Writing and Language Arts Strategies

Writing 2

Here you will find some writing and language arts strategies to help with ESOL students.

Be careful when looking at each strategy as they could vary on grade level. All can be adapted to fit any grade level.



The ESOL Performance Standard that is covered in these strategies is:

ELD.K12.ELL.LA.1-English language learners communicate information, ideas and concepts necessary for academic success in the content area of Language Arts.


  1. Scaffolding English Writing: Matching Instruction to Language Development (Taken from 50 Strategies for Teaching English Language Learners by A.L Herrel and M. Jordan)
    • Grade: 1st grade
      • Language Experience Approach
    • TESOL Standards for PreK-3 Students:
      • Participate in writing activities at their language development levels.
      • Express ideas in writing.
    • Common Core Standard:
      • LAFS.1.W.2.5-With guidance and support from adults, focus on a topic, respond to questions and suggestions from peers, and add details to strengthen writing as needed.
    • For this strategy, the teacher will choose a topic that is based on the students’ experiences. The students will then be asked to talk to each other about the experience and then the teacher will ask the students to tell him/her about the experience. The teacher will call on students to have them explain the experience and the teacher will write what the student says on sentence strips for the class to see. If the student is not using standard English, the teacher should restate the sentence keeping the student’s idea still there. The teacher will read the sentence aloud as he/she writes it and then will have the students read it with them aloud. It is important the teacher points to each word as it is read. Finally, the students will be asked to illustrate their stories and then reread it with other students.
    • The teacher should monitor the student’s writing to make sure they are copying things properly. The teacher should also make sure that the student is getting to tell their own experience and so the writing becomes their own. The teacher is helping the students write a story that is their own, which hopefully will motivate them more.
    • This strategy allows students to see correct English sentence structure with their own thoughts as the teacher is modeling for them by writing the sentences. Students should be excited about this strategy as the writing is about something they have experienced so it is more personal to them. It also works on their oral language as they are to repeat the story and reread it to others.
    • Websites about the Language Experience Approach
  2. Communication Games: Creating Opportunities for Verbal Interaction (Taken from 50 Strategies for Teaching English Language Learners by A.L Herrel and M. Jordan)
    • Grade: 1st grade
      • Inquiry and elimination
    • TESOL Standards for PreK-3 Students:
      • Use listening skills in playing games.
      • Use verbal directions in playing games.
    • Common Core Standard:
      • LAFS.1.SL.1.1-Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about grade 1 topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups.
    • This strategy is about getting students to feel comfortable about conveying information to others. The purpose is for the other students to try to figure out what the lesson is going to be about. This will allow the students to gain interest of the lesson at hand. For this strategy, students will be placed in a small group and one student will have a set of information about the lesson being taught. The other students must ask questions to gain information and to start eliminate irrelevant information. The person with the information has to be careful to not give too much information away at once. As the game can be confusing, the teacher might provide guiding questions and answers to keep the game moving.  It is like a puzzle and each student will be given a worksheet to take their notes on. The group will then decide what the lesson is going to be about based on their inquiry. Once the group has finished, they will discuss with each other what they learned from the game before getting into the class discussion.
    • The teacher needs to make sure to model the game first so each student knows how to play it properly for it to be effective. The teacher should also make sure that the groups are carefully picked out so there is a strong English speaker in each group. The teacher should monitor the class and walk around to each group to guide when needed. At the end, the teacher should discuss what each student got out of the experience and then it will guide perfectly into the teacher teaching the actual lesson.
    • This strategy is helpful to ELLs as games are used to develop and reinforce concepts, to add interest to the regular activities, and give practice in communication skills. ELLs will be working on their communication skills as well as learning how to obtain information from others and how to break down the information to arrive at a final solution or answer. The game aspect allows the student to feel less anxiety.puzzle
  3. Integrated Curriculum Projects: Using Authentic Projects to Integrate Content Knowledge (Taken from 50 Strategies for Teaching English Language Learners by A.L Herrel and M. Jordan)
    • Grade: 1st grade
      • Writing to Pen Pals
    • TESOL Standards for PreK-3 Students:
      • Verbally describe a classroom or school problem to solve.
