Cultural Patterns in Writing

In the article ELL writing skills: Cultural patterns stand out, Douglas Magrath illustrates how patterns in writing differ across cultures and how those patterns may influence an ELL student’s production in writing and speaking.  You can read his article in the September edition of the TESOL Multibrief.

Magrath, D., (September 9, 2015). ELL writing skills: Cultural patterns stand out, Retrieved from


Planning for ELLs with SWRRL

When we’re asked into classrooms to support ELL students, we often start by asking teachers to plan with three guiding questions in mind…

1)  What is the content my students are learning?  (Content Objective)

2)  What is the language students need to know in order to complete the task?  (Language Objective)

3)  How will I provide rehearsal ?  (What will the content/language objective look like in action?)

We ask teachers to remember the acronym SWRRL as they think about how to provide rehearsal.  It stands for:

441461168_f7daebf28a_oSay it

Write it

Read it

Repeat it

to Learn it

ELLs need multiple opportunities to rehearse or practice language in order to “own the language” or truly make it part of their vocabulary.  Give ELLs plenty of chances to do SWRRL with new language!

Say It:  Callbacks, turn and talks, say it like a lion, say it like robot, read a response to a question aloud to a partner

Write it:  Use sentence frames, write as a whole group, write in partners, write individually

Read it:  Read aloud, read sentence frames aloud, read what students have written, read text to a partner, read chorally in whole group

Repeat it:  Use cooperative learning structures to give students opportunities for repeated chances to say, write or read the new language.


Want more info on how to incorporate more opportunities for SWRRL in you classroom?  Contact your ELL Instructional Coach!  We love to help!

Writer’s Workshop: An Introduction

Writer’s Workshop is a transformative approach to teaching the practice and the art of writing. Students engage in the act of writing in the same way as published authors. They choose topics of interest about which to write, they write consistently, they share their writing with others, they receive feedback about their work, and they publish their writing for a variety of audiences. The teacher acts as a mentor and coach for students, guiding them on their journey to hone their skills to effectively express themselves using written language.

A teacher seeking to use this approach should strive to provide student writers with the following necessities:

  • Time/Space
  • Personal Choice
  • Structure
  • Writing Materials
  • Purpose/Feedback

The basic structure of a Writer’s Workshop includes:

  • Whole Group Writing Time (Mini-lesson)
  • Independent Writing Time
  • Sharing/Structured Response Time

To learn more about the ideas mentioned in this post, click here.

Secondary ELL Resources

There are many resources available for secondary ELL teachers to support them in all of the different classes at each language level. Teachers can access the latest draft of the scope and sequence for each class at each language level in Docushare. To access the different classes in level 1, click here. For the classes in level 2, click here. For the classes in level 3, click here. For level 4, click here.

In addition to the scope and sequence for each class, there is also folder in Googledocs containing various resources. Teachers can find a comparison chart for the different reading leveling systems and lists of texts that could be used at each language level. To access this folder, click here.

As we continue to work and improve the reading and writing skills of our ELL students, we have resources to support guided reading groups in secondary ELL classrooms and writer’s workshop in all ELL classrooms. To find more information about guided reading, click here. To find more information about writer’s workshop, click here.

Supporting Non-speakers in Writing

Working with new Level One students can be a challenge, particularly during writing time.  Writing is all “output” and Level One students are still working on acquiring language through “input.”  Getting all that language they are taking in back out–and on to paper, no less–is quite a rigorous activity!

A few things to remember are…

Build on the small things, common language experiences.  Sometimes, you just have to feed them the language…and that’s okay.

“I saw you playing on the swings today at recess.  Let’s draw a picture of that.  Here’s how I would draw it.  I’m going to put swings and a sun in my picture because it was sunny today.  I’ll add some grass, too.  Can you draw like me?  Great!  Should we put an “s” by your swings?  Because swings starts with s!  Let’s say, ‘I play on the swings.’  Can we try to write that?”

ELLs the chance to Say it, Write it, Read it and Repeat it to Learn it.  The best thing we can provide Level Ones is the opportunity for rehearsal, rehearsal, rehearsal.  With Level Ones, you might use a writing conference to do a sort of adapted “individual interactive writing.”  See what that rehearsal might look like here!

Additional resources:

Hartman, Amanda.  Up Close:  Teaching English Language Learners in Reading and Writing Workshops  (DVD).  Portsmouth, NH:  FirstHand.

Units of Study for Primary Writing:

Calkins, Lucy.  (2003). The Nuts and Bolts of  Teaching Writing.  Portsmouth, NH:  FirstHand.

Calkins, Lucy & Mermelstein, Leah.  (2010).  Launching the Writing Workshop.  Portsmouth, NH:  FirstHand.

Check out a sample here!

Calkins, Lucy & Oxenhorn, Abby.  (2003)  Small Moments:  Personal Narrative Writing.   Portsmouth, NH:  FirstHand.

Check out a sample here!



Using Photobooth to Publish

So you say you want to use Photobooth to publish student work?  What a great idea!  Did you know that Photobooth is so versatile because it is…

  • good for sharing presentations and a good way to use technology to publish.
  • a manageable process for students learn the process and use independently.
  • a good way for students to self evaluate their speaking/listening and presentation qualities as well as their piece of writing.
  • easily used with multiple genres…biographies are one idea but you can also use poetry nonfiction and beyond.

Resources to Get Started:

Using Photobooth to Publish Planning Guide


Examples of Photobooth Publishing Recordings to share with kids: 

Let’s learn our Photobooth Publishing Do’s and Don’ts!

A Non-Example

An Example

What I need to remember when publishing with Photobooth:  An Anchor Chart that can be come a self-reflection guide


Presentation Templates:

For Primary:

Presenation Flip cards in PDF format

Edit the Presentation Flip cards, if you wish, in Comic Life

For Intermediate Grades:

Presentation Template Script

Completed Presentation Script 

Resources For When You’re Ready to Record:

If you’re not sure how to use Photobooth or need a refresher, check out one of these resources that will help walk you through the process:

Photobooth Basics–a step by step guideline

How to Use Photobooth–a step by step guideline