The art of teaching writing skills:
Supporting EAL pupils to fulfil their potential

Consider these points to help pupils SHAPE their writing

Scaffold pupils' writing

Teaching writing effectively requires the skilled use of scaffolding. Scaffolding provides support, 'training wheels' to enable pupils to access tasks beyond what they can do unaided. The support is gradually reduced to aid independence which is the ultimate goal.

Scaffolded support for teaching writing ´╗┐can be in the form of writing frames, talk frames, sentence starters or sentence structure prompts. This scaffolding can be combined with practical support such as vocabulary lists, visuals, mind maps, whiteboards for drafting ideas, peer and teacher support. Just 2 Easy, otherwise known J2E is an online tool that simplifies the word processing aspect of creating written texts. Children can create texts easily and bring them to life with audio, video and animation.

Storybird is a website that allows children to select images created by illustrators and use these to create a storybook which they then add the text to. They can share their creations online with friends, famly and peers. The illustrations can also be used by teachers for stimulation of ideas for stories. This fabulous programme makes teaching writing easy as the children are so motivated by the professional look and sharing their stories.

There are some excellent resources to support modelling of specific technical and academic language which can save you reinventing the wheel. Check out the following Pie Corbett's resource books:Writing Frames: Scaffolding Children's Non-fiction Writing in a Range of Genres

Sue Palmers books showing writing models for different age groups:Writing Models Year 3 is a useful addition in supportin teachers with teaching writing.

Pictures and photos enhance understanding of vocabulary, concepts and different genre. Pictures can be in the form of 'key visuals' such as graphs, tables, diagrams support understanding of concepts. Making vocabulary lists with visuals available for referral to when writing aids pupil learning and independence. It takes a number of times of seeing a new word before that word is absorbed. 

Clicker 6 is a great resource that enables teachers to quickly and easily create sentence structure grids or writing templates complete with word banks to support children at a range of different attainment levels.

Home language is a benefit in teaching writing

Home language usage aids fluency in English. Providing opportunities for pupils to write in their home language, if they have the skills, ensures that skills learnt in one language transfer over to the other language. It also sends the message that understanding other languages is a skill not a problem. For the teacher it provides clues as to the similarities and differences between their language and English. If you have resources available you can translate what the child has said and benefit from this communication. Newbury Primary School have created a great booklet, 'Language of the Month' which is full of ideas for sharing and learning about the languages of your school community. Teaching writing scripts from different cultures can be a fun way of linking literacy to other curriculum areas. Collaborative group activities can provide the opportunity for rich dialogue in a range of languages.

Assess children's writing thoroughly

The first step in supporting children with EAL is knowing what common errors they are likely to make. The list of common errors is useful in alerting you, the teacher, to enable you to address these errors within your teaching. Obviously not all children will make the same errors. Each child brings a different repertoire of skills and knowledge about writing. Finding out about the scripts and alphabets of other languages can be beneficial in determining what kind of individual support children may need.

Assessment for Learning strategies are very useful in developing advanced EAl learners' skills in writing. Teaching pupils to self-evaluate their referring to a set criteria for success helps pupils to clearly think out the strategies they are using and make changes as needed. Taking part in peer-evalutation develops children's critical thinking and evaluative skills: as they talk with their partner about the strengths and areas for development they are reinforcing their conceptual understanding. Finally, sensitive and constructive teacher marking and feedback is vital to ensure pupils reach their full potential. Acknowledging what pupils have achieved is important in maintainig high levels of motivation. It is also important to indicate what children need to work on next, so that they are continually challenged to reach the next milestone.

The Language in Common document is useful for assessing pupils' writing against the QCA steps.

Process of writing made explicit

Children learning English may not have a vast repertoire of texts to draw on when they think about creating their own writing texts.

Making the writing process explicit is vital for these learners because it provides a model for the thinking stages that they will go through as they write. Utilising talk activities at different points will enable children to be supported by the teacher and peers as they develop understanding of the content context and genre to be used. Read more about the writing process

Minibook creator is software from Mantralingua that enables you to quickly create minibooks - a great idea for publishing children's work - another idea to make teaching writing fun.

Explore pupils' experiences

Real and meaningful learning experiences are vital for deep learning to take place and memory recall to be most effective. The key aspects of teaching writing such as learning new vocabulary, grammatical sentence structures and conversational language are all best learnt in meaningful contexts. Explore pupils' interests to see what excites and motivates them. Give as many opportunities to do real things as possible such as cooking, making a model, tasting a different food etc.

Providing real audiences for writing tasks also gives meaning to the task. Purplemash is a great website for creating things like leaflets, postcards etc that are easy to print out and share or share online. The activites come complete with word banks and visuals to enhance comprehension and allow children to create effective pieces of writing quickly and easily. London-based practitioners get free access through the London Grid for Learning (LGfL) which means the children can access the site from home which is excellent for continuity of learning between home and school - a great aide for teaching writing.

Providing real audiences for writing tasks also gives meaning to the task. Purplemash is a great website for creating things like leaflets, postcards etc that are easy to print out and share or share online.

The activites come complete with word banks and visuals to enhance comprehension and allow children to create effective pieces of writing quickly and easily. London-based practitioners get free access through the London Grid for Learning (LGfL) which means the children can access the site from home which is excellent for continuity of learning between home and school - a great aide for teaching writing.

Creating global links through pen pal communication is another way of generating real audiences for your pupils' writing. Explaining things to a penpal can consolidate learning and stimulate interest in finding out other ways of doing things.

Speaking and listening ideas to support writing

Reading ideas to support understanding of writing