spot to boost their confidence in responding to questions naturally and quickly.

All you need for this fun ESL game is a small ball! For added fun, you can always change up what you’re tossing around: a potato, a soccer ball, a frisbee, etc.

  • Tell students the topic so questions remain relevant.
  • Teacher starts! Have a student toss you the ball and ask you a relevant question.
  • Answer the question.
  • Toss the ball to a different student. Ask them a question.
  • They will answer, and then pass to another student and ask them a question.
  • Continue passing, asking and responding until everyone’s had a turn.

Make sure to encourage quick questions and answers to give this a real-life feel.

If your lesson topic is sports, some questions might be:

  • What sports do you play?
  • What sports do you like to watch?
  • Who is your favorite athlete?

For more example questions, try this resource —and check out our dedicated post on ESL movie activities . 

Best for: Combining with a vocabulary lesson; big groups; speaking skills; memory recall

Students will introduce themselves and something they enjoy. Depending on the level of your class, they may learn introductions, transitive verbs and first- and third-person sentence structures.

You don’t need anything for this game, but note that the more randomly you call on students, the more likely they’ll pay attention to others’ responses instead of counting how many more turns until they have to participate.

For beginners:

  • Sit in a circle with your class.
  • Introduce yourself using this format: “My name is X, and I like X.” For example: “My name is Mr. Smith, and I like to read.”
  • Have the next student introduce themself using the same format.
  • Continue until every student has had a turn.

For more advanced students, include memory recall. Ask students to introduce themselves and the previous student. That is: “His/her name is X, and he/she likes X. My name is X, and I like X.”

The most advanced way to play this game is to include questions, like so:

  • Pick a student, either the next in a circle or at random.
  • Ask them: “What’s your name? What do you like?” and let them respond.
  • Introduce them in the format: “His/her name is X, and he/she likes X.”
  • That student will now choose a classmate and ask them the questions.
  • The student who asked the questions must introduce their classmate using the answers provided.
  • Continue until each student has asked questions and introduced someone.

Best for: Listening comprehension; conversation practice; speaking/writing skills

In Reporter, students will ask their partner questions in the form of an interview. You may ask them to present or submit their partner’s response in writing.

If you choose to focus on writing practice, you’ll need paper and pencils. Otherwise, simply have some sample interview questions prepared to get the class started with this game.

  • Brainstorm questions for 5-10 minutes, either individually or as a class.
  • Have students pair up.
  • During an allotted amount of time, students will ask their partner questions.
  • Students may need to write the responses, take brief notes or simply try to remember the answers.
  • After the time is up, switch the role of reporter and interviewee.
  • At the end, students may present their partners to the rest of the class using the answers provided during game time. Or, students can hand in their interview notes.

You can also turn this into a more elaborate game by assigning the interviews as homework.

In that case, have students present their partners to the class without giving the identity of the partner. The class has to guess who the person is based on the presentation.

Best for: Quiet/lethargic classes

Students will use questioning skills to work out whose secret they know. Get them moving around the room and chatting with this fun ESL classroom game.

You’ll need some slips of paper and something to hold them in—a hat or a small bowl will do nicely.

  • Ask each student to write down a secret on a piece of paper. Check that the secrets are written down correctly, but don’t betray students’ secrets to their classmates!
  • Have each student fold their paper and put it in a hat.
  • Each student will then draw a secret from the hat.
  • Once each student has a secret, they will walk around the classroom asking other students questions to find out whose secret they have. They can’t directly say what’s on the paper!

The secret says, “I have five cats.”

The person holding the secret might ask a classmate:

  • Do you like animals?
  • How many animals live in your house?

Best for: Big groups; speaking skills; combining with a vocabulary lesson

In this ESL game, you’ll give students a category. They’ll write their favorite thing in that category on a piece of paper. Then they’ll search for someone who wrote the same thing—without actually using any of the words they wrote down!

All you need for this one is some small pieces of paper.

  • Decide the topic (books, food, movies, etc.). Make sure it’s something that students can talk about in some detail.
  • Each student writes down their favorite book (or food, movie, etc.) on a piece of paper and hides it in their pocket or textbook.
  • Without using the words they’ve written down, students then go around the room, asking their classmates questions.
  • Students who think they’ve found a classmate with the same answer can sit.
  • Once everyone’s discovered a partner or once the allotted time is up, students reveal their papers to each other.

To make sure this game is working as intended, the teacher must moderate effectively. Walk the room to ensure students are practicing proper English. Correct them as needed based on topics you’ve covered in class.

Best for: Beginner and intermediate students; speaking practice

Students will take turns asking questions to figure out what sweet treat they are in this fun ESL classroom game.

For this one, you’ll need tape and as many kinds of candy as you have students in class (so, 10 students means 10 different types of candy). Make sure it’s candy they’re familiar with.

  • Tape a candy wrapper to each student’s back.
  • Put the students in a circle.
  • Tell students how many questions they can ask before they’ll need to make a guess, and decide what will happen if they get it right/wrong (points, guess again, player is out, etc.).
  • Select someone to go first.
  • The first player stands up and turns around so everyone can see their candy wrapper.
  • The player can ask the group yes or no questions to get clues about their candy.
  • After the set number of questions, the player must guess.
  • Continue until all sweet treats have been guessed and revealed.

The standing player might ask some of the following questions:

  • Does it taste like strawberries?
  • Does it have chocolate?

esl games

Best for: Advanced students; practicing asking questions

This is a slightly more advanced version of the “What Sweet Treat Am I?” activity. It can be modified to include writing if you ask the students to create the cards, rather than doing it yourself.

How to play:

  • Before beginning the activity, you may want to brainstorm the types of questions that will help students figure out their cards. 
  • Using sticky notes or index cards, list common household or school-related objects on each one.
  • Have each student pick a card without looking at what it says.
  • Have them stick it to his or her own forehead.
  • Students then ask their fellow students yes or no questions in order to figure out what their card says. 

For more advanced students, cards can list literary characters, book titles or even idioms. Another option is to keep all of the cards related to one theme, like health words, clothing, colors or even slang.

Best for: Experienced speakers; creative thinking

Question Master helps your students figure out what to ask in a given situation. Set up the scenario and let them ask away!

All you need for this game is a timer. Any amount of people is good, but note that this ESL game works best with more experienced speakers who are comfortable creating sentences on the fly.