      • Use appropriate language to suggest solutions in writing.
    • Common Core Standard:
      • LAFS.1.W.1.2-Write informative/explanatory texts in which they name a topic, supply some facts about the topic, and provide some sense of closure.
    • For this strategy, students will be writing to other students in another class about how to make the school safer. As the students write back in forth, they will discuss with their table groups and the class what them and their pen pal have been discussing. Eventually, each class will write a final letter to the principal suggesting ways to make the school safer. The teacher will first give a lesson about how to write an informal/friendly letter and also talk about safety so the students understand what it means. The teacher will also provide specific vocabulary words to encourage students to use them in their writings. As a class, the students will brainstorm safety ideas. Then each student will be asked to write a letter suggesting a way to help make the school safe. The students should be excited to write to someone where they will actually get a reply. This will hopefully help to motivate them to do their best writing. The purpose is to get the student thinking about a solution to a problem and how to tell others about it through writing a letter. The teacher will also be writing to the other teacher to have examples to show the students.
    • The teacher needs to make sure that they model how to write a friendly letter and provide a template for students to look back on. Also the teacher should give enough information on what it means to be safe that students understand what safety is so they can think of ways to incorporate it into their school. This should be a fun activity for both the teacher and students.
    • This strategy gives students a purpose to write and allows them to think of ways to improve their school. It also allows students to work independently but also allows for whole-class instruction where students can communicate what they have discussed with their pen pals. There is a guided part of instruction as well as independent work. By having the teacher take part in the project as well, the students can see what is expected of them.
    • Interactive Friendly Letter Makerletters
  4.  Total Physical Response and Total Physical Response Storytelling (TPR and TPRS):Integrating Movement into Language Acquisition (Taken from 50 Strategies for Teaching English Language Learners by A.L Herrel and M. Jordan)
    • Grade: 1st grade
      • Retelling
    • TESOL Standards for PreK-3 Students:
      • Observe and imitate motions of others.
      • Use practiced motion appropriately in class.
    • Common Core Standard:
      • LAFS.1.W.1.3-Write narratives in which they recount two or more appropriately sequenced events, include some details regarding what happened, use temporal words to signal event order, and provide some sense of closure.
    • This strategy builds off the Total Physical Response (TPR) strategy. It focuses on having the children listen and acquire receptive language before they attempt to speak. They develop understanding through moving their bodies. Total Physical Response Storytelling (TPRS) allows students to use gestures familiar to them and other learned gestures and hand motions to retell a story. It has been shown to greatly influence fluency.
    • It is important that the teacher build off actions and gestures that have been used with TPR so the students do have some familiarity with the motions. The teacher should also start by telling a mini story where the students repeat and then as they get used to everything, start to throw in movements and tell the students to use the movements instead of the words. Finally, students should be encouraged to tell their own stories using the hand motions.
    • ELLs benefit from this strategy because having them use hand gestures as well as whole body responses supports them in participation as they acquire English and maturity. It allows them to rely less on speaking and more on actions, which allows for less anxiety in the classroom.
    • http://www.tprstories.com/what-is-tprs
  5. Verb Action: Teaching Irregular Verbs through Experience (Taken from 50 Strategies for Teaching English Language Learners by A.L Herrel and M. Jordan)
    • Grade: 1st grade
      • Irregular Verbs
    • TESOL Standards for PreK-3 Students:
      • Supply verbs in a sentence based on actions performed.
      • Suggest endings for verbs based on when the action occurred.
    • Common Core Standard:
      • LAFS.1.L.3.6-Use words and phrases acquired through conversations, reading and being read to, and responding to texts, including using frequently occurring conjunctions to signal simple relationships (e.g., I named my hamster Nibblet because she nibbles too much because she likes that).
