New Teacher Advocate — Kappa Delta Pi NTA Fall 14
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PICTURE Perfect Writing
Diane Yang


From 1997-2009, the number of non- English-speaking students in schools in the United States increased by 51% (U.S. Department of Education, 2011). While these students may struggle in many curriculum areas, writing does not have to be one of them. Teachers can assist English language learners (ELLs) with their writing skills by helping them get the PICTURE!

Prewriting: Have students brainstorm ideas before they write to activate prior knowledge about the topic and focus the student on the writing. (See for ideas.)

Interactive Writing: Interactive writing means students work together on a writing task. This especially helps the English as a New Language (ENL) student because language is modeled by a native speaker. The website Fun English Games ( provides interactive writing games organized by grade level.

Corrective Feedback: Timely, understandable, specific feedback helps students avoid miscommunication due to language barriers and accelerates their writing proficiency. Paraphrasing or substituting words is particularly beneficial (Javadi & Mohammadi, 2009).

Teacher Monitoring: Closely monitor the student’s writing progress to determine if the instructional level matches the level of the student’s writing proficiency. Determine if a student’s difficulty is with the content, the instructional method, or the student’s language level and adjust as appropriate.

Understanding Mistakes: Provide guidance and encourage students to correct their own mistakes. Edit older students’ papers with proofreading marks (see to reduce your grading load and assist students in seeing their mistakes.

Revising: Revision helps students look at writing from a different perspective and reorganize it for the intended audience. Teach students to revise their writing by using various techniques, including reading the text aloud to identify grammatical errors, editing at a location different from where the paper was written, editing in printed form rather than on the computer, or by using a reverse concept map (

Editing with a Peer: Peer review helps the ENL student interact with a native speaker, experience different writing styles, and hear constructive feedback. Teachers must be sensitive, however, when using peer editing because some ENL students “tend to mistrust their peers as critics and often fear being embarrassed in front of peers by their low skills in English” (as cited in Horning & Becker, 2006, p. 116). Older editing partners may find the following website helpful as they work through the writing process together:

Good writing starts with a clear picture of where the story or essay is going. Using these 7 strategies will help your students get the PICTURE!


Horning, A., & Becker A. (Eds.). (2006). Revision: History, theory, and practice. West Lafayette, IN: Parlor Press.

Javadi, Y., & Mohammadi, M. (2009, July). Application of recasts in TEFL on effectiveness of written recast vs. explicit negative feedback. Proceedings of EDULEARN09 conference, Barcelona, Spain.

U.S. Department of Education, Office of English Language Acquisition. (2011). The growing numbers of English learner students 1998/99–2008-09.

Ms.Yang grew up in Taipei, Taiwan, and started to learn English as second language (ESL) in college. Her English-learning experiences in college influenced her decision to become an ESL teacher. She is currently working with Asian students in the San Francisco area and wants to provide linguistically diverse students with opportunities to go beyond what they see as their limitations.