  • Choose a scenario for the class, like at a café, at the airport, or even on a date.
  • Set the timer. Begin.
  • Each student must ask a question relevant to the scenario. Encourage creativity with this one!
  • Continue until the timer goes off. The student is out or the game is over.

(Teacher sets the timer to a minute and thirty seconds.)

Teacher: Okay, the scenario is at a shop. Go!

Student 1: How much is this?

Student 2: Do you accept credit cards?

Best for: Individual students

Instead of racing against others, students are trying to get their own personal best time for English speaking. They’re aiming for speed and  precision.

While you could do this with an ESL class, it’s particularly helpful for individual learners. You’ll just need a topic and a timer that starts from zero.

  • Select something for the student to read/say. This could be anything! A passage in a book, a set of statements, etc.
  • Start the clock from zero once the student starts reading/speaking.
  • When the student is done, stop the timer.
  • Tell the student their time.
  • Give them tips on how to improve their speaking speed.
  • Have them practice, either in class or out, until they get to a more natural time.

Teacher: Okay, tell me your name, age, where you’re from, and what you do. Ready? Go! (Starts timer.)

Student: My name is… (continues talking)

(Teacher stops the timer when the student finishes.)

Best for: Outgoing students

This is a slight twist on the classic truth or dare. Inside balloons are truths (personal questions) and dares (silly actions), which students must complete in front of the class.

You’ll need balloons (at least enough for each student in the class) and slips of paper, as well as truths and dares. Feel free to adapt statements using vocabulary and grammar suitable for the level you’re teaching.

  • On slips of paper, write student-friendly dares and questions. Make sure they’re things that most students would be willing to do and answer.
  • Put each slip of paper inside a balloon and blow it up. You may want to color code (red balloons = dares, blue balloons = truths), or let it be random.
  • Scatter the paper-filled balloons around the room.
  • Select a student to go first. They will pick a balloon and pop it, then read their truth or dare aloud before completing it.
  • Continue having students choose a balloon, pop it, read the prompt and complete the task until everyone has gone.

A small tip: You may want to start with your more outgoing students. But don’t let your shy students be last either–try to call them out around the middle to help manage their anxiety.

For some possible dares, you might write:

  • Do a popular dance.
  • Sing a class song by yourself.
  • Pretend like you’re riding a horse.
  • Snore or snort.

And for some possible truths, you might write:

  • What did you look like when you were 10 years old?
  • If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live?
  • When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Best for: Warm ups; grammar review; creative thinking

In Word Warm Ups, students will attempt to use the given English concept in a sentence before time runs out.

You’ll need a timer. If the timer is your phone and you don’t want it passed around the room, you’ll also need a small ball or another easily passable item.

  • Set the rules for sentence structure. For example, students must make sentences using “should/shouldn’t.”
  • Enter a designated time on the timer. Begin the clock and hand the timer/ball to the first student.
  • The first student makes a sentence using the grammar construct, then passes the timer/ball to another student.
  • Students continue making sentences and passing the timer/ball until the timer goes off.
  • You can make additional consequences as desired for the student holding the timer/ball when it goes off.

Teacher: Okay, so sentences using the phrase, “even though.” Go!

Student 1: Hmm… I like Canada even though it’s very cold.

Student 2: Okay. Even though she’s only 30, she’s too old for me.

Student 3: Hmm, I… umm. Even though, umm…

(Timer goes off. Student 3 is out.)

Best for: Advanced students; speech-giving practice

Mayor requires both higher English ability and an appreciation of irony. If your class has both, this game may get shy students to take risks and even be a bit silly. Students will run to NOT become mayor.

No materials are needed. Note that you may want to lower the intensity for your shy students by having everyone stand at their desk to speak rather than the front of the classroom.

  • Explain that you’re going to have a mock election for mayor in your classroom, but it’s a job nobody wants. Each student must convince the class that they should NOT be mayor and why.
  • You may need to go first to show the possibilities.
  • Select the first student to give their speech. You can set a time limit so no one speaks too much or too little.
  • Continue until each student has given their speech.
  • The winner is the one who comes up with the best reason not to be mayor, which can be decided by vote. It’s an election, after all!

“I would hate to be mayor. Do not vote for me. I do not like to be around smelly, old citizens. Children are noisy. Who cares about education?”

Best for: Reading class; small groups; reading speed; pronunciation practice

This English classroom game will have students race against the clock to finish the reading passage. The key is that they must do so with no mistakes.

You’ll need a timer and reading material to play, so this game is especially great if your class has a reading text they’re working through. 

  • Provide students with the reading passage you want them to practice. Make sure everyone’s on the correct page.
  • Set the time and begin the timer.
  • Each student will attempt to read the next sentence (or the whole passage) perfectly .
  • If they mispronounce a word or rush through a sentence, correct them. They must start again from the beginning.
  • Once they’ve read the given part with no mistakes, it’s the next student’s turn.
  • The student who’s reading when the timer goes off is out!

(Teacher sets the timer to two minutes.)

Teacher: Okay, reading race, page 7. Ready? Go!

Student 1: (Reads passage perfectly)

Student 2: (Reads passage but has an error with pronunciation)

Teacher: (Tells student correct pronunciation) Sorry, reread!

Student 2: (Reads passage perfectly)

Student 3: (Reading but struggling a bit)

(Timer goes off. Student 3 seems to be having some trouble with these games! They’re out.)

Best for: Big groups; listening skills; memory recall 

This speaking game  puts an emphasis on listening , focus and memory-building skills while also encouraging students to recall vocabulary.

  • Teach the students the speech they must learn for every turn in the game: “I took a trip to the USA, and with me I took…”
  • The first student says the sentence, and names an object starting with an “A.” For example, “…and with me I took an apple.”
  • The next student must repeat the first word, then add a word that starts with a “B.” For example, “…and with me I took an apple and a banana.”
  • Every following student must repeat every word previously said, and add a word starting with the next letter of the alphabet. For example, “…and with me I took an apple, a banana, and a cat.”
  • The game continues until a word cannot be named or a word is forgotten.

This is a very flexible game that can be adapted to any classroom. First, be specific on wanting students to use articles and the word “and” before the last word. Also, you can give the classroom a category to follow, such as asking them to name animals or foods.

esl games

Best for: Speaking skills; memory recall; vocabulary building; sentence structure review

Together, the class will tell a story out loud by finishing each others’ sentences in this ESL game.

Smaller groups make this game easier, while larger groups will really test students’ memories. No materials needed!

