Exploring a Local Community Through Writing: Examples of Writing Assignments

In my June blog, I described several writing projects that teachers can implement to help students become familiar with their local academic environment (campus, institution, or program). In this post, I will expand the list of writing tasks aimed at helping students socialize in their local communities by adding writing assignments that will give students a chance to become involved in their local social environment (i.e., city or town).

Here are some ideas for your writing students:

  • Attend an event (e.g., festival, fair, cultural celebration, sporting event, concert) sponsored by the local community and write a paper reporting on this experience.
  • Write a paragraph/paper analyzing one of the current issues in the local community. In addition to analysis, they could describe one of the current issues in the local community and propose a solution or a series of solutions.
  • Ask them to think of an area in their local town or city that could be improved. This area might be a single building such as the city library or a school, or it could be a larger area such as the city square, a park, downtown, or a certain street. Students could describe current problems they see with this area (e.g., insufficient parking, unclean conditions) and propose solutions to these problems.
  • Explore local businesses (e.g., companies and stores) and write a response to the following question: What effects (if any) does globalization have on local businesses?
  • Explore local restaurants, grocery stores, clubs, organizations, churches, and schools and write a paper describing the effects of globalization on (choose one): (1) local food and dining industry, (2) social life, and (3) religion and education.
  • Examine products in the local grocery store and write a comparative paper describing similarities and differences between local products and products in their home countries.
  • Analyze an article in a local newspaper, newsletter, or magazine.
  • Visit a local museum, library, or exhibit hall and write a reflective piece on their experience.
  • Write an opinion paper on cleaning and recycling measures (or lack thereof) undertaken by the local city administration.
  • Volunteer in an event sponsored by the local community and describe their experience.
  • Examine menus from local restaurants and write a paper discussing whether or not they believe the restaurants cater to diverse populations of customers.
  • Write a review on their favorite restaurant in town. The review might include type of restaurant, menu, price range, food quality, atmosphere, service, and student’s own experience.
  • Examine menus from local restaurants and write a paper about whether or not restaurants offer healthy choices for customers (generally speaking). Students could also offer suggestions on how to provide more nutritious options for the public.
  • You could invite a guest speaker from a local organization, club, or supporting services and ask students to write a paper about this visit. The prompt and the genre of the paper will depend on the topic or nature of the presentation.
  • Interview a representative of a local club, organization, or supporting services and write an interview report.
  • You could organize a photo contest in which each student submits a photo titled “How I See This Town,” along with a paragraph describing what the photo represents.
  • Write a short paper-advertisement (aimed at tourists coming to your area) describing (choose one): (1) shopping opportunities, (2) performance arts and culture, (3) family activities, (4) recreation, (5) dining options, (6) outdoors opportunities, (7) sporting events, and (8) nightlife. Students could use the city website (if applicable) to gather the information, or you could bring brochures and flyers from the local visitor center.
  • Create a one-, two-, or three-day itinerary for tourists and visitors. Similar to the previous task, students could use the city website (if applicable), or you could bring brochures and flyers from the local visitor center.
  • Describe their favorite attraction in town explaining why they like it and why it is a must-see for all tourists.
  • Visit a local gift shop, examine the gifts for sale, and write a reflective paper on how these gifts may represent the city, town, or area, and why they might be memorable for visitors.
  • Explore a historical building in the city, look up factual information online (if available), and write a summary briefly describing the history of the building project, the materials, and the interior and exterior of the building.

These writing tasks can be adapted to your local environment, the level of your students, and your teaching objectives.

Apart from helping students develop their writing skills, these assignments will also allow students to become more familiar with the local community. They can be fun and motivating because students have a chance to participate in some local events and organizations and get involved in the life of the community.

If you have suggestions on how to engage students in the local community through writing projects, please share your ideas.

About Elena Shvidko

Elena Shvidko
Elena Shvidko is an assistant professor at Utah State University. She received her doctorate in second language studies from Purdue University and her master’s degree in TESOL from Brigham Young University. Her work appears in TESOL Journal, System, Journal on Response to Writing, TESOL interest section newsletters, and TESOL's New Ways series. Her research interests include second language writing, multimodal interaction, interpersonal aspects of language teaching, and teacher professional development.
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4 Responses to Exploring a Local Community Through Writing: Examples of Writing Assignments

  1. Golden Thrower says:

    Hello Ms. Shvidko:
    Thank you kindly for sharing your article.
    This really comes in to place with the new project-based curriculum that my university will start in September…hopefully. Most instructors in my IEP are not familiar with project-base curricula, therefore, your outline would be an excellent reference for them to refer to.

    Thank you again for the article

  2. Md Ahammadpasha says:

    Very nice information

  3. Jani Reddy Pandiri says:

    Thank Elena for wonderful ideas. This kind of assignments will definitely help students understand their community and become more informed about their community. These kind of assignments would help them to Integrate the the knowledge and skills they have learn from schools. It also gives lot of fun in learning.

  4. Anabella Demarchi says:

    Great suggestions! I’m thinking about ways of adapting these tasks to lower level students. Any suggestions?