ESL students usually need to learn to write in the second language. This is especially true for those who have academic goals. Learning to write is difficult even in one’s mother tongue let alone in a second language.
In this post, we will look at several practical ways to help students to learn to write in their L2. Below are some useful strategies
- Build on what they know
- Encourage coherency in writing
- Encourage collaboration
- Support Consistency
Build on Prior Knowledge
It is easier for most students to write about what they know rather than what they do not know. As such, as a teacher, it is better to have students write about a familiar topic. This reduces the cognitive load on the students allows them to focus more on their language issues.
In addition, building on prior knowledge is consistent with constructivism. Therefore, students are deepening their learning through using writing to express ideas and opinions.
Coherency has to do with whether the paragraph makes sense or not. In order to support this, the teacher needs to guide the students in developing main ideas and supporting details and illustrate how these concepts work together at the paragraph level. For more complex writing this involves how various paragraphs work together to support a thesis or purpose statement.
Students struggle tremendously with these big-picture ideas. This in part due to the average student’s obsession with grammar. Grammar is critical after the student has ideas to share clearer and never before that.
Students should work together to improve their writing. This can involve peer editing and or brainstorming activities. These forms of collaboration give students different perspectives on their writing beyond just depending on the teacher.
Collaboration is also consistent with cooperative learning. In today’s marketplace, few people are granted the privilege of working exclusively alone on anything. In addition, working together can help the students to develop their English speaking communication skills.
Writing needs to be scheduled and happen frequently in order to see progress at the ESL level. This is different from a native speaking context in which the students may have several large papers that they work on alone. In the ESL classroom, the students should write smaller and more frequent papers to provide more feedback and scaffolding.
Small incremental growth should be the primary goal for ESL students. This should be combined with support from the teacher through a consistent commitment to writing.
Writing is a major component of academic life. Many ESL students learning a second language to pursue academic goals. Therefore, it is important that teachers have ideas on how they can support ESL student to achieve the fluency they desire in their writing for further academic success.