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


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.


  1. Teaching writing was one of my favorite subjects when I taught Kindergarten. It was a thrill to see how the students made progress over the course of one year. It was important that the children wrote often and in all subjects, MATH, SCIENCE, SOCIAL STUDIES AND ART! They loved making little books and using voice bubbles. They also enjoyed cutting apart sentences that I had printed off to complete books. I think WRITING is one of the things I miss most about teaching Kindergarten.

  2. I’ve taugh”t a lot of ESL writing. One of my favorite assignments is based on John Updike’s 1956 essay, “Central Park.” In the essay, Updike talks about a visit to Central Park and describes what he saw. After students read the essay and we discuss it, we take a closer look at the grammar — the piece is great for teaching verb tensed, participial phrases, etc.

    After studying the essay together, I take students to a public place and have them walk around and observe, taking notes about interesting things they see, then they have to write an essay similar to Updike’s. (When I taught this to my students in Nanchang, Jiangxi, we went to the market nearby. Some of the patrons at the market were suspicious — they thought the students were reporting on them!)

  3. How I teach writing depends greatly on the age of the student and his or her current language skills.

    Just today, in another ELL position I hold, I was working with a six-year old who had great verbal skills and is at a typical first-grade level for his reading and writing. He has been in the states since last August and is acquiring English skills at a very quick level. Today we began a writing project together. After a discussion yesterday he decided that he wants to write a story about a whale and a shark.

    So today we spend about 20 minutes on “His Book.” I had brought along large pages of flip-chart paper and “smelly” markers, which he loves. He drew the picture that will be the cover of his book and he told me his story. I asked him questions to help him expand on his ideas. He was absolutely engaged in our activity. I was able to assist him with pronunciation and conversation skills. I left him with a “homework assignment.”

    Tomorrow he has to be able to tell me what was taking place for the one man in the story, as well as the whale and the shark BEFORE we met them in his picture. I will also have him write about five lines describing the scene in the picture. And we will end our book-writing time together with him drawing another illustration about what will happen next in his story.

    Essentially, each day I will have him tell me a bit more about the story, write five to eight sentences and draw the next scene.

    I will then work with him to edit his draft and re-write his story neatly. I will resize his illustrations and create an actual book of his work. He is very excited about the project and I believe we will have a great opportunity to work on his writing, listening and speaking skills.

  4. I use a prompt for my students and often give them a choice between 2-3 prompts. They have some structure to work with, but they still have a choice on what to write about.


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