    • This strategy helps to support students in connecting new vocabulary with their prior knowledge. Irregular verbs in the past tense are often overgeneralized by children so it is important that teachers take note of this and instruct the students on how to fix and understand irregular verbs. One way is to have students create irregular verb journals where they can use the new vocabulary in writing. The teacher can also post irregular verbs and other new vocabulary in the classroom where students can look back on them and check themselves. It is also helpful to relate these irregular verbs to things students do. For example, relate cut and eat to lunch or come up with an activity for some of the words so the students are being active in them. You can have students throw and catch the ball outside and have them earn about the past tense of those words.
    • The teacher needs to pay attention to what verbs are being misused so he or she knows where to focus their attention. The teacher also needs to plan for active experiences for the students to practice the words. A bulletin board or a chart is ideal for the words to be posted on so the students have exposure to them and are seeming them daily in the classroom. This strategy is going to require multiple active approaches and much repetition.
    • ELLs will benefit from this strategy because when they are actively involved it provides them with experiences they can remember. It also supports the retention of new vocabulary and irregular verbs.
    • Website of Activities to Teach Irregular VerbsIrregular
  6. Syntax Surgery: Visually Manipulating English Grammar (Taken from 50 Strategies for Teaching English Language Learners by A.L Herrel and M. Jordan)
    • Grade: 1st grade
      • Understanding Sentence Structure
    • TESOL Standards for PreK-3 Students:
      • Arrange word cards to create an English sentence.
      • Add descriptive words to sentences in appropriate places.
    • Common Core Standard:
      • LAFS.1.L.1.1-Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
    • Syntax surgery is a strategy that allows students to see the relationship of elements within a sentence that may be confusing to understand. It involves writing a sentence on a sentence strip and then cutting the sentence apart to rearrange it into more understandable pieces. This strategy helps to refine students’ understanding of the elements of writing and speaking that make their English difficult for others to understand. When the teacher cuts up the sentence in front of the students they are able to see the pieces of the sentence being moved which allows to have a better understanding.
    • The teacher needs to model how to perform the “surgery” on the sentence so the students are more familiar with it when they get the chance to do it on their own. The teacher should also encourage the students to look for sentences in books they read that they could perform syntax surgery on to get them relating it to their books. It is also helpful if the teacher practices with sentences that have the same pattern to start off with.
    • ELLs benefit from this strategy as they are able to physically manipulate a sentence and it allows them to visually see how the sentence should be formed. This strategy also helps ELLs correct language misuse in a safe setting. ELLs also benefit from hearing the sentence being read as they see it being moved as well.
    • //www.teachertube.com/embed/video/237778Syntax
  7. Language Focus Lessons: Supporting English Vocabulary and Structure Acquisition (Taken from 50 Strategies for Teaching English Language Learners by A.L Herrel and M. Jordan)
    • Grade: 1st grade
      • Vocabulary
    • TESOL Standards for PreK-3 Students:
      • Form and ask questions related to assignments
      • Gather and organize materials needed to complete assigned work.
    • Common Core Standard:
      • LAFS.1.L.3.5-With guidance and support from adults, demonstrate understanding, word relationships and nuances in word meanings.
    • This strategy focuses on a mispronunciation or misuse of language that occurs consistently. For this reason, it is important that the teacher pay attention and note language errors to see what the lesson needs to focus on. The lesson can also be used with individual students, small groups, or the whole class. Once the error is found and the lesson is created, the teacher pulls those students and models the proper language usage and allows for practice in active mode.
    • The teacher needs to take note of the misuse and the speaker or speakers who misuse the language, and plan a language focus lesson to support English learners in refining their use of English. It is important that it is all done in a positive way and that the students are encouraged to practice the newly acquired skills in an authentic context.
    • ELLs benefit from this strategy as the teacher is able to teach to their language needs. They are able to have the one-on-one instruction if needed.
    • Example of Lessonlanguage
  8. Cohesion Links: Understanding the Glue That Holds Paragraphs Together (Taken from 50 Strategies for Teaching English Language Learners by A.L Herrel and M. Jordan)
    • Grade: 1st grade
      • Substitution
    • TESOL Standards for PreK-3 Students:
      • Identify pronoun referents in written text.