  • Begin by sitting in a circle.
  • The first person (this can be you, but it doesn’t have to be) starts the story with a fragment, such as: “It was a dark and stormy night…”
  • The next person in the circle must repeat what the first person said and  add a phrase of their own.
  • Continue going around the circle until someone messes up. You can start over, prompt them or something else.
  • In the end, you could have students write down the story. Or write it on a poster board and hang it up in your classroom for students to remember and get a good laugh!

Teacher: It was a dark and stormy night…

Student 1: It was a dark and stormy night and no one was around.

Student 2: It was a dark and stormy night and no one was around. Suddenly, there was the sound of…

Best for: The first class; advanced students; speaking/writing skills; conversation practice

In this game, each student will present three statements about themselves—two are true, and one is false. Their classmates must ask questions in order to determine which statement is the lie.

Two Truths and a Lie only requires a whiteboard (or anything you can write on).

  • Ensure the class understands the meaning of both “truth” and “lie.”
  • You’ll go first as an example. On the board, write two truths and one lie about yourself.
  • Tell the class that one of the statements on the board is not true .
  • Students may ask you non-specific questions about what you wrote. You may want to give a question limit to raise the stakes of the game.
  • Once the questioning is over, students will write down which statement they believe to be the lie.
  • You can ask them to share their guesses and why they came to that conclusion.
  • Reveal the lie!
  • Select a student to take your place. The game repeats until everyone has had a turn.

One statement says: “I enjoy running every morning.”

Students may ask things like:

  • What kind of running shoes do you have?
  • What time do you begin your run?

Best for: Writing practice; collaboration; pair or small group play

Funny Papers is a fun ESL game where students are asked to fill in the blank speech bubbles of a comic strip.

Using the Sunday funny papers or some blank comic strips online , white out the text of each character’s speech bubbles or dialogue boxes. Make enough copies for your class.

  • Give your students an example. Show them the comic strip and ask what they think is happening in the scene. Write some of their responses in the speech or thought bubbles above each character.
  • Now, split the class into groups for the activity.
  • Hand out the comic strips and let each group create their own Funny Paper.
  • Visit each group to offer insight and answer questions they may have.
  • Once the comics are complete, students can present them to the class.

Best for: Any level; speaking skills; writing skills

If you know the game Balderdash , you’ll recognize Dictionary. One team member will lead the way. Players will guess the definition of a difficult word, and a judge will decide their favorite answer. In the end, someone wins a treat!

You’ll need dictionaries or vocabulary lists (with definitions) for this game. You’ll also need sticky notes for each group and some prize candy.

  • Split the class into groups of five or six students.
  • Give each group a packet of sticky notes and a dictionary/vocab list.
  • For each group, select a leader and a judge. (Tip: Try picking the shyest students to steer the groups first.)
  • The leader finds a word in the dictionary/on the list that they do not believe anyone else knows. The leader writes the correct definition of the word on the sticky note.
  • The leader spells the word out loud, and everyone except the judge writes it down on their own sticky note.
  • Everyone except the leader and judge will now make up their own definition of the word and write it on their sticky note as well. The students can come up with a silly definition, try to guess the correct definition or try to fool the judge with something that sounds convincing.
  • The leader collects the definitions and gives them to the judge.
  • The judge reads each definition out loud. (If your judge has a flair for the dramatic, all the better!)
  • After reading all the definitions, the judge decides which one they like best. The player who wrote it gets a piece of candy.
  • The roles switch. The judge becomes the leader and a new judge is selected.
  • Keep playing until every student has had a chance to be both the judge and the leader.

The leader picks the word “sundry.” She spells it out for the players.

The leader writes the correct definition on her note (“miscellaneous”).

One player thinks about the literal meaning and writes: “wet clothes left outside.”

Another player guesses: “popcorn.”

Another player decides to be silly and writes: “lying to your teacher.”

The leader mixes up the definitions and hands them to the judge. The judge reads each definition out loud, and everyone has a good laugh.

The judge decides she likes the “wet clothes left outside” definition. The player who wrote this gets the candy and then the leader explains that the correct definition is “miscellaneous.”

Best for: Listening comprehension; speaking practice

Students have to be able to follow along with the story, listening closely to what the people before them just said, and they have to think critically to build a correct sentence of their own.

For beginning ESL students, consider speaking sentences out loud yourself and asking them to add one word at a time. They could even draw or hold up pictures to add to the story.

  • Have students sit in a circle. Begin telling a story by speaking one sentence aloud.
  • The student on your left should add to the story by speaking a second sentence aloud.
  • The student to his or her left should speak the next sentence aloud, and so on. 
  • Keep the story going around the circle one sentence at a time until it comes to a logical conclusion.

Remind students that each sentence should build on the one before it.

It’s easy for students to add in something offbeat or random to try to be silly, but the goal of this lesson is to create a logical story. One way to keep the story on track might be to record it. 

Best for: Working as a team; writing practice

This is a bit like a word association game, but requires that the students expand on that to create a story.

For more advanced students, consider assigning topics that require students to discuss customs or cultural norms, like privacy, personal space, hygiene or dining.

How to play: 

  • Divide the class into small groups.
  • Each group gets to choose three random words from a bag and must incorporate each word into a short story. 
  • Depending on your students’ level, you can assign specific numbers of characters, amount of dialogue, length, etc. to be included in the story.
  • At the end of the lesson, groups can take turns reading stories aloud.
  • For increased participation and extra practice with speaking, you can ask the students who are listening to the story to comment on their classmates’ work. For beginning students, sentence starters like, “I liked….” or “what did you mean by…?” can be helpful to encourage feedback.

Both the written storytelling and the small group discussion that follows are valuable practice time. Together, they’ll help students practice written and spoken English in one swoop. 

Teacher standing at whiteboard

Best for:  Making learning conditionals fun and and lively

This classic sleepover and bus trip game, ideal for getting participants to know more about each other, can be a perfect giggle-inducing grammar game to reinforce recent lessons. The game is simple enough, driven by straightforward questions and answers.

The main use for this game in the ESL classroom is to practice using conditionals and discussing hypothetical situations ( would  you):

Would you rather  get stung by a bee  or  bit by a spider?

Would you rather  dance in front of ten thousand people  or  in front of the President of the United States?

How to Play:

  • Put students in pairs or play as a class.
  • Provide questions on handouts.
  • Let students answer the questions and make corrections if needed.

Example: “Sara, how many of your classmates would rather  dance in front of the President of the United States?” Then this student must tell you how many people chose this option in her group or in the class.

