5 Tips to Get Your Students on the "Write" Track!

Teaching ELL's (or any) students to write can be a struggle!  Finding the words and syntax to put on paper can be frustrating for students and teachers alike.  For a second language learner who is new to the country or does not have a firm grasp of writing in his first language, writing can be downright awful!  Over the past few years teaching Newcomer students, I've found some ways to alleviate the stress that writing causes, while allowing students to develop their own thoughts and ideas.

1. Use picture prompts! 

I have a go-to prompt that really open up a student's path of expression.  I use it with high and low proficient students alike.  It gives them a sentence frame to start their writing, as well as a reminder to dig deeper into the prompt.
When I assign this prompt (usually with a picture from Google or my Pinterest board) I ask students to say their sentence out loud before writing it down.  It's a simple trick that helps them organize their syntax.  Here are samples from two of my refugee students..  

For a higher proficiency student (first example) I will go back and correct some grammar or spelling if those concepts have already been taught.  For a lower proficiency student (second example) I do not correct grammar or spelling, rather, I focus on revising syntax. 

2.  Write in sequence!  

If there is an expository question, I always provide my students with the first/next/then/last/finally prompt.  
click to grab it from my TPT store!

For a lower proficiency student, I again overlook spelling and grammar- I am more interested in the order of events and getting words from head to paper. 
For a higher proficient student, I leave things more open ended: this is an example from my How to Eat an Oreo pack on TPT- click the pic to check it out!

3. Make it simple with a Can/Have/Are chart.  

Use this as a pre-write, or as the finished product depending on proficiency.  

4. Start at the very beginning... 

Use Beginning, Middle, and End as your jumping point.  Using illustrations to help narrate isn't just a primary tool- I used this example with my upper elementary students. 

5.  Choose your own adventure.  

I love to give my students a prompt and let their imaginations run wild, but some kids just have a hard time coming up with material.  An easy way to get around that is to have them pick and choose from story elements you provide.  Here's my favorite example- and it's free in my store- just click and download!

For low proficient students, I may have them make their selections and complete just the BME, but for higher proficient students, I would ask them to complete most of the page.  Pre-writing can be tedious, but choosing one's own pieces can make brainstorming fun!

This is just a sample of the many ways to get your ELL's on the "write" track.  I hope you found something useful!  Do you have another tip or trick to share? Let me know in the comments! For more great writing ideas, check out my Pinterest board! Follow Everyone Deserves to Learn's board ESL Writing on Pinterest.


  1. These are great activities for all students! I find that my students have a difficult time planning out their writing. These are some great tools to help!

    Eclectic Educating

  2. This is an awesome post with great examples. Thank you so much for sharing :)

    Lattes and Lunchrooms

  3. Loads of great ideas here! Getting beginners to write can be difficult and these frameworks look really useful. Thanks!

    -- Susan
    The ESL Connection


Thanks for the comment! I really appreciate it.

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