Creative Writing for the ESL Classes

I have always tried to think of interesting and engaging activities for my students, in order to break the routine of ordinary classes and to keep them interested in my lessons. One of the creative writing activities that seem to work every time for my students is what I call ”the shark in the roof story”, an activity that was inspired by a photo I had discovered, accidentally, on the Internet.

Picture source:

I was, of course, amazed by the image and I started reading about it. It is, in fact, a real picture and a real house in Headington, Oxford. The owner of the house, Bill Heine, is an American who was working as a radio presenter, at the time (1986) and who comissioned this strange addition to his roof ”to express someone feeling totally impotent and ripping a hole in their roof out of a sense of impotence and anger and desperation…”, as he declared. The strange house became instantly famous and it turned into a tourist attraction. Today, it belongs to Bill Heine’s son, it has its own website ( and you can even rent it on Air BNB, if your curiosity is big enough.

After reading the information about the house, I started wondering how I could use this house in my teaching. I was sure that my students would be interested in such a subject!

And I thought about this creative writing activity, in which they are supposed to invent a story that could explain the shark stuck into the roof. The stages of the lesson plan that I have imagined for this creative writing activity are the following:

1. The students see the photo and talk about it ( ” Is it a real photo?”, ” Is it a real house?”)

2. The students use the internet on their phones in order to read about the Headington house (the teacher can send to the students the the link to the site of the house: or they can just Google it

3. The students watch the youtube video about the Headington shark house, with Bill Heine’s interview:

4. The students are asked to form teams of 3 to 5 people and to imagine a story that can explain the shark stuck in the roof (80-100 word); if you want to make the task more challenging, you can have a fix beginning/ending for the story.

5. An alternative activity would be to create a chain-story that explains the shark stuck in the roof, beginning with: ”It was a lovely sunny morning.”

This suggested lesson plan for the creative writing activity is posted on the site I have made especially for this kind of suggested activities, a site called Teaching Help: The evaluation of the activity can be a story contest (each team will present their own story in front of the class) and you can also create/print/publish a brochure with all the stories created by the students. Or you could make a Google site, on which to publish the stories.

Of course, this lesson plan is only a suggestion, you can always integrate the activity into your teaching in a different way or use something else as a warmer. It is up to your own creativity, as a teacher. What is important is to offer to your students some interesting opportunities to create in English and to do it willingly, having fun.

Bibliography/Web sources


prof. Anca Simina Bărcuteanu

Colegiul Tehnic Anghel Saligny, Baia Mare (Maramureş) , România
Profil iTeach:

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