Best for:  Learning verb conjugations

Similar to blackboard race, the conjugation pyramid is a race-to-win classic that is beloved by language students everywhere. Set this one up for the very end of class when there are a few minutes remaining—this will really get the pressure cooking.

  • Draw a pyramid on either side of the board and break it up into blocks—kind of like a food pyramid, but with as many blocks as there are rounds in the game. So, if you want to go 10 rounds, draw 10 blocks in each pyramid.
  • Then you’ll give your students a verb and a person (first person singular, second person plural) and they will have to run to the board and conjugate the verb into each tense accordingly. 
  • Depending on the skill level of your students and what you’d like to practice, you can also choose a tense and have students conjugate the entire verb chart for that tense. The student who gets the conjugations right wins their team a block in the pyramid!
  • When a student wins a pyramid block, fill in that block with chalk or marker to indicate the progress.
  • The first team with enough blocks to build their whole pyramid wins!

Best for:  Learning parts of speech

  • Draw up the grid for tic-tac-toe on the board.
  • Divide students up into two teams.
  • Fill in each square of the grid with a part of speech you want students to practice. What exactly you choose to include here is totally flexible, and depends on what lessons you’d like to reinforce. If you’re studying verb conjugation in the present tense, for example, fill in the grid with verbs in their infinitive forms.
  • The first team goes by choosing a square from the tic-tac-toe grid. They have to figure out, as a group, how to properly conjugate that verb.
  • If they get the answer right, then they claim that square of the grid. If they get the answer wrong, then they lose their turn.
  • Keep playing until one team scores a tic-tac-toe!

Best for:  Getting students physical as they reinforce grammar lessons

Go down to the school’s gymnasium, playground or set up a makeshift basketball hoop in the classroom. You can manage this without damaging school property by simply setting up a hula hoop or other plastic ring as the “hoop” and by playing with a small inflatable or foam ball.

  • Break the students into two groups or have them play individually against the rest of their classmates.
  • There are two ways to go about playing this one. Before being allowed to take a shot, each student must either:
  • Answer a question with the appropriate featured grammar pattern.
  • Create a basic statement using the featured grammar pattern.
  • If the student gets their answer or statement wrong or doesn’t phrase it properly, they won’t get to take a shot.
  • If the student passes this part of the game, they get to take a shot. If they score, they get 2 points. If they don’t score but got the question right, they get 1 point.

Best for:  Encouraging quick thinking about grammar points

  • Use a foam or inflatable ball, and start up a fast-paced round or two of hot potato.
  • The objective, of course, is to pass the ball around in a circle as fast as possible.
  • Before passing the ball to the next student, the student holding the ball must show off their English grammar skills.
  • When a student catches the ball, they must quickly think up a word that fits your given criteria, spit it out and pass the ball before the allotted time runs out.
  • This is super flexible and can be adjusted to practice virtually any bit of grammar you’ve recently introduced or would like to review.

Example: Tell students learning the present tense that they must each say  one verb conjugated in the present tense, using first person singular or “I form.”  Each student will then have to say something like, “I run,” “I dance” or “I cry.” The ball gets passed around and around, with students being eliminated whenever they draw blanks or conjugate their verbs wrong.

For easier games, give each student 6-8 seconds. For harder, faster paced games, give students 2-3 seconds. You can also start slower and gradually increase the pace of the game as it progresses.

Best for:  Thinking quickly and creatively

  • Start the class off by giving them a word which fits your desired theme.
  • Restrict them to only certain parts of speech, such as nouns or verbs. For an extra challenging session, limit the words to certain moods and tenses. 
  • The student who starts off the game will have to think of a word that begins with the last letter of the word you provided.
  • If you’re practicing nouns and say “food,” then the student could say “dog” or “dish.” If you’re practicing with adjectives and started with “beautiful,” then the next student might say “lazy” or “loud.” 
  • Go around the classroom playing this way and eliminating students who can’t think up words quickly enough.

Students grouped around a table

You’ve got your pockets full of group ideas that work in class. But believe it or not, how you group your students might be more important than the actual activities you do.

But what’s the secret to grouping students the right way?

Here are four ways you can put your students together and why you might choose to group them each particular way.

Did you know that even native speakers change the way they talk based on who they’re talking to and that person’s language use? It’s part of the feedback mechanism of the brain and why you might acquire a bit of a Southern accent when talking to your friend from Alabama or why you might start dropping final g’s if you hang out in New York for any length of time.

Because when you group lower level students with higher level students, they’ll automatically and subconsciously improve their English usage just by hearing and talking to more advanced students . Crazy, isn’t it?

While a more advanced student will likely speak more like their lower level student partner, too, they aren’t losing out on the deal.  We learn more when we teach . And when you group advanced students with lower level students, they’ll learn by teaching the other members of their group even if they don’t realize what’s happening. If you have a mixed level class, don’t despair. Your students can learn as much from each other as they do from you when they’re in these types of groups.

While students can learn a lot by working with classmates at different language skill levels, that isn’t always the way you want to partner up your students. Sometimes mixed level groups can be dominated by advanced speakers and beginning students can get lost in the mix.

Not so when your groups are selected for their similar language proficiency.

In a group of all beginners, someone will have to speak up, and that means your lower level students will be talking more in class. In your group of all advanced students, everyone may want to drive the conversation. That means the members of that group will have to work on their discourse skills like taking turns speaking and using  active listening . If you have students who dominate the conversation in class, this might be the right type of group for you.

Have you ever heard that grouping students with others who speak the same first language is taboo? Forget about it. Your students will actually be able to help each other in very unique ways when they’re grouped with others that speak the same first language.

More advanced students understand the specific language struggles faced by beginning students and can help them through struggles that they themselves have already overcome. Your advanced students can also explain using their native language which is a great advantage when you’ve tried everything to communicate to your students and they still aren’t getting what you’re trying to say.

Grouping by the same first language is also an advantage when you’re discussing some sensitive topics, those that might hit a cultural hot button. While not every speaker of a language comes from the same culture, many do, and if you’re afraid of cultural flare-ups because of a certain topic, try grouping your students this way to minimize the drama that might otherwise come up.

Have I convinced you that grouping by the same native language is a good thing? Well, stop it. At least sometimes. Because mixed L1 groups are useful to students in other ways. When all the members of a group speak different first languages, they’ll all be forced to speak English in order to work together.

