Writing and EAL/D learners

Writing is central to EAL/D students’ learning at school. Learning writing is a platform for understanding and development of language structure, text and academic content. It gives students the opportunity to express themselves, and also to analyse and understand texts and concepts in detail. Achievement in writing is often a measure of learning and academic progress.

Students need to learn writing skills at the levels of sub-word, word, phrase, sentence, paragraph and text. These include:

  • forming letters and writing from left to right
  • understanding the connection between letters and sounds
  • spelling words using a range of strategies
  • using grammar to create comprehensible sentences
  • connecting sentences to create coherent paragraphs and texts
  • choosing language features and text structures to achieve a specific purpose with a particular audience
  • applying writing skills for increasingly technical topics and formal contexts.

EAL/D students begin learning English at different points in their lives, and may have no prior understanding of literacy in any language. The script of their home language could also be vastly different from English. Therefore, EAL/D students may need to develop these foundational skills in writing regardless of their age.

Teaching new language explicitly and in context develops EAL/D students’ writing skills. Using the teaching and learning cycle, teachers can provide a structured approach supported by a range of texts, language and collaborative learning resources in the following ways:

  • building the field connects new content learning to students' prior knowledge, and develops vocabulary and language they need to express these ideas
  • model texts can form the basis of close reading activities, and provide writing templates and visual scaffolds, as well as a reference for key structural and language features
  • explicit teaching of grammar in context supports students to learn new language features and apply and practise these in meaningful ways
  • explicit teaching, collaborative learning and the purposeful use of home languages are important to scaffold EAL/D students at all stages of the writing process - planning, drafting, revising, editing and publishing.

Using students’ knowledge of their home languages strategically supports EAL/D students in writing. For example, students can incorporate some home language features when they write imaginative texts, accompanied by a glossary. Home languages support students to:

  • make strong connections to new knowledge and language during collaboration and discussions
  • strengthen their text analysis skills when they can compare text structures and features between English and their home language
  • create notes, storyboards and structures for their texts during the planning stage
  • discuss drafts and give in-depth feedback during the revision stage.