As the end of the semester fast approaches, I often hear teachers across all content areas expressing concerns over the poor quality of ELL student writing. With the pressure of high stakes testing looming overhead, many educators worry about API scores (academic performance index---low API scores can put a school into Program Improvement status which leads to federal oversight in implementing key teaching strategies to raise scores and specific consequences for failing to do so). For ELLs, one of the biggest stumbling blocks to doing well is the writing section. Their use of conversational English (with many misspellings) appears in these formal writing scenarios. Overuse of simplistic adjectives (nice, bad, good, etc.), verbs (was/were, go, "wanna", "hafta", gonna, etc.), etc. appear throughout. Add to this, their confusion over paragraph and essay formats. So what can teachers do to raise test scores of ELLs?
To reverse the downward trend, teachers at all grade levels and in all subject areas need to weave writing into their lessons on a regular basis. ELLs need models of well written works, sentence frames to develop their command of English sentence structure, paragraph/essay frames to provide them with practice in the English/American linear writing style, and time to play with the language. Creativity on the part of teachers of all disciplines need to come into play here to boost writing skills.
One link that does this is CREATIVE WRITING. All topics are covered here-from fractured fairy tale writing to science fiction to journal writing, etc. This site offers something for everyone. Each activity is a language developer as students search for just the right word (action word, noun, descriptive adjectives) to make their writing efforts successful ones. Another link that might help the more advanced ELLs stop padding their work with fillers is WORDINESS . When students make it through their 2nd draft and are ready to start the 3rd, teachers can prepare modified versions of this list to have students refer to in removing overused words. I would not give the students this entire list since it could be overwhelming for them, but I would pull out the words I know they use to make their work "longer, but not better."
With holiday time fast approaching, trick your students into thinking writing is FUN:)
ELL Teacher Pros