This is particularly useful if you have students that just won’t speak in English because they always have the chance to speak their first language. A mixed L1 group also gives your students the chance to experience different accents in English and as a result improve their listening skills. Culture can also come into play in these groups. By talking with people from different areas of the world, your students can develop a better appreciation for each other and their home cultures. It’s a great way to learn about people around the globe along with their traditions.

ESL games are as versatile as they are fun! They’re also a super important part of your lesson plans. Here’s why:

  • They’re invaluable for building on your presentation (the first part of your PPP lesson plan ).
  • They’ll help your students cultivate essential skills, both directly and organically.
  • They’ll often get your students up and moving, which helps get the brain working.
  • They’ll help your students internalize grammar and vocabulary through usage.
  • They’ll aid the development of students’ English listening, reading, speaking, writing and thinking skills.
  • They’ll improve your students’ communication, collaboration skills and confidence.
  • They’re usually active —great for both classes that need somewhere to direct their energy and classes that need to kick it up a notch.
  • They can be used at any time during class: as a beginning warm-up, as an end-of-class time-filler or in the middle as the bulk of your lesson.

Games can be implemented alongside any other teaching tools as well.

They’re useful during difficult or frustrating lessons to supplement traditional book learning time. They can also be used in conjunction with videos to keep your classes engaged from start to finish.

For level-appropriate videos with helpful tools, the FluentU  language learning program uses authentic clips made by native speakers to teach your students English.

The clips are organized by content and level, so you can ensure they’re the right amount of challenging for your class. The videos also have interactive subtitles, so students can hover over a word to see its definition or click on it for more information, including example sentences and contextual notes.

As the teacher, you can assign FluentU videos for homework, track student progress and create vocabulary lists for students to review with the digital flashcard feature. Then in class, you can practice the vocabulary together using one of the games listed above.

Working some fun ESL classroom games into your lesson plans every week creates an atmosphere of enthusiastic learning. Your students will have a blast while working on their English skills!

From artistic creativity to comedic scenarios, your students can experience English in a whole new way through these games. Even grammar can be exciting with games !

So, get started with these fun ESL games and bring learning to life!

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creative english assignments for high school

English Basics

Fun Activities For English Class High School

Looking for fun activities for English class high school? Try playing Pictionary, a Classroom scavenger hunt, or a group story! In fact, these ideas are guaranteed to keep students engaged. Just make sure you have enough time to try all of them! There are countless ways to have fun while learning English. Here are some ideas to get you started. And if none of them work for you, here are some more that will make your class a hit!

Group story

If you’re looking for fun activities for English class high school students, you’ve come to the right place. These games can help your students practice their grammar and parts of speech. “Mad Libs” is an example of a game that tests students’ knowledge of grammar. The blank sentences of the story are actually parts of speech and synonyms, so students must choose the right words to complete the story.

A classic English class activity is the Classroom Scavenger Hunt, which can be adapted to suit any high school English class. Before starting a Scavenger Hunt, however, you will need to do some pre-planning. First, you will need to know the procedures and expectations of your classroom. Once you have these in place, you can create worksheets that contain questions about each label. Ten or more labels can make a great scavenger hunt. In addition to being fun for students, a Scavenger Hunt is an excellent way to review classroom procedures.

Another fun activity for your English class high school students is a 3 Things Writing Activity. You’ll need to have each student choose three things and describe them to their partner. You can make the activity silly or use the day of the week to tie in with the topic. For example, you can write an alien with a big square head and seven arms, and four tiny eyes on its head. This activity will help students develop their writing skills and critical thinking skills while having fun.

A similar activity is the Assassin Game, where one student is seated in the middle of a circle. Then, the other students in the circle have to guess which student sticks their tongue out. The student who correctly answers the question wins, while the student who fails to guess the answer has to switch places with the seated student. While the Assassin Game is a popular one, it can be tricky to keep students interested for long.

An interactive activity can be useful for improving speaking skills. Often, students find the monotony of the daily lecture or activity boring. To make the class more exciting and lively, assign fun activities for the students. These activities can be played in teams and can even be peer graded. This can be especially useful if the students have a desire to travel. However, it may not be a good idea to do these activities without a teacher’s approval.

Another game that requires students to use their vocabulary is the impromptu speaking exercise. In this game, students are divided into two teams. They each select a number. In the first round, the students have to answer the statement with no preparation. The goal is to stay as clear as possible for 45 seconds, while the other team listens for hesitations and grammatical or vocabulary mistakes. Correcting mistakes earns them a point. Another activity is the desert island game. The students must describe what they find on the island and describe it to their teammates. The last person standing is the winner.

Classroom scavenger hunt

A classroom scavenger hunt is a fun way to review material and get students moving. The scavenger hunt requires students to look for clues in a room and write the answer. The students will have fun completing the puzzles and earn points for the teacher as well! To create a classroom scavenger hunt, use photos of faculty members or old yearbooks.

Divide the class into teams. Assign captains to each team, divide the class into teams. Assign each team a clue to find the treasure chest, and have students work together to identify the object. Make sure the children understand they are not supposed to collect the treasure but rather identify it with a partner. It’s not essential to have a large number of each item; they are meant to be fun!

Another classroom scavenger hunt is the alphabet scavenger hunt. For this type of scavenger hunt, students have to search for items beginning with the letter of their choice. To make the game more challenging, call out random alphabet letters. Once students have found the letters, they have to write the items in big letters and hang them on their designated walls. They must return to their seats when the timer rings.

A classroom scavenger hunt for English class is a fun way to introduce new vocabulary. The students can search for new words in context as they try to locate them. For more creative ideas, visit Education World for free printable scavenger hunt lists for high school and grade schools. You can also adapt the scavenger hunts to the needs of your students. So, whether you are teaching English class high school students or middle school students, make the activity fun and memorable!

Another great idea is to have a winter scavenger hunt. The students will love scavenger hunts during the winter months. They’ll be glad to get outside. And they’ll love the beautiful scenery. Another great idea is to go out during recess with the hunt. Encourage students to compete with each other to find all the items in the least amount of time.

Another option is to plant words in their assignments or orally directed tasks. Try to find as many as 15 of the same words as possible. This way, students can help each other out naturally. A great way to do this is to use an icebreaker by encouraging students to give compliments to one another. And once they are done, they’ll be ready for the next level. When they’ve gotten the hang of it, they’ll have a good time learning about their peers.

