Twisted Fairy Tales – Creative Writing Ideas for Secondary ESL Learners



For years, I have toyed with the idea of replacing my Halloween-themed TV show episodes I usually give around Halloween with activities offering more rigour and creativity. I have always thought of Halloween as being the best day to reward my students with a TV show, however, I have decided to do something different with my advanced ESL learners this year. So, here are two creative writing activities that could be used around Halloween or later in the year.


Fairy tales with a dark twist – creative writing idea AROUND Halloween


In order to carry out this activity, learners will form teams of two or three students. If you have 28 students, you will have 14 or 9 teams. Each team will choose a classic fairy tale from the following options: Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, The Three Little Pigs and Snow White. It is not a problem if two or three teams are working on the same story. It will be even more interesting to see the way different teams have turned the same story into a dark fairy tale. Since this project assignment is done in teams, students should be aware that they will all receive the same grade for their story, so it is their best interest to do their best and be an active member of the team.


Students will complete the following steps:


  1. They will read the classic fairy tale.

  2. They will take note of the setting, initial situation (exposition), the characters’ personality and physical traits and their actions. They will also create a timeline of the important events. Then, they will record the conflict situations and their resolution. They will also need to take note of the ending of the story.

  3. Once they finished recording important plot elements, students will decide what aspects of the story they want to change in order to turn it into a dark fairy tale. For example, they can change the characters’ upbringing, their personality or physical traits. The innocent girl/victim/damsel in distress could become an evil and calculated persona who wants to marry the prince for his money. In the story of Cinderella, students may choose to turn the ball into a real nightmare where ghosts or evil spirits kidnap Cinderella, so the prince will descend into Hell to complete several trials to get her back. The students working on the story of the Three Little Pigs may turn the little pigs into ferocious animals and the wolf could be the brave and intelligent father or mother who does everything to protect his/her family from the pigs. Of course, students can create a gloomy atmosphere by replacing the setting with a haunted castle, dark cellar or attic. In addition, they could show decay and create a gloomy and terrifying atmosphere by using imagery: hauling wolves at night, screams coming from the attic, floors screeching at night, withered flowers in the garden, heavy rain, bone-chilling cold and thick fog hovering over the castle/forest, so on and so forth.

  4. Once learners agreed on which elements they would like to alter in the original story, they can start writing their rough draft. If you wish, you can offer feedback on their first copy or you can have the teams swap their rough draft and offer constructive feedback on another team’s work. After the peer-review session, students should integrate the comments they received from others, revise and edit their text to produce the good copy of their story.

  5. Students publish their work. You may have the teams read their text to the class.


Fairy tales with a MODERN twist – creative writing idea during the year


Students will carry out this creative project the same way as the previous activity. However, instead of turning a classic fairy tale into a dark story, learners will need to adapt it and turn it into a modern fairy tale. After reading the story and taking notes of the important elements of the text, students may choose to replace the characters with teenagers who are struggling with different social issues. For instance, the ball room in the story of Cinderella could become a prom night or homecoming night, the prince or princess could be the rich spoiled teen who needs an important life lesson to learn, the three little pigs could become three brothers who are trying to successfully get through their senior year while fighting to stay away from bad influence represented by the wolf, that could be the symbol of drug use or bad habits these teenagers are fighting to break. The possibilities are endless.

I hope these creative writing project ideas will help you to put a twist on your writing lessons around Halloween and all year round.  If you have any engaging creative writing ideas your students love working on, please share them in the comments section below.


Happy teaching!


Kynga C.

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