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Get creative: offline and online projects for language learners

April 28, 2020 by Nóra Wünsch-Nagy

Creative projects, when designed well, can be exciting and motivating for language learners. Setting up the right amount of workload and giving all tasks a meaningful purpose is as important for creative projects as for any other language learning activity. In this blog post, we will look at some common aspects of successful projects, and then give you five project ideas.

Successful creative projects

1 Define your purpose

When we look at creative activities and projects, an approachable and practical way is to think about them through the skills and tools they activate. Of course we want our students to use language, feel good and do something inspiring. But we also need to make sure that they know WHY we are doing a creative project so the first thing to do is to share your learning purpose with the students. Do we want them to practise writing narratives? Maybe we want to engage them in speaking tasks or improve their digital skills? How can they use the skills they practise in this project in other areas?

2 Make sure the resources are available

When you share a project with your students, think about the availability of the materials they need to use. For example, instead of saying use English-language magazines for a reading task or use Spotify for listening to songs, define larger categories so that they can really get creative. You can recommend simply ‘magazines’ or ‘music’. 

3 Think about offline projects

Creative projects should not be exclusively carried out online. Students can share findings and results online, but encourage your groups to keep offline records (diary, poster, scrapbook) and show them to the group in class or online.

4 Time is of the essence

This golden rule is especially true about creative projects. If you would like to encourage your students to do research and collect ideas, these projects need time. Sometimes a two-week deadline, or even a longer one can be more successful than several shorter deadlines. This also helps students organise and structure their time, which is a useful skill to learn.

Creative language projects

1 Tiny, happy things

This project idea is inspired by the illustrated children’s book Tiny, Perfect Things by M.H. Clark and artist Madeline Kloepper. Ask students to collect small things that make them feel good and write them down in a diary (offline) or in a document/on Padlet/Google doc (online). 

Lower-level students can collect simple words and sentences or even images with captions. Higher-level students can write diary entries, a blog or poems using the words they collect. 

Ask students to pay attention to tiny details and look for them in the dictionary. For example, what are the names of the flowers that grow in their gardens or in the nearest park? What is their favourite moment of the day?

The Three Seeds pages 12-13
A happy moment in a garden. Illustration by Maria Sole Macchia in The Three Seeds by Herbert Puchta and Günter Gerngross. © Helbling Languages

This activity is good for practising observation skills, creative writing and vocabulary development. It also helps students focus on the good things.

2 Read for creative writing

Choose a graded reader story - either a classic adaptation or an original story - and ask your students to read it. 

When the students have read the stories, ask them to select their favourite character. Then, working in pairs, they can write a letter to another student from the perspective of that character about how they feel about an event, what they are planning to do, and so on. They can send the letters as a photograph, in a document, or they can even read them out, or record them.

For more on the idea of writing and sharing letters, check out the YouTube channel Letters Live and join the campaign.

This activity is good for collecting information from texts and creative writing. It also helps students see events from different perspectives.

3 Tell a story with emojis

Send a story to your students (if possible, the ‘translation’ of a classic tale or novel) in emojis. It is their job to ‘translate’ the story into English.

Think about classic tales like Little Red Riding Hood, classic children’s books like Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie, or well-known plays like Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare!

You can use Emojipedia to find emojis: simply copy and paste them from the page.

Difficult version

Here is an example showing a summary of Little Red Riding Hood:

 👧🟥🧥🍰 🌲 🌲 🌲🌳🌳🌳 👧🗪🪓🧔⚠️ 🌲 🌲🌳🌳 👧🗪🐺 🌲 🌳 🌲 

This is a simple rewriting of the emoji story:

'Once upon a time, there was a little girl in a red coat with a hood, Little Red Riding Hood, who had some cakes. She went to the forest and met a man who warned her. Then she met a wolf.'

Easier version

You can also use the graded reader text, and substitute some of the text with emojis. Your students can guess the missing words. For example:

'This is a story about a little 👧. She's got a 🟥 riding 🧥 with a hood. Her name is Little 🟥 Riding Hood. Her mother is making some 🍰. "Are they for us?" says Little Red 🟥 Hood. "No," says 👩. "They're for 👵".

Little Red Riding Hood is walking in the 🌲 🌲 🌲🌳🌳🌳.'

Then, your students can read the text in graded reader editions and compare it with their own stories.

Ask your students to do one for you. This is great practise for essential study skills (finding the main points in a lesson/topic) and summary writing.

4 Cooking in English

Let’s do something fun for the whole family. Ask your students to choose a typical recipe from an English-speaking country, and prepare it at home.

A literary version of this idea is to look for dishes from famous stories! Here are our favourite recipes based on graded reader stories.


For more literary dishes, check out blog posts:

More experienced chefs can try difficult recipes, of course! You can also check out BBC Good Food for British and American recipes. Here you can find Canadian and Australian recipes, too.

Bonus idea for young learners

Young learners can do all the 10 creative projects in our Young Readers and The Thinking Train series. On the Distance Learning Support website you will find 5 stories from both series. Click on the flipbook links, and check out the last pages of the readers for creative projects students can do offline.

More resources

For collaborative online projects, check out our blog post:

You can also find more creative writing ideas in our resource book Creative Writing by Mario Rinvolucri and Christine Frank.