For many children learning a new language they go through a similar progression of language acquisition. Listening skills come first, then speaking, then reading, finally writing. With this information in mind, I find it helpful to integrate language skills. This also has the added benefit of helping students generate ideas in multiple ways and helping children that learn in different ways to be successful. Here are some ideas to help students listen and talk before they begin writing, including Speak then Write activities.
Fisher, Frey & Rothenberg (2008) state that “English language learners need access to instruction that recognizes the symbiotic relationship among the four domains of language: listening, speaking, reading, and writing.”** There is not time to start with only listening and speaking the way children learn a first language. Integrating the language domains helps ELLs to aquire the literacy while learning vocabulary through listening and speaking.
1. Think Pair Share
One activity I came across takes a common classroom structure (Think Pair Share) and reformats it to be even more beneficial to ELLs writing.* Students can fill out a graphic organizer to record their ideas as they are talking and listening. Afterwards they have additional ideas to use as they are writing about the topic.
|Topic||Partner 1 Talks (Speaking)||Partner 2 Talks (Listening)||
Partners Prepare to share ideas (Speaking)
2. Using Visuals
Visuals help to give ELLs a common ground to build their conversation on. For lower level students it allows them to sometimes use nonverbal communication such as pointing to part of the picture as they are speaking or refer to it as they are listening. Students can then use the same images as part of a writing activity. The continuity helps students to incorporate new vocabulary into their writing.
3. Speak then Write Activities
I created a set of Speak then Write activities for students that come with colorful images. One set also integrates animal life cycles so that they can be used as a part of science content instruction as well.
There are colorful cards for stages of animal and plant life cycles. Students place them on a life cycle sorting mat and can then use question prompts to talk about the pictures with a partner.
Differentiated Graphic Organizers
I have 3 levels of graphic organizers. One has the pictures already put in order. Students only have to write about the pictures. This can be as simple as one or two words, focusing on vocabulary. For the other two levels students cut out and glue the pictures onto the organizer. Students can also use the organizers to help complete an animal research project. They can read books or watch video clips about the animal and use the organizer to record the information that they learn about each stage.
For even more speaking and writing ideas to use with ELLs check out my post Integrating Speaking and Writing for ELLs.
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*Moving From Spoken to Written Language With ELLs
*Content-Area Conversations: How to Plan Discussion-Based Lessons for Diverse Language Learners