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When English Language Learners Write

Connecting Research to Practice, K-8

By Katharine Davies Samway

Katharine Samway argues that ELLs benefit from the same smart, research-based instructional strategies as mainstream student writers, and offers meaningful insight into powerful writing instruction that’s practical and effective.


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Full Description

Unfair mythologies about English language learners have sprung up in schools around the country. Unsure how to help nonnative speakers write, some teachers and administrators have resorted to deficit-based stereotypes: ELLs can't write They have writing problems They are reluctant writers They need to be taught the skills of writing before writing independently.

In reality, however, ELLs benefit from the same smart, research-based instructional strategies as mainstream student writers, and in When English Language Learners Write, Katharine Davies Samway explores second language writers, shattering myths and in their place offering meaningful insight into powerful instruction.

When English Language Learners Write helps you connect the latest thinking on ELLs and language acquisition to your everyday classroom practices. Samway helps you understand numerous important factors affecting nonnative writers, including:

  • what young children know about print and about the connection between oral and written language
  • how their native language influences the process of learning to write in English
  • how gender, race, ethnicity, and social class affect writing
  • how adult expectations, school-based writing experiences, and participation in bilingual classrooms affect children's development as writers
  • which current developments in writing pedagogy help the most.
Then she shows you crucial steps to take for instruction that's responsive to language learners' needs, such as:
  • understanding the literacy practices of non-mainstream cultures
  • discovering what ELLs can do as writers before they become fluent in English
  • moving from looking at only the writing itself, to investigating writers' processes
  • providing a print-rich environment to cement the reading–writing connection and foster literate behaviors in a new tongue
  • incorporating reflective writing such as logs and dialogue journals to support ELLs' literacy development
  • providing a learner-centered workshop approach to teaching writing.
Not only does Samway provide a window into the latest research as well as practical teaching ideas, she takes you inside the minds and classroom experiences of five ELLs. She documents the ways they think, the products of their learning, and their progress as writers. You'll see firsthand how an instructional focus on what children can do helps nonnative speakers become fluid English writers more quickly than placing them in low-performing groups or falling back on pullout remediation.

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