When used as a fun activity in an English class, Pictionary can be a great way to teach vocabulary. The game is based on a point system, where teams earn points for correctly drawing a word and defining, illustrating, and connecting it to other course content. Students should adjust the rules of the game for different age groups and artistic levels. Students can also generate a list of vocabulary terms that challenge them and choose words that are challenging for them to learn.

To play Pictionary as a fun activity for an English class high school, students should prepare a sheet of paper with six columns. At the top of each column, students should write the word they wish to draw. Then, they should pass the colored marker to the next team member, who will then write the word. The remaining students will try to guess the word. For fun, students can make a list of vocabulary words that relate to the topic.

Pictionary is a fun game for all students and can be used for different age groups. Young children, teenagers, and adults alike enjoy playing this game. Using the game in an English class high school is an excellent way to reinforce vocabulary and improve students’ memory skills. Using a set of Pictionary cards and a board, teachers can create a classroom activity that incorporates vocabulary and other skills.

The game can also be used to teach prepositions of movement. It is best played in a small group of five or six students, so that each team is tested on its vocabulary. For the best results, prepare the game beforehand by providing 20 common items. You can also use backpack items that are commonly found in the classroom to create a fun game. However, you should remember to keep the game quiet and monitor students closely.

To play Pictionary as a fun activity for an English class high school, students can divide themselves into teams. The aim of the game is to guess a word within three minutes. Correct answers earn points, and the team with the most points wins. Once students have mastered the game, they’ll be begging their teachers to play it again. With enough time, the game can be repeated as many times as necessary.

Another way to introduce Pictionary to your students is by making a game that tests their drawing ability. Students can practice their skills in drawing while they’re learning vocabulary in the classroom. Pictionary can also be a great way to introduce the concept of critical thinking in an English class. In addition to playing the game, students can also use it to encourage creativity. When paired in a group, the students can practice their writing and communication skills by creating stories that engage the class.

Related posts:

  • Why English is the Best Language to Learn?
  • Top 5 Classroom Games For Teaching English
  • Creative English Activities For Students
  • English Class Activity Ideas – How to Use Games to Warm Up and Cool Down Your Students?

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20 One-Pager Examples, Plus Advice for Using Them With Your Students

A single page of notes can be a real game-changer.

Collage of One-Pager Examples

One-pagers and Sketchnotes have become incredibly popular in recent years, and it’s easy to see why. Rather than just jotting down words on a page, students use one-pagers to visually represent key points and takeaways. They’re fun to create and have a real impact on memory and comprehension. Here’s how to use them, plus lots of terrific one-pager examples to inspire you and your students.

What Are One-Pagers?

The Hunger Games one-pager with illustrations and text

Source: Chomping at the Lit

One-pagers invite students to think deeply about a text and produce a single page to represent its most important aspects. They usually include some images, doodles, or other graphic elements, giving them the alternate name Sketchnotes . One-pagers are often full of color and may include more images than words, depending on the student. They’re most commonly used in ELA classrooms but can be helpful in other subjects too.

This note-taking concept was pioneered by AVID , a group that seeks to prepare all students for college. As one-pagers caught on, teachers found that students who used one-pagers made a deeper connection to the text and had better retention of key concepts. AVID’s guidelines encourage students to share their one-pagers with one another, helping to inspire learning in a variety of visual ways.

How To Get Started With One-Pagers

One pager examples using a variety of templates

Source: Spark Creativity

One problem teachers face when encouraging kids to use one-pagers is that some students don’t feel “artistic” enough. They may also not know where to start. When teaching kids to use Sketchnote one-pagers, provide more direction at first. Start by showing kids one-pager examples (see below). Ask what they notice about these Sketchnotes. Some characteristics they might note:

  • The information and images fill the whole page.
  • They’re colorful and full of illustrations.
  • The illustrations don’t need to be expert, they just help emphasize a connection.
  • Words are carefully chosen to highlight key concepts.

Some kids will take the idea and run with it right off the bat. Others will need a little more help. In this case, offering one-pager templates like these from Spark Creativity can really help.

You can also share these specific directions from AVID , which provide guidance on what to include on each page. Giving students a clear list of what to cover will increase confidence and free them up to be creative. For example, in English Language Arts, you might ask students to:

  • Sketch one visual symbol that represents the text’s main theme.
  • Write out two quotations that show the author’s style.
  • Include a sketch and a sentence representing the setting.
  • Make connections between the text and current events using sketches and text.
  • Examine one or two main characters and their development.
  • Identify three symbols through sketches or text.
  • Include a statement about one thing they connected with in the reading.

One-Pager Examples and Ideas

Here are some outstanding one-pager examples on a variety of texts and topics. Note the incredible array of styles, which you can use to remind kids that there’s no one right way to use Sketchnotes. Encourage them to be creative!

Simple DNA One-Pager

Simple one-pager sketchnotes for DNA, with illustrations of terms like helicase, primase, and ligase (One-Pager Examples)

Source: @sciencelessonsthatrock

We like this one-pager example because it shows students that you don’t need to be an expert artist to create something meaningful.

Poetry One-Pager

One-pager of notes for the Wordsworth poem I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud, with illustrations of daffodils and notes about personification and memory

Source: @prestoplans

Here’s an example of how a template can provide students with strong guidance to get them started. This one-pager has more words than illustrations, but it’s still colorful and engaging.

Digital One-Pager

Digital one-pager on the importance of setting in The Uprising, with digital images and text (One-Pager Examples)

Source: @readitwriteitlearnit

One-pagers can go digital too! Try a whiteboard tool like Jamboard to make the process easy.

The Outsiders One-Pagers

Digital one-pager for The Outsiders with clip art and text (One-Pager Examples)

Source: @wonderingwithmrswatto, The Outsiders

The Outsiders one-pager with hand-written notes added to a clip-art template

Source: @wonderingwithmrswatto, Digital The Outsiders

Take a look at these two different one-pager examples, one handwritten and one digital—and both effective!

Symbols One-Pager

Symbols one-pagers with drawings of symbols from texts and handwritten descriptions

Source: @studyallknight

Here’s another terrific way to use a template. Students can sketch the symbol, then add in handwritten notes for more info.

Beowulf One-Pager

Beowulf one-pager with illustration of man fighting a dragon (One-Pager Examples)

Source: @gretazefo

This note-taking option really gives artistic students a chance to shine! Just make sure they add enough information (graphic or text) to help them make connections with what they’ve read.

