editing disabled

Two(Make it Three) Writing Instruction Strategies

1. Colorin Colorado

Colorin Colorado is a "bilingual site for families and educators of English Language Learners". They have a variety of different ELL 4-12 writing resources, lesson plans and activities to take students through. I have been in contact with one of their main contributors/online discussion leaders of the last few months. The resources found at the link above, along with another Colorin Colorado article provide classroom tested ELL strategies.
[[@Improving Writing Skills:  ELLs and the Joy of Writing|Improving Writing Skills: ELLs and the Joy of Writing]]

Another interesting practice for teaching ELLs is to apply "Code-Switching" editing techniques that have been piloted in urban schools with African American students. How do you teach written English to ELLs when it is more formal than the spoken English they are learning from their peers, classmates, and in the halls?

2. Code-switching Comparison and Contrast

Code-Switch to Teach Standard English//Rebecca S Wheeler//. English Journal. (High school edition). Urbana: May 2005. Vol. 94, Iss. 5; pg. 108, 5 pgs

This is an excerpt from the full article posted above. It discusses the success that teachers had by teaching written English through Code-switching comparison and contrast charts to urban African-American students. It is contrasted with the less successful "Edited corrections" method.
"Code-Switching: The Endgame of the Writing Process
Now, what do we do with this linguistically informed perspective on student language? As one of my workshop participants in New Orleans commented, "Code-switching changes everything in how I teach English." True-from helping the students see language in new ways, to how you respond to student papers, to your Daily Oral Language (DOL) work and, most fundamentally, to how you regard and assess students who speak an Everyday language distinct from Standard English. The ramifications in the classroom are vast (see Wheeler and Swords).
The place for code-switching in the writing process is in the endgame-during editing. After students have done the content work on their essays-homing in on a main idea, brainstorming, organizing, drafting, elaborating, and revising. After the content is in place, then comes code-switching.
Research Shows Code-Switching Works
Research from elementary school through college shows that code-switching is a successful method for teaching Standard English.
In Chicago, Hanni Taylor had been concerned that her African American college students were not learning formal English. So she decided to compare how first-year composition students performed in response to two teaching methods. In one class she used the correctionist approach. In the other, she helped students discover how the grammar of their home language contrasted with Standard English grammar.
Her results were striking. By the end of the semester, students taught with traditional methods did not improve. Indeed, their Standard English performance got worse-these students used 8.5 percent more African American features in their formal writing. The class using contrastive analysis showed remarkable success. These students used 59.3 percent fewer African American vernacular features in formal writing. By contrasting the language varieties, students were able to learn the detailed differences between the two and therefore limit how much African American English grammar transferred into their Standard English writing.
Parallel results come from a New York study of African American elementary students. Educational psychologists Howard Fogel and Linnea C. Ehri analyzed whether traditional approaches or contrastive ones were more successful in teaching African American children Standard English. The results were eye-opening: While students in the traditional groups showed no improvement, students learning through contrastive analysis nearly doubled m their ability to produce Standard English forms (222). Clearly, contrastive analysis holds great promise in fostering Standard English mastery in our schools."

3. Direct Instruction in Phrases/Clauses

Phrase and Clause Grammar Tactics for the ESL/ELL Writing Classroom
Dennis Sjolie. English Journal; May 2006; 95, 5; Research Library Core p. 35.

Dennis Sjolie proposes the use of direct instruction in multiple clause and phrase instruction tactics for improving ELL writing. He teaches them for the first week or so of a school year and then constantly refers to them in his writing remarks to ELL students. He believes that once students understand different types of writing they will begin to use them.

Two Schools of Thought on Writing Instruction for ELLs

We cannot begin to address the question of why a student may score basic or proficient on their PSSA but have clear gaps, limitations, or flat out poor writing in our classrooms. However, one of the questions we can provide some research on is ELL writing instruction. Unfortunately, findings are just as confusing.

  • One school of thought argues that: "Numerous studies have revealed that grammar correction to second language writing students is actually discouraging to many students, and even harmful to their writing ability" (Semke 1984; Kepner 1991; Sheppard 1992; and Truscott 1996). This can be found in

Grammar Correction in ESL/EFL Writing Classes May Not Be Effective by Ronald Gray.

This is unlikely to sit well with most.
  • Another school focuses specifically on the issue of "Translated Writing". Translated writing is "when English language learners develop their ideas in their native language and then try to translate them into English." Their sentences reflect improper verb tenses and can verge on being "unintelligible". Suggestions for working with this can be found at

Tips for Teaching Writing to ELLs by Judith Haynes

Beginning ELL Grammar Quizes

Level 3 and 4 ELL students often function very highly with speaking and listening but struggle with reading and writing. However, how can an English teacher prepare targeted grammar instruction while also preparing their daily lessons? This Interactive Mind Map provides practice for you. Over 50 different 10 question quizzes can be found on the Interactive Mind Map site. Simply click on the "red arrow" of the grammar issue you would like to have your Level 3 or 4 ELL student practice.

Teaching English Language Learners in the English Classroom

Here are some specific challenges that ELLs face when learning to read material in English:

  • an abundance of idioms and figurative language in English texts
  • density of unfamiliar vocabulary
  • use of homonyms and synonyms
  • grammar usage especially the “exceptions to the rules”
  • word order, sentence structure and syntax
  • difficult text structure with a topic sentence, supporting details and conclusion
  • unfamiliarity with the connotative and denotative meanings of words
  • ELLs may not have practice in expressing an opinion about text.
  • use of regional U.S. dialects
  • fear of participation and interaction with mainstream students‚
  • story themes and endings can be inexplicable
  • literary terms for story development are not understood
  • unfamiliarity with drawing conclusions, analyzing characters and predicting outcomes
  • imagery and symbolism in text are difficult.


Challenges for ELLs in Content Area Learning

by Judie Haynes

ELL's and Writing

Teaching reading comprehension and language development are second nature for English and Literacy teachers. This article looks at how to work with an ELL student who may converse in a sophisticated way orally but is distinctly behind in written communication. I am sure we have all come across students in this very situation in the regular English classroom.

What does research tell us about teaching reading to English Language Learners?

Techniques for phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension are all discussed.