Integrating Speaking and Writing for ELLs
Speaking and writing are two components of language development. With elementary aged students they typical progression I see is that they progress more quickly in speaking and then writing. This is most likely due to the fact that all students at that age are learning writing while native English speakers have been practicing speaking English since they were babies. Integrating the two provides ELLs with additional speaking practice and helps improve their writing. Here are some strategies and resources for integrating speaking and writing.
Start with Speaking
Using speaking as a springboard for writing is an effective strategy for all students, but particularly ESOL students as it helps to build their oral language skills. Many students are less intimidated to speak compared with writing.
Allow Students to Use their Native Language
For some ELLs, particularly newcomers and those with lower language levels speaking in English may still cause anxiety. Consider allowing ELLs to talk in their native language if they have a peer that also speaks that language to first generate ideas. They can then practice saying a few phrases or sentences in English before moving onto writing.
Have Students Draw to Generate Ideas
Another way to help alleviate anxiety around speaking and writing is to have students draw a picture or sketch. Then, when it is time for them to speak and write they have something to reference. This is particularly helpful for students with lower language levels. One method I used with a group of first grade students was that they would sketch a picture, then talk about it, then write about it. After writing they could color it. The coloring worked as a motivator for them to finish the writing.
Speaking and Writing Resources
I created some Everyday Event Picture Strips for my students to discuss. First I modeled with one set of pictures, and then partnered students up to discuss the remaining pictures. Next I gave them sentence frames to help guide the discussion.
Listen to student conversations and provide feedback
As students were talking I was able to listen in to their ideas. Speaking with a partner allowed them to hear the ideas of a peer at a similar language level. Listening to their conversations made it easier for my to provide support when they moved on to writing.
Use graphic organizers to support writing
Afterwards I gave students a graphic organizer for the same pictures they had been discussing. Depending on the needs of each group I sometimes gave students a specific set of pictures to write about and for other groups I let the students choose which set of pictures they wanted to write about.
Some students received a graphic organizer with a word bank and others did not require this scaffold. Finally they wrote a story adding in additional details. Having previously spoken about the pictures helped students expand their writing.
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For even more speaking and writing ideas to use with ELLs check out my post Supporting ELLs Writing through Listening and Speaking.