Building ELL-Friendly Writing Prompts

530 points

Writing can be difficult for anyone, but English Language Learners need more support and teacher lesson planning to achieve the best results in class. English grammar is different from other languages. Therefore, some common writing structures such as topic sentences followed by supporting details and organized paragraphs may not be familiar. Students who are ELLs often have limited English vocabulary, which makes it difficult to express their thoughts. Children must understand many aspects of writing, such as the prompt, the piece they’re responding to or any other tasks and instructions. This can cause frustration and even a lack of motivation for some students. This blog article will discuss some ideas for creating ELL-friendly writing prompts that can help students succeed in the writing process.

A writing prompt is a set of instructions for writing a task. It is a written direction for a writing task that provides instruction and sets clear expectations. Writing prompts should be linked to curriculum goals to allow students to show their content knowledge and writing skills. Good writing prompts are free of bias and should include a real audience. They also need a suggested structure (letter, brochure, newsletter, essay, etc.). You may include a mentor text or example to help you. Let’s look at the main components of a writing prompt to ensure that all students can successfully complete writing tasks in your class.

Curriculum Goals

Your curriculum goals should be tied to all writing prompts. You can use assignments to assess your students. These assignments allow you to track how your students learn the knowledge and skills required by your school or district curriculum. Writing tasks should not be considered an exception. They should be aligned with your writing standards. Your curriculum standards won’t likely dictate topics, but they will tell you what genres students should be proficient in writing. The grade-level guidelines for grammar, spelling, punctuation, and punctuation will be outlined in your curriculum. When creating a writing prompt, set your expectations about the standards you will be evaluating. Clear expectations are essential for ELLs. They will know what they can expect and be able to monitor their progress as they write. This could include “Capitalize the first letter of each sentence” or “Use narrative format you learned in class yesterday as you write your essay.” Having clear expectations tied to your curriculum goals helps students understand what to expect and allows you to monitor their progress over time.

Audience, Structure and Format

Writing prompts should have a clear audience and a format that students can follow. Students should know who they are writing for when given a prompt. Although the audience may be their classmates or teacher, students will often put more effort into their writing if they know someone will read it. They might be writing to share their writing with an older class or send letters to recipients hoping to receive a response. This audience is directly tied to the content of what students are writing. Do they write letters? A short story could be published in book format. Write an informative article for publication on a class website. Are they required to write essays that follow a certain structure, such as chronological order or compare and contrast? It’s always useful to have examples that students can read. These examples could be past student essays or mentor texts like magazine articles, blog posts or picture books. As ELL students work through the writing task, they will need to be able to relate the final product to their initial prompt.

Limiting Bias

Writing prompts should be free from bias and not require background knowledge. Bias refers to an attitude or response specific to one’s experiences and understanding. We cannot escape the many biases we have. Still, we can limit the impact of our biases on the learning experience of our students to ensure that all students are able to complete their assignments successfully. Cultural bias is a way to interpret events or ideas through the lense of one’s own culture. Confirmation bias is a tendency to draw conclusions from our personal beliefs and experiences. Gender bias is a tendency to make assumptions about students based on their gender. There are many types of biases, but they all share a commonality: we approach the world from our own perspectives and experiences. Teaching is about being aware of your own biases and limiting them whenever possible. This helps you create lessons and tasks that are accessible to all students. Students may find it more difficult to understand and complete classroom tasks if their interpretations are different from ours. This is especially true for English Language Learners, as well as other students who may have different cultural experiences, limited knowledge of certain cultures, or limited vocabulary understanding.

Mentor texts and samples

Students with English as a second language (ELL) need to be exposed to various writing styles by reading examples and writing independently about them. You can include examples of writing that aligns with the prompt. You can show students examples of writing that aligns with the prompt to help them understand the structure and format of the article. Students will benefit from the opportunity to examine writing samples and provide context to help them understand the prompt.

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530 points

Hello there! I am Anna and welcome to my work of passion CPS Magnet. I am highly concerned about our future generations and their level of knowledge, which is why I am very invested in their education as well through this blog. Have a good read!


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