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August 2018
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Exploring Community Through Writing: Class Activities
by Elena Shvidko

In second language writing teaching, there are countless writing projects that teachers can implement to help students become familiar with their local academic environment (campus, institution, or program; see my July 6 TESOL Blog post for some project ideas). Here, I provide a 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, describe one of the current issues in the local community and propose a solution or a series of solutions.
  • Think of an area in your 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 your 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 your experience.
  • Examine menus from local restaurants and write a paper
    • discussing whether or not you believe the restaurants cater to diverse populations of customers.
    • about whether or not restaurants offer healthy choices for customers (generally speaking). You could also offer suggestions on how to provide more nutritious options for the public.
  • Write a review on your favorite restaurant in town. The review might include type of restaurant, menu, price range, food quality, atmosphere, service, and your own experience.
  • 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):
    • shopping opportunities
    • performance arts and culture
    • family activities
    • recreation
    • dining options
    • outdoors opportunities
    • sporting events, and
    • 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 1-, 2-, or 3-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 your favorite attraction in town explaining why you 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 on my TESOL Blog.

*A version of this article first appeared on the TESOL Blog, 13 July 2018.


Elena Shvidko is an assistant professor at Utah State University. Her work appears in TESOL Journal, System, Journal on Response to Writing, TESL Canada Journal, Journal of Pragmatics, 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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Connected Speech in Real-World Spoken English for ELs: Part 1
Exploring Community Through Writing: Class Activities
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