The Great Gatsby One-Pager

The Great Gatsby one-pager with illustrations of major characters and quotes (One-Pager Examples)

Source: @mrsreganreads

Sketching characters from books can bring them to life for readers. Highlight a few quotes that truly express their personalities.

Power Profiles One-Pager

A variety of colorful Power Profiles one-pagers

Source: @laumom

Students can use one-pagers to demonstrate what they know. They make interesting alternatives to essays or book reports.

Because of Winn-Dixie One-Pagers

A bulletin board of one-pagers on Because of Winn-Dixie all using the same basic template (One-Pager Examples)

Source: @enrichingelementary

Note that although each student used the same basic template (hand-drawn too, so don’t worry about making copies!), they each created something different and meaningful to themselves.

Fahrenheit 451 One-Pager

Fahrenheit 451 one-pager with basic illustrations (One-Pagers Examples)

Source: @mudandinkteaching

Encourage students to add at least some images to their Sketchnotes, even if they’re as simple as stick figures or outlines. This engages different parts of the brain than just writing words does, and it deepens recall.

Letter From Birmingham Jail One-Pager

Letter from a Birmingham Jail one-pager with illustrations and handwritten text (One-Pager Examples)

Source: @thehodgenator

Even when writing text, try to use a variety of colors and styles for emphasis. Just shading a background can draw the eye to something important.

Geography One-Pager

One-pager comparing the geography of India and China

Source: @wmscl4

One-pagers are terrific for comparing and contrasting information, like this one comparing how geography affects the lives of people in China and India.

The Running Dream One-Pager

The Running Dream one-pager with a word cloud and illustrations (One-Pager Examples)

Source: @mayor_james

We love the idea of adding a word cloud to a one-pager! If you’re making a digital version, try these word cloud generators .

Intro One-Pager

One-pager introducing a person, with interesting facts, hobbies, and more (One-Pager Examples)

Source: @nowsparkcreativity

One-pagers are such a fun way to do a getting-to-know-you activity on the first day of class.

Frayer Model Vocab One-Pager

Vocab one pager using the Frayer model for the word

Source: @missjackiesroom

The Frayer model graphic organizer is a terrific lead-in to more creative one-pagers, and a nice way to get students more comfortable with the format.

Inaugural Address One-Pager

A one-pager analyzing Barack Obama's 2008 Inaugural Address

Source: @mrsprzbooks

The main image choice can set the tone for an entire one-pager analysis.

USA One-Pager

United States of America one-pager graphic organizer with images, dates, and more

Source: Teach With Tina

Don’t be afraid to try one-pagers in any class, for any topic!

Want to share more one-pager examples or ask for advice? Join the conversation in the WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook .

Plus, get our free reading comprehension strategies bundle ..

20 One-Pager Examples, Plus Advice for Using Them With Your Students

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Our 2020-21 Writing Curriculum for Middle and High School

A flexible, seven-unit program based on the real-world writing found in newspapers, from editorials and reviews to personal narratives and informational essays.

”<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/07/17/books/review/17snider.html">The Writer’s Retreat</a>,” originally published in The New York Times Book Review in 2014.

Update, Aug. 3, 2023: Find our 2023-24 writing curriculum here.

Our 2019-20 Writing Curriculum is one of the most popular new features we’ve ever run on this site, so, of course, we’re back with a 2020-21 version — one we hope is useful whether you’re teaching in person , online , indoors , outdoors , in a pod , as a homeschool , or in some hybrid of a few of these.

The curriculum detailed below is both a road map for teachers and an invitation to students. For teachers, it includes our writing prompts, mentor texts, contests and lesson plans, and organizes them all into seven distinct units. Each focuses on a different genre of writing that you can find not just in The Times but also in all kinds of real-world sources both in print and online.

But for students, our main goal is to show young people they have something valuable to say, and to give those voices a global audience. That’s always been a pillar of our site, but this year it is even more critical. The events of 2020 will define this generation, and many are living through them isolated from their ordinary communities, rituals and supports. Though a writing curriculum can hardly make up for that, we hope that it can at least offer teenagers a creative outlet for making sense of their experiences, and an enthusiastic audience for the results. Through the opportunities for publication woven throughout each unit, we want to encourage students to go beyond simply being media consumers to become creators and contributors themselves.

So have a look, and see if you can find a way to include any of these opportunities in your curriculum this year, whether to help students document their lives, tell stories, express opinions, investigate ideas, or analyze culture. We can’t wait to hear what your students have to say!

Each unit includes:

Writing prompts to help students try out related skills in a “low stakes” way.

We publish two writing prompts every school day, and we also have thematic collections of more than 1,000 prompts published in the past. Your students might consider responding to these prompts on our site and using our public forums as a kind of “rehearsal space” for practicing voice and technique.

Daily opportunities to practice writing for an authentic audience.

If a student submits a comment on our site, it will be read by Times editors, who approve each one before it gets published. Submitting a comment also gives students an audience of fellow teenagers from around the world who might read and respond to their work. Each week, we call out our favorite comments and honor dozens of students by name in our Thursday “ Current Events Conversation ” feature.

Guided practice with mentor texts .

Each unit we publish features guided practice lessons, written directly to students, that help them observe, understand and practice the kinds of “craft moves” that make different genres of writing sing. From how to “show not tell” in narratives to how to express critical opinions , quote or paraphrase experts or craft scripts for podcasts , we have used the work of both Times journalists and the teenage winners of our contests to show students techniques they can emulate.

“Annotated by the Author” commentaries from Times writers — and teenagers.

As part of our Mentor Texts series , we’ve been asking Times journalists from desks across the newsroom to annotate their articles to let students in on their writing, research and editing processes, and we’ll be adding more for each unit this year. Whether it’s Science writer Nicholas St. Fleur on tiny tyrannosaurs , Opinion writer Aisha Harris on the cultural canon , or The Times’s comics-industry reporter, George Gene Gustines, on comic books that celebrate pride , the idea is to demystify journalism for teenagers. This year, we’ll be inviting student winners of our contests to annotate their work as well.

A contest that can act as a culminating project .

Over the years we’ve heard from many teachers that our contests serve as final projects in their classes, and this curriculum came about in large part because we want to help teachers “plan backwards” to support those projects.

All contest entries are considered by experts, whether Times journalists, outside educators from partner organizations, or professional practitioners in a related field. Winning means being published on our site, and, perhaps, in the print edition of The New York Times.

Webinars and our new professional learning community (P.L.C.).

