Teaching writing to EAL pupils in secondary schools

For pupils with English as an Additional Language, writing poses the greatest challenge. Margarita Calderón explains how best to support them

AS WE VISITED 2ND GRADE CLASSROOMS (age 7–8) with large numbers of children with English as an Additional Language, we looked at pupils’ writing posted around the walls and read examples such as: I like my pet. I like the ears. I like the nose. As we visited 9th grade classrooms (age 14–15) we read examples such as: I like photosynthesis. I like analyses. I like procedures. Writing is the most difficult area for EAL pupils and their secondary school teachers, and can be particularly overwhelming in certain subjects. For example, the writing demands in maths, history, and science lessons vary from those of English lessons, as does the nature of the teaching. Secondary teachers and administrators report that their greatest concern is pupils’ low writing skills. Nevertheless, it is the least researched area in education.

What we know
● Learning to write in a second language can best be accomplished through an integrated sequence of explicit instruction.
● Teachers can scaffold learning by making sure that EAL pupils understand all the elements and processes for the writing tasks.
● Brainstorming that requires rapid responses puts EAL pupils at a disadvantage because they need additional time to pull thoughts together into sentences.

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Published

February 2011