40 New ESL Essay Writing Topics + Prompts for Your Next Class

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Writing ESL essay writing is hard for most students and many will struggle at first before learning to write well.

However, writing skills are a crucial part of learning a new language

In this piece, we’ll share some ESL writing prompts and ESL essay topics for five different kinds of essays. They should help your students develop their grammar and vocabulary skills, while teaching the how to write coherently.

(While they work for all kinds of students, we’ve found these topics are especially handy for teaching English to kids.) 

Writing practice should never be boring! When you’re done this article, check out the 10 most engaging writing activities here.

Descriptive ESL Writing Topics

  • Describe your favorite place in as much detail as possible.
  • Describe your favorite fictional character in as much detail as possible.
  • Describe a famous person – e.g. a singer or athlete – that you admire. Focus on both their appearance and personal traits.
  • Describe a family member or your best friend as detailed as possible. Discuss how they look and their personality.  
  • Choose a hobby or favorite activity and describe why and how you do it. 
  • Describe your most memorable holiday or vacation spot in as much detail as possible.
  • Describe a photo or work of art in as much detail as possible.
  • Pick your favorite food. Describe what you taste, smell and sense while eating or drinking it. 


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Explanatory ESL Essay Topics

  • Give directions for getting from one point to another. For example, how to get from your home to your school. Describe the landmarks someone might see along the way.
  • Explain how to cook your favorite meal. Provide a recipe and the step-by-step instructions.
  • Explain your favorite computer game. What should a player do to win? What are some playing tips?
  • Explain what you would do if your friends show up at your house unexpectedly. Say how you would entertain them. 
  • Explain how to make a bed. This task is seemingly simple, but allows you to write about everyday habits you might never think through in detail. 
  • Explain how to make a paper airplane. Again, this task has many precise, technical details that that should be included in the essay. 
  • Explain how to brush your teeth. Try to make your essay about a seemingly mundane task more interesting. 
  • Explain how to pack a suitcase when going for a holiday. List out all the objects and pieces of clothing you would bring. 

ESL Essays Topics to Practice Verb Tenses

essay topics

  • Talk about a time in the past when you had to make a difficult decision. Explain what you did  and why.
  • Describe your dream place to live. Why would you want to live there? What would you do?
  • Write about three specific goals you want to achieve this year. Explain how you are going to achieve them.
  • Write about something you regret having done. Point out what could have happened if you had not made that decision.
  • Describe the world 100 years from now. Describe how people live, and new inventions and also the things that will not change.
  • Talk about your earliest memory. What happened? How well do you remember the events?
  • Write a short essay about how you prepared for class. Now “translate” that essay into future tense. In other words, the essay should say how you plan to prepare for class.  

Argumentative ESL Essay Topics

argumentative ESL essay topics

  • Are smartphones good or bad? Give some arguments to support your position.
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of public schools and private schools?
  • What is your favorite book or movie? Convince others, through your essay, to read or watch it. 
  • Is it the case that the more people that have cars, the better? What are some advantages and disadvantages of public transit
  • Should money be spent on space exploration? Give arguments to support your opinion.
  • You’re the mayor of your town or city. Explain in an essay your recent decision to ban smoking. Then, from another person’s perspective, write a letter to the mayor protesting this new law. 
  • Reading books vs. watching movies. Which do you prefer and why?
  • What are the pros and cons of e-readers compared to paper books?

Hypothetical ESL Essay Topics

  • What would you do if you were late for an important class?
  • What would you do if your car got a flat tire on the highway?
  • If you had the power to change one thing about your past, what would it be?
  • If you had the power to alter one major historical event, what would it be?
  • If your could take any superhero’s powers, who would is your choice?
  • How would you feel if, one day, you woke up 300 years in the past?
  • What would you do if you won the lottery? Would your life change day-to-day?

essay topics

Some General ESL Essay Tips

When checking ESL essays, pay attention to the following key points:

  1. Grammar. The ESL essay should be grammatically correct.
  2. Vocabulary. The more new vocabulary the essay contains, the more points it will get.
  3. Text flow. The text of the essay should flow logically and naturally. Pay attention to the use of connecting words and phrases. These include first of all, secondly, moreover, in addition, besides, finally, on the one hand, on the other hand, and as a result.
  4. Sticking to the topic. Some essay writers tend to deviate from ESL essay topics. However, a perfect ESL essay should stay as close to the point as possible.

A good essay typically has the following parts:

  1. An introduction. Here, the author gives some general information about the topic or lays out their argument. An effective intro entices readers to read further. 
  2. The body. In an argumentative essay, the body could be 2 to 3 paragraphs. Each should introduce their arguments and support them with examples. In other types of essays, the content may vary. For example, the body may include descriptions, explanations or personal stories.
  3. Conclusion. The author should logically conclude or summarize their thoughts and arguments.

How Do You Teach Writing?

It doesn’t matter if you teach English online or if you’re a classroom teacher, we want to know about your teaching styles. Do you use writing prompts, games and activities, or something else entirely.

Please leave your favorite methods in the comment section below.