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13.5 Freewriting Activities

durenmgmail-com November 9, 2021

Above we looked at activities designed to develop the students’ writing, with most of the language provided. In freewriting activities, students will be able to try out their language in a way that has more freedom. The teacher will be the initiator and supporter and is responsible for seeing that the students can do their tasks without any issues.

What about correcting the students’ freewriting work? If it is possible, this should be done while the students are still working on it. The teacher should examine the work being done, perhaps at the rough copy stage, correct mistakes, and suggest possible ideas, words, etc.

Students should write in pencil and use an eraser. Teachers do not always have to correct all the errors. The goal is to create a piece of written work that is as correct as they can expect from that student. This means that the teacher may be handing back work when it is not entirely correct. The teacher may also display work that has mistakes – as long as the students see a lot of other written language, this will not matter.

Older students that are past the beginner level should be prompted to re-write their work, so the completed product is not what they hand in for a correction. The teacher should give as much help as possible to the students before the actual writing task starts and during writing. Students typically want what they write to be good, and some will not mind writing their final version out nicely once they have mastered writing mechanics. If the students are learning to write or find writing challenging, the teacher should not ask them to re-write. Like all other language exercises, writing should be pleasant.

Ideally, each student should have a folder to keep all written work in. Students can decorate their folders and learn to keep their work in order, perhaps by putting the date on what they write. If everything a student has written is in one place, both the teacher and the student can see how much improvement is being made.

Prewriting activities

The main difficulty with free writing activities seems to be going from nothing to something. Even pupils with much imagination do not always know what to write, their vocabulary is limited, and they are still not confident about writing mechanics. Below are a few warm-up activities designed to give students language, ideas, and encouragement before settling down to the writing itself.

Activity- Talking about the subject

This is a short, simple conversation about the subject, which can get ideas going and collect thoughts. With the younger students, teachers might start them off by simply asking a question:

  • ‘What did you do last night?’
  • Students can write some of the answers on the board: ‘watched TV, played football, had supper, read a story, etc.

Activity- Word stars

  1. For this exercise, the teacher will put the keyword on the blackboard. The teacher will write about pets, so he/she decides to use a dog as their keyword.
  2. Put the class into groups and challenge them to write down all the words they can think about related to dogs. Often pupils want to put in a word they do not know the English word for.
  3. The teacher should let them write it in their language and then help them fill it in, in English later.
  4. When all the groups have achieved their word stars, the teacher can do one on the blackboard for everyone. This gives the whole class not only words but also ideas about what to write.

Easy drawings or images with vocabulary sets are fun, easy to create, and always useful reminders of the words.

Activity- Topic vocabulary

Easy drawings or images with vocabulary sets are fun, easy to create, and always useful reminders of the words.

Activity- Topic vocabulary

Teachers should make use of picture dictionaries to gather vocabulary. Students can also create a picture dictionary of their own, using their themes and concepts. The aim is to give the students as many words and ideas as possible before starting the actual writing task.

Vocabulary can also be established by collecting related words. The teacher will see how many animal words they can get on the blackboard, for example.

  • The teacher will say to students: ‘Tell me two animals you like. Tell me two animals you do not like. What is the smallest animal you have seen? What is the largest animal you have seen? Tell me two animals which we do not have in this country.’

The teacher should use picture dictionaries as much as possible but allow students to use their own dictionary, which includes words they are still learning. Students do not have to remember all these words.

Activity-  Dialogue  

Dialogues provide an opportunity for reading, writing, and speaking practice. The exchanges students write, function as essential communication at every level, especially if they are spoken in advance of being written and used as reading material after they have been written. These dialogues can be about any subject.

The following dialogue is the result of pair work based on model dialogues. Speech bubbles can be very useful for both simple dialogue and for setting the scene:

The dialogue below is also the result of pair work, but a lot of work has been put in on spoken dialogue before this. This dialogue can be typed out by the teacher and used as a reading dialogue afterwards.

Activity- Descriptions

Much freewriting involves descriptions, as do dialogues, although straight image description can grow to be a little dull unless the teacher dedicates time to preparatory work. Example:

  • I can see a… I can see six…’ etc. –

We would recommend that the teacher speak about an image or a scene with the class.

  • The teacher can propose spin-offs, which can be as easy as ‘I like peanut butter’, and support a creative approach by asking leading questions like: ‘have you got …? Do you like….? have you been…? have you eaten…?’

Activity- Letters

As previously mentioned, a written letter can also be sent to the teacher, and these letters should be responded to without any remarks on the language. Some educators like to communicate with their students frequently to see how far their progress is.

When the students can write longer detailed letters, it is a great advantage if the teacher can organize contact with an English-speaking class or a class in a different country, which would also be learning English as a foreign language. Letters to fictional people are not as enjoyable as letters to actual pen-friends. Emails, class letters, and personal letters are all possible if there is contact of this kind.

Activity- Stories

Another great free writing idea is group story writing. The teacher should make sure that pupils do many prewriting activities to have something to write about and the correct word to use for what they want to say.

Teachers should give students as much help as possible during the exercise. Remember that most writing pieces are created to be read, and the finished version can be written on a reading card, in a pupil-made booklet, on a teacher-typed card, or on a piece of paper that can be hung up in the classroom.

Freewriting covers a much broader range of exercises than we have gone into here – advertisements, poems, book reviews, messages, jokes, postcards, etc. – anything which has length or substance. Writing is an exciting and fulfilling activity and is the most noticeable of the skills. Becoming a writer in a foreign language is magic – students can take pieces home; their writing can be displayed; they can look back in their folders and see how much better they can do things now. So, teachers should take time to make their writing as correct as possible:

Summary dos and don’ts on free writing


  • Try to figure out what the pupils have written.
  • Focus on content first.
  • Display the material whenever possible.
  • Keep all the pupils’ work.
  • Spend a significant amount of time on prewriting activities.
  • Make sure that it originates naturally from past language exercises.
  • Encourage, but do not insist on re-writing.


  • State the topic randomly and assume the pupils will be able to write about it.
  • Set an activity as homework without preparing the students.
  • Correct every mistake you can find.
  • Set work which is ahead of the pupils’ language capability.