Writing is the one skills which prevents many English language learners from being reclassified (changing status from English language learner to Fluent English Proficient). Since these same students are now in regular mainstream classes with class sizes ranging from 25-35, they may be quietly struggling even though teachers are trying their best to address their needs in class along with all the others.
Well, one way to provide regular, low-stress access to the writing process is through fun writing activities done on a regular basis. I had my students write every day for 10 minutes on a host of crazy topics--some related to the lesson while others not. In the process, they were not to use dictionaries, but to just write. In the beginning, it was like pulling teeth, but as time went on, they went from producing one small paragraph to two pages! The work they generated was also tapped by me to include in grammar lessons. After all, when editing one's own work, retention of the grammar rules is far easier to accomplish than working solely with a grammar text. I also had students keep track of their glaring errors in their binders along with the correct forms. This was a section that they were required to review in editing formal essays. They also kept a spelling section in their binders of words they frequently misspelled. In this section, they would write the misspelled word with the correct spelling right next to it. These were some of the activities I used the journals for and I am sure that every teacher reading this blog probably has even more uses:)
So, how does a teacher start the process of regular writing? Here are some websites with possibilities:
The topics are actually fun. There is literally something for everyone. How could it be used in class? Maybe the teacher would have one student "shake it" at the start of the period. Whatever topic appeared, everyone would write on it in her/his writing journal books for 5-10 minutes. ELLs could initially be paired up to produce a partner paragraph until such point that they felt confident enough to write on their own. I gave points based on much writing they produced. I did not grade the work (if I had, that would have raised the stress levels). I then used random passages (typed to hide author's identity) to address the various elements of the revision process with my document camera.
OUTTA RAY'S HEAD WRITING
This site is packed with awesome writing themes and activities--power points, journals, writing checklists, hilarious grammar exercises, and much more. Basically, there is a writing topic for every content are.
CREATIVE WRITING PROMPTS
More activities here which are equally engaging. This might be more for high school students though there are a few prompts which middle school students could handle with some support.
EAST SIDE UNION SCHOOL DISTRICT (blogged on this earlier--just wanted to include it for new visitors to this site) For those of you who are new to this blog, you will be impressed with this one. Though it is geared to preparing students to pass the California High School Exit Exam, any teacher could use them in class. What I liked especially was that there are over 280 prompts!
I would also suggest that you have the students use composition books. They are half the size of binder paper and therefore less intimidating for students to write. Typically, these books are only about $1.00 (link below).
Good luck with changing attitudes about writing:)
ELL TEACHER PROS