On Campus and Beyond: From Speaking to Writing, Part 2

In my previous blog (Part 1), I provided a few suggestions on how speaking activities from two units in the ESL speaking class that I taught this summer could be adjusted and implemented in a writing course. My goal was to create materials and activities for a particular unit in relation to the local campus community and to American society in general. I call this approach “On campus and beyond.”

In today’s blog, I’d like to continue by providing suggestions of writing assignments for the other two units of the course: “Health and Well-Being” and “Cultures and Diversity.”

Health and Well-Being

On Campus

  • Activity: Students discuss campus services that help university students to maintain both physical and emotional health (e.g., student health center, student wellness center, psychological services, nutrition programs).
    • Suggestion for writing: Students can write a short report on these services, programs, and materials. Alternatively, students can also create a manual for new students including information about these services.
  • Activity: In small groups, students make a list of suggestions on how to maintain a healthy lifestyle as a student (including both mental and physical health).
    • Suggestion for writing: Students write a short “recommendation” piece for new students describing a few practical suggestions on how to keep a healthy lifestyle as a university student (including both mental and physical health).
  • Activity: Students discuss university services that help those suffering from eating disorders.
    • Suggestion for writing: Students write a “how to” piece providing a list of suggestions on how to help a friend suffering from an eating disorder.


  • Activity: Students work in pairs (or small groups) and discuss the following questions (select a few for each pair/small group):
    1. Are you a health-conscious person?
    2. In your opinion, who are the healthiest people in the world and why are they healthy?
    3. What things, in your opinion, might damage our health?
    4. Do you read articles online (newspapers, magazines) on how to stay healthy?
    5. How does eating a well-balanced diet affect our health?
    6. Have you ever given up a habit in order to improve your health?
    7. What do you do to stay healthy?
    8. How does our lifestyle affect our mental and physical health?
    9. In your opinion, do our emotions affect our health?
  • Suggestion for writing: Students choose one question and answer it in a written form (e.g., reflection piece, opinion piece).
  • Activity: Students can interview a few people (outside of the classroom), asking them about their attitudes toward nutrition labels.
    • Suggestion for writing: Students write a short piece on the topic “How to read nutrition labels effectively.”
  • Activity: Students bring to class a food label that, from their perspective, demonstrates a healthy choice, and explain why they think this particular food is healthy.
    • Suggestion for writing: The teacher assigns a nutrition label to each student (different from their own), and students write a short analysis of this label explaining whether this particular food item is a healthy choice.

 Cultures and Diversity

On campus

  • Activity: Students discuss university services and programs that aim at helping the following populations of students feel included and supported: international students, nontraditional students, students with families, students learning ESL, students of different sexual orientations, students belonging to various religions.
    • Suggestion for writing: Students write a short piece on the following prompt “Imagine that you are an administrator in a large U.S. university. What programs/services/ materials/support would you offer to international students/nontraditional students/ students with families/students learning English as a second language/ students of different sexual orientations/students belonging to various religions (choose one)?”
  • Activity: In small groups, students discuss the following question: “What does our university do to support diversity on campus?” Students are given time to work together exploring such resources. This activity requires internet access; if there is no internet access in the classroom, the teacher should prepare in advance a few printouts from the university website and give them to each group.
    • Suggestion for writing: Students write a short proposal in which they describe an event that a local university should hold to promote diversity and cultivate a safe and inclusive environment on campus.


  • Activity: In small groups, students discuss the following questions: “What problems can multiculturalism bring to the U.S.?” “Do you think the U.S. can lose its identity because of multiculturalism?”
    • Suggestions for writing
      1) Students answer these questions in a written form
      2) Students write a piece on one the following questions:
      •  Is multiculturalism good for world peace and understanding? Why or why not?
      •  Do you think media or pop culture can contribute to national stereotypes? How?
      •  What can we do to be more accepting of all people (of different genders, nationalities, races, sexual orientation, religion)?
  • Activity: Students discuss the issue of stereotypes and share examples of stereotypes that people have about Americans.
    • Suggestions for writing
      1) Students can write a short reflective piece on the topic “How to avoid stereotyping people.”
      2) The teacher creates a questionnaire that allows students to evaluate their own behavior toward others and the degree to which they respect others coming from diverse backgrounds. At the end of this questionnaire, students write a short reflective paragraph discussing the results of the questionnaire.

These activities are quite flexible and can be modified to fit your teaching situation, the proficiency level of your students, and the learning objectives of your course. I hope these suggestions can give you more ideas for your writing class.

If you have other ideas, please share!


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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2 Responses to On Campus and Beyond: From Speaking to Writing, Part 2

  1. Daniel Baskin says:

    These are some excellent teaching ideas. Thank you!

  2. Thanks for your wonderful ideas! When are you going to publish a textbook?

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