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|What If My Students Are Very Low Level?|
by Lenore Balliro
|Fall 2004 issue|
Teaching writing is a big challenge when your students are at a very beginning stage of literacy acquisition. The most creative ideas for writing essays and longer pieces of prose aren't relevant when your students are struggling to hold a pencil. Many ABE and ESOL teachers have had good luck with the following strategies for helping students apply words to paper.
Visuals or photographs: Have students bring in photos that are important to them. (Make several photocopies of each or scan them into jpegs and give them back as soon as possible.) Ask students to identify the people in the photographs and write anything they would like under the photo, or anywhere on the page. Help students with corrections and have them recopy or word process. Compile all the students' photos into a class publication and copy for everyone. You can also have fun with the images by letting students enlarge, resize, duplicate, or otherwise modify them, thus adding graphic sophistication to the publication.
Picture Stories: Look for books that have pictures or photos arranged to tell a story. Have students discuss what is happening in the pictures, then have them write a few words under each picture. Help students expand the words into complete sentences through modeling. You can also use comic strips.
Forms: Start simply, with basic information about name, address, age, etc. Creating a simple pocket resume that students can complete on an index card and keep in their wallets for real-life needs. Add more complex information as they get more comfortable with filling out data.
Modeling: Students first read a short piece of writing that the teacher has created or located based on interests and needs students have identified. For example: a letter to a child's teacher, a paragraph about life in the home country, a summary of work experience. Then the teacher can recopy it leaving words blank for the students to fill in, reflecting their own personal information.
Dialogue Journals: If you have ESOL students, use the vocabulary you are teaching and reinforce it with the journals. Be selective and succinct about what you write, modeling sentences for students. For example, Teacher: Dear Mui, how are you? Student: I am fine. My weekend was good. I went to the movies. What did you do? The student can be coached to answer by responding in like form, using the teachers' sentences as models. Students can also be encouraged to use their first language or graphics to explain things beyond their English abilities.
Shirley Brod. (1999). "Seven Easy Pieces: Writing Activities for Beginning ESOL Learners." Focus on Basics, Volume 3, Issue D. gseweb.harvard.edu/~ncsall/fob/1999/brod'sarticle.html
Originally published in: Field Notes, Vol. 14, No. 2 (Fall 2004)|
Publisher: SABES/World Education, Boston, MA, Copyright 2004.
Posted on SABES Web site: November 2004
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