For each of the seven units in this curriculum, we host a webinar featuring Learning Network editors as well as teachers who use The Times in their classrooms. Our webinars introduce participants to our many resources and provide practical how-to’s on how to use our prompts, mentor texts and contests in the classroom.

New for this school year, we also invite teachers to join our P.L.C. on teaching writing with The Times , where educators can share resources, strategies and inspiration about teaching with these units.

Below are the seven units we will offer in the 2020-21 school year.


Unit 1: Documenting Teenage Lives in Extraordinary Times

This special unit acknowledges both the tumultuous events of 2020 and their outsized impact on young people — and invites teenagers to respond creatively. How can they add their voices to our understanding of what this historic year will mean for their generation?

Culminating in our Coming of Age in 2020 contest, the unit helps teenagers document and respond to what it’s been like to live through what one Times article describes as “a year of tragedy, of catastrophe, of upheaval, a year that has inflicted one blow after another, a year that has filled the morgues, emptied the schools, shuttered the workplaces, swelled the unemployment lines and polarized the electorate.”

A series of writing prompts, mentor texts and a step-by-step guide will help them think deeply and analytically about who they are, how this year has impacted them, what they’d like to express as a result, and how they’d like to express it. How might they tell their unique stories in ways that feel meaningful and authentic, whether those stories are serious or funny, big or small, raw or polished?

Though the contest accepts work across genres — via words and images, video and audio — all students will also craft written artist’s statements for each piece they submit. In addition, no matter what genre of work students send in, the unit will use writing as a tool throughout to help students brainstorm, compose and edit. And, of course, this work, whether students send it to us or not, is valuable far beyond the classroom: Historians, archivists and museums recommend that we all document our experiences this year, if only for ourselves.


Unit 2: The Personal Narrative

While The Times is known for its award-winning journalism, the paper also has a robust tradition of publishing personal essays on topics like love , family , life on campus and navigating anxiety . And on our site, our daily writing prompts have long invited students to tell us their stories, too. Our 2019 collection of 550 Prompts for Narrative and Personal Writing is a good place to start, though we add more every week during the school year.

In this unit we draw on many of these resources, plus some of the 1,000-plus personal essays from the Magazine’s long-running Lives column , to help students find their own “short, memorable stories ” and tell them well. Our related mentor-text lessons can help them practice skills like writing with voice , using details to show rather than tell , structuring a narrative arc , dropping the reader into a scene and more. This year, we’ll also be including mentor text guided lessons that use the work of the 2019 student winners.

As a final project, we invite students to send finished stories to our Second Annual Personal Narrative Writing Contest .


Unit 3: The Review

Book reports and literary essays have long been staples of language arts classrooms, but this unit encourages students to learn how to critique art in other genres as well. As we point out, a cultural review is, of course, a form of argumentative essay. Your class might be writing about Lizzo or “ Looking for Alaska ,” but they still have to make claims and support them with evidence. And, just as they must in a literature essay, they have to read (or watch, or listen to) a work closely; analyze it and understand its context; and explain what is meaningful and interesting about it.

In our Mentor Texts series , we feature the work of Times movie , restaurant , book and music critics to help students understand the elements of a successful review. In each one of these guided lessons, we also spotlight the work of teenage contest winners from previous years.

As a culminating project, we invite students to send us their own reviews of a book, movie, restaurant, album, theatrical production, video game, dance performance, TV show, art exhibition or any other kind of work The Times critiques.


Unit 4: Informational Writing

Informational writing is the style of writing that dominates The New York Times as well as any other traditional newspaper you might read, and in this unit we hope to show students that it can be every bit as engaging and compelling to read and to write as other genres. Via thousands of articles a month — from front-page reporting on politics to news about athletes in Sports, deep data dives in The Upshot, recipes in Cooking, advice columns in Style and long-form investigative pieces in the magazine — Times journalists find ways to experiment with the genre to intrigue and inform their audiences.

This unit invites students to take any STEM-related discovery, process or idea that interests them and write about it in a way that makes it understandable and engaging for a general audience — but all the skills we teach along the way can work for any kind of informational writing. Via our Mentor Texts series, we show them how to hook the reader from the start , use quotes and research , explain why a topic matters and more. This year we’ll be using the work of the 2020 student winners for additional mentor text lessons.

At the end of the unit, we invite teenagers to submit their own writing to our Second Annual STEM writing contest to show us what they’ve learned.


Unit 5: Argumentative Writing

The demand for evidence-based argumentative writing is now woven into school assignments across the curriculum and grade levels, and you couldn’t ask for better real-world examples than what you can find in The Times Opinion section .

This unit will, like our others, be supported with writing prompts, mentor-text lesson plans, webinars and more. We’ll also focus on the winning teenage writing we’ve received over the six years we’ve run our related contest.

At a time when media literacy is more important than ever, we also hope that our annual Student Editorial Contest can serve as a final project that encourages students to broaden their information diets with a range of reliable sources, and learn from a variety of perspectives on their chosen issue.

To help students working from home, we also have an Argumentative Unit for Students Doing Remote Learning .

Unit 6: Writing for Podcasts

Most of our writing units so far have all asked for essays of one kind or another, but this spring contest invites students to do what journalists at The Times do every day: make multimedia to tell a story, investigate an issue or communicate a concept.

Our annual podcast contest gives students the freedom to talk about anything they want in any form they like. In the past we’ve had winners who’ve done personal narratives, local travelogues, opinion pieces, interviews with community members, local investigative journalism and descriptions of scientific discoveries.

As with all our other units, we have supported this contest with great examples from The Times and around the web, as well as with mentor texts by teenagers that offer guided practice in understanding elements and techniques.


Unit 7: Independent Reading and Writing

At a time when teachers are looking for ways to offer students more “voice and choice,” this unit, based on our annual summer contest, offers both.

Every year since 2010 we have invited teenagers around the world to add The New York Times to their summer reading lists and, so far, 70,000 have. Every week for 10 weeks, we ask participants to choose something in The Times that has sparked their interest, then tell us why. At the end of the week, judges from the Times newsroom pick favorite responses, and we publish them on our site.

And we’ve used our Mentor Text feature to spotlight the work of past winners , explain why newsroom judges admired their thinking, and provide four steps to helping any student write better reader-responses.

Because this is our most open-ended contest — students can choose whatever they like, and react however they like — it has proved over the years to be a useful place for young writers to hone their voices, practice skills and take risks . Join us!


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