      • Combine sentences with appropriate conjunctions.
    • Common Core Standard:
      • LAFS.1.L.1.1-Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
    • Cohesion links are the important parts of written and spoken paragraphs that connect sentences so they form a cohesive whole. It is important for English Language Learners to be taught about cohesion links as it will allow cohesion links to be more visible and understandable to them. They also help support their understanding on both spoken and written material. Teachers need to explain the meaning of pronouns, ellipses, conjunctions, substitutions, and other abstract references in text and spoken language by giving examples and by providing guided practice. This strategy is very important when dealing with English Language Learners as cohesion links are more complicated to see and to understand. The teacher really needs to provide a lot of guidance and modeling at first so the students can get a better grasp before doing it on their own.
    • Substitution is when one word is substituted for another. Substitution is a strategy that ELLs often struggle with because they do not recognize that both words are referring to the same thing. It is important that the teacher model with one sentence at a time and them move into doing whole paragraphs. It is also helpful when the teacher stops while reading to show cohesion links and to see if the students are understanding what is being read. When the students are being included in the lesson they are able to better understand.
    • ELLs benefit from this strategy as cohesion links are not something they are familiar with and this strategy allows them to focus on them to really learn and understand what they are and the importance of them. Once they understand cohesion links they are able to better understand the story being read as well.
    • http://grammar.about.com/od/developingparagraphs/a/cohsignals.htmcohesion
  9. Language Experience Approach: Letting Students Create the Words (Taken from previous class)
    • Grade: 1st grade
      • Writing a Story
    • TESOL Standards for PreK-3 Students:
      • Use appropriate language when talking in discussion.
      • Supply information about an event that occurred.
    • Common Core Standard:
      • LAFS.1.W.1.1-Write opinion pieces in which they introduce the topic or name the book they are writing about, state an opinion, supply a reason for the opinion, and provide some sense of closure.
    • This strategy involves the students create the story by using their own ideas. The teacher will ask the students to reflect on an experience or give a topic and then give the students some time to brainstorm. The teacher will then tell the students that they are going to create a story together. The teacher will call on students and write what they say on sentence strips. It is important that the teacher write what the students say and have the students copy what she writes. Once enough information has been gathered, the teacher can rearrange the sentence strips and have the students arrange them back in the proper order to see if they understand the story.
    • Sometimes the teacher might need to rearrange how something was said. The teacher should restate the child’s idea before writing it so the student can understand why their sentence is being written in a different way.
    • ELLs benefit from this strategy as they are able to come up with the writing so it will better relate to them. The writing is normally based off an experience so there is more background knowledge to help with the understanding.
    • http://www.literacyconnections.com/InTheirOwnWords.phpLEA
  10. Quick Writes: Get it Down (Taken from colorincolorado.org)
    • Grade: 1st grade
      • Writing
    • TESOL Standards for PreK-3 Students:
      • Participate in writing activities at their language development levels.
      • Express ideas in writing.
    • Common Core Standard:
      • LAFS.1.W.1.2-Write informative/explanatory texts in which they name a topic, supply some facts about the topic, and provide some sense of closure.
    • One of the challenges for ELL students when they approach writing is their anxiety about writing their ideas correctly and writing a lot of information in English. This may feel overwhelming when a student is assigned an essay. In order to get students comfortable with the idea of just putting ideas on paper and not worrying about mistakes, do regular “quick writes.” For “quick writes”  give the students a topic and then tell them to write as much as they can for five minutes. They need to keep their pencils on the paper and even if they can’t think of anything to write or they are worried about how to spell things, they are supposed to keep writing. At the end of five minutes, the students count how many words they were able to write and they keep track in a log. The objective is that they will see progress in the amount of writing they are able to do in five minutes’ time and hopefully apply this fluency to their essay writing.
    • http://www.colorincolorado.org/article/improving-writing-skills-ells-and-joy-writing
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