Friday, May 1, 2015

English Language Learners--Part Three

Writing Instructional Strategies
for working with ELL students


Writing is a social process that allows individuals to communicate, collaborate and be creative. English language learners need to develop the skills that will allow them to be successful writers and communicators. Teaching ELL students to be successful writers depends on the quality of instructional processes, practices, and the learning climate of the classroom. 

The teacher’s role is to support the students in reading and writing activities through meaningful literacy activities. The students that we observed this week are struggling with the writing process in one form or another. Whether it be from translation, lack of confidence, grammatical errors or other language barriers, writing instructional strategies is an excellent way to explicitly teach writing to ELL students.

Metacognition is thinking about thinking. It is the process by which individuals are aware of their own brain processes that occur during learning. Listed below are strategies to help foster the skills of cognitive processes through organizing/planning, managing, monitoring, and evaluating their own knowledge.

  • Reflections- Reflection papers allow students to organize their thoughts and describe their reaction or analysis of material that they have learned. It gives students the opportunity to explain what they have learned in their own words.

  • Semantic Webs- Allow students to organize their thoughts before they begin writing. The main topic is located in the center inside a large circle, smaller circles are drawn around the outside with the ideas about the topic written inside, then lines are drawn from the smaller circles with information written at the ends.

  • Concept Maps-Help students organize new information and make connections between the main idea and other information.
Vocabulary is critical to comprehension. Vocabulary words help us to build background knowledge and associations of words in order to communicate effectively. To quote an article from Ruddell and Shearer (2002), a student says, "I used to only think about vocabulary in school. The whole world is vocabulary."
When students read text that is more difficult to them, then the acquisition of vocabulary becomes more difficult.

According to Reading, "you can pre-teach vocabulary by using English as a second language (ESL) methods such as:

  • Role playing or pantomiming
  • Using gestures
  • Showing real objects
  • Pointing to pictures
  • Doing quick drawings on the board
  • Using the Spanish equivalent and then asking students to say the word in English"

The Vocabulary Self-Collection Strategy (VSS) seems to be an effective strategy to use for improving vocabulary. Students get to bring their own words they see or hear that they think would be words the class should learn. The words are presented, discussed, and spelling patterns that occur in the words are taught (Ruddell & Shearer, 2002). The students feel responsible for their own learning because they have chosen the vocabulary words that are not familiar to them. Teaching words in context is more effective than memorizing vocabulary.

Martha Rapp Ruddell; Brenda A., S. (2002). Extraordinary," "tremendous," "exhilarating," "magnificent": middle school at-risk students become avid word learners with the Vocabulary Self-Collection Strategy (VSS): asking students to choose their own vocabulary words maintains interest and builds connections with content areas. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 45(5).

And not only modeling behavior but also using it as a teaching strategy...

The students who were observed were all ELL students; one kindergartener, two second graders, and one third grader. For each of these students modeling is an effective strategy that can help each of them. 

Modeling consists of rebus writing, dictation, guided writing practice, predictable sentences starters, think-alouds, brainstorming, forming sentences, and descriptive writing. Each of these strategies will help writers at different stages. 

We model again and again when teaching students how to solve new math problems before we set them out to work on their own, it makes sense to model writing as well. Explicitly laying out the steps and thinking out loud so that our students know what steps to take by showing the process and they will know how ideas are formed and written down.

Thinking Maps

Graphic organizers or thinking maps can help all writers to organize their ideas and prepare for writing. Whether it’s a creative story piece, a friendly letter, an expository essay, or even a short response comprehension question; thinking maps can help students write. A circle map is used to define words or topics. They can be used in many ways including brainstorming for writing. 

Draw a small circle and a larger circle around it. In the small circle write your topic and in the larger circle write everything you think of related to that topic. This is a great way to begin an expository or narrative paper. Once you have all the ideas together in the circle map organize the information into a tree map or a flow map. 

For an expository prompt,use a tree map with the topic at the top and the main points you want to write about in each paragraph will be the ‘branches’ of the tree. To organize a narrative writing, use a flow map so that the story can be written in a sequential order. This is just the beginning of what thinking maps can do for classroom instruction. They can be used in other subject areas as well.

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