Interactive Writing Strategies for English Lang…Wait, for ALL Learners!
By: Joshua Aguilar
As a first year 5th grade writing teacher, I entered the classroom not knowing what to expect. Sure, I had the Texas state standards (TEKS) to look at, but that wasn’t enough. My past experience as a kindergarten teacher for 2 years made me aware of how writing for that grade level of students looked like (mind you, these students are at the beginning stages of learning and developing their English writing skills), but how would writing look like for 5th grade students in their final year of elementary?
I began to worry that I would not be able to teach my students effectively because I wasn’t familiar with how to teach writing. On top of all my worries, I found out that I would have 13 English language learners in my class and that I would need to assess their writing samples for their yearly Texas English Language Proficiency Assessment System (TELPAS) score! I began to take on so many responsibilities in such a short amount of time.
Luckily for me, I acquainted myself with some great teaching tools and strategies that not only benefitted my English language learners, but also my general education and special education students as well.
Writing is a very complex and difficult subject to teach. According to the state standards in the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills or (TEKS) for short, teachers at the 5th grade level are to teach and develop a student’s writing skills with regards to teaching the correct use of words that are commonly used incorrectly in the English language such as, affect/effect, less/fewer, were/we’re, etc., parts of speech (i.e. nouns, verbs, adjectives), and also Greek and Latin suffixes just to name a few. The teaching strategies I can say that were very effective in developing my students’ writing skills were daily journaling, modeling writing, using sentence stems and pictures, and class sharing.
Daily journal writing is a fun and a great way to engage students with writing and they also have a great experience with making their journals their own, by decorating it and being able to write freely in it. One way in which I used their daily journals was to teach grammar and to provide feedback on their writing. Journals have also been regarded as being a great way to assess students in a formative manner as they are developing or forming their writing skills in class. ELLs also benefited from the feedback I gave them on how to fix their mistakes or comment on their correct use of English.
MODEL, MODEL, MODEL! Yes, I feel modeling writing in English is one of the most effective strategies to use in the classroom. Showing student how to start an essay and what types of words to use can give them an idea of how their writing should look.
Sentence stems are also very useful for not only English language learners but for all students as well. They provide a starting point for students to begin their writing and also model common ways of how to start a sentence in English. Giving students writing prompts are also ways to activate their thinking and motivate them to write. You can even use prompts that relate to various subjects like science, math, social studies. For example, if you are teaching about the water cycle, use a writing prompt that relates to it so students can write about it.
Sharing is caring! Let your students share their writing with their classmates and develop their speaking skills. I use a karaoke machine in my class to encourage my students to speak and share their journal entries and essays and recast the correct way to say certain things in English for them. Having students keep writing portfolios is also a great way to assess their writing development throughout the school year. Also, attending professional developments that have a writing component can help teachers to develop their teaching skills and encourage their use of effective teaching strategies in the classroom for ALL students.
New to teaching writing? Check out these fun and interactive writing textbooks for teachers from Gretchen Bernabei! They will MAKE WRITING FUN AGAIN for you and your students!
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One of my ELLs writing form the beginning of year in September 2017 to March 2018. Handwriting to typing out an essay.