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ESOL Online. Every child literate - a shared responsibility.
Ministry of Education.

Module 2 - Writing


In this module you will:

  • look at some writing exemplars
  • analyse your students’ writing in relation to The Progressions: ELLP
  • identify ‘next steps’ for your students in writing
  • plan further opportunities to develop students’ writing

You will need:

  • The Progressions: ELLP booklet that is relevant (Years 1-4, 5-8 or 9-13). This is the booklet which you will use throughout this module.
  • Writing samples from your students from a range of curriculum contexts.

Getting started

To start you thinking about writing, please read the relevant section in The Progressions: ELLP. This is a useful summary, easy to read and contains important ideas about your English language learners.

Years 1-4 pp.36-38
Years 5-8 pp.42-44
Years 9-13 pp.52-54

Summary of key messages about writing

  • There are many commonalities in the way that all learners develop writing skills. However, there will be some noticeable differences in English language learners’ patterns and rates of progress.
  • As for all students, the better prepared and supported an English language learner is for writing, the better their writing will be.
  • English language learners should be encouraged to write in their home language(s).
  • Younger writers generally take a shorter time than older students to reach cohort level in writing.

Writing well
Writing on familiar topics is very important at early stages of learning to write in English. At the same time, it is important to develop writing skills in curriculum-related contexts (e.g. a science report, explanations of processes, etc).

In order to write well, learners need to build and/or have access to a bank of vocabulary that is appropriate to the writing task. This would include general vocabulary and topic-specific vocabulary.

Teachers need to analyse writing errors carefully to discover what is causing them.

  • If a learner leaves –ed off a verb, this may be because the learner’s home language does not have a past tense construction. Therefore, this feature of English needs to be explicitly taught and not treated just as a spelling error.
  • If a five-year old writes ‘I goed to the beach’ it may be attributable to the developmental stage of the learner rather than proficiency in English.

Gathering information

Using the writing section of The English Language Learning Progressions: ELLP

Open the double-sided, fold-out page for the writing matrix in your booklet which is colour-coded for each stage.

Years 1-4 p.39
  Click the above image to enlarge
Years 5-8 p.45
  Click the above image to enlarge
Years 9-13 p.55
  Click the above image to enlarge

The matrix focuses on how learners within each broad stage typically write. Features of writing are described in relation to topic development, sentence development and language structures, vocabulary development, script control and editing, spelling and punctuation.

Look for these aspects of writing across the top of the matrix and the different stages down the side. For each stage of The Progressions: ELLP, the matrices show some characteristics of writing that learners are likely to produce at different stages.

Opportunities for writing assessment

There are many different opportunities for assessing students’ writing. These include:

  • analysing writing in day to day writing tasks, including work learners have completed in a range of curriculum areas, for example technology or health and physical education.
  • independent writing samples which may have already been analysed against criteria (for example, asTTle, NCEA assessment activities)
  • observations of learners as they are engaged in writing with support
  • observations of learners as they are engaged in writing independently
  • NEMP tasks
  • ARBs

Assessment Tools Selector

Further information about a range of assessment tools is available at  Assessment Online

Examining the ELLP writing exemplars

On the pages following the matrix, you will see examples of students’ writing at each stage.
Years 1-4 pp.41-60
Years 5-8 pp.47-76
Years 9-13 pp.57-83

Skim through the exemplars and think about how they provide evidence for each stage.
What features of writing do you notice?

For the writing exemplars, you should match the description of the text features with the actual example in the learner’s writing, looking to see the specific features that are being described.

Thinking about your own students’ writing

Collect some information about your own English language learners’ writing:

  • samples of written work
  • students’ exercise books
  • writing that students have completed in a range of curriculum areas
  • notes about what you observe learners doing during the writing process (e.g accessing vocabulary resources, editing and asking for assistance)

When you have this information about your own learners, you will be ready to start the next section - Making a 'best-fit'.

Making a 'best-fit'

How do I go about making a ‘best-fit’?

By now you will have examples and information about your own English language learners’ writing. In this section you will use this information to decide on a ‘best fit’ stage for your students.

Video: Writing
How one teacher and her colleague work together to decide on a student’s writing stage.

Where do your English language learners fit on the writing matrix?

Now you have seen the digital clip it is time for you to place your own students on the writing matrix.

Use the writing matrix to decide which stage each learner is likely to fit into – make a general decision at this stage.

To confirm your ‘best fit’ decision, go to the pages following the matrix that have more detail and contain some student writing exemplars.

Years 1-4 pp.41-60
Years 5-8 pp.47-76
Years 9-13 pp.57-83

Sit your own student’s writing alongside the exemplars at your best-fit stage.
 - does this look like the right stage?

Examine the ‘Typical features of writing…’ at your chosen stage, looking to confirm the typical features with your own student’s work.
 - does this confirm your identification of the best-fit stage?

If not, look at the exemplars before and after the one you are looking at, to try and find the appropriate stage for your learner.

You’ll notice that Foundation and Stage 2 are broken down into sub-stages (A & B), but you may prefer not to record the sub-stage level of detail.

You will probably notice that students show aspects across more than one stage. You are aiming for an overall ‘best fit’.

Monitoring your learners

Keeping track of your learners’ stages is important. One purpose is to show progress over time and this could be done in a variety of ways.

You could:

  • highlight and date the indicators on the matrix and record the student’s ‘best-fit’ level.
  • annotate the matrix with extra notes that support your decision
  • collate the information on a student ‘record of progress’ form. 
    See the example which you could use or adapt from the booklets.
    Years 1-4 p.64
    Years 5-8 p.81
    Years 9-13 p.89
  • record on your school manager or database system

When you have confidently completed this section you are ready to consider how this information helps you, and what you should do next to help your learners.

  • what do my students need to learn next? 
  • What do I need to do next?

Next steps

Acting on the writing information

Suggestions to further develop your students’ written language proficiency include:

  • using the matrices and looking ahead to the indicators at the next stage
  • using visuals of real life objects or concrete experiences to support English language learners’ understanding of ideas
  • explicitly teaching new vocabulary and/or language structures that students can use in their writing
  • actively modelling what effective writers do as they construct text
  • creating written models that show learners what the writing looks like
  • dictogloss
  • graphic organisers to plan writing
  • sentence combining tasks
  • writing frames
  • information transfer tasks

Many of these strategies are found:

Leading professional learning - Writing

Ideas to use this online material with other teachers to develop knowledge about English language learners’ writing:

  • The content of the module contains some key messages for teachers. You could copy these messages as a prompt for your discussions. 

Writing Key Messages (PDF 64KB)

  • The facilitation manual of The Progressions:ELLP also has some helpful ideas. Look at p.18-21 for tasks, templates and focus questions around the writing section of The Progressions: ELLP.
  • With a group of teachers, use the writing exemplars from The Progressions:ELLP or your own students’ writing to highlight and annotate the texts noting the features of the relevant stage.
    • What features of writing do you notice? 
    • What would be the next steps for the learner?
  • Use the series of DVDs  Making Language and Learning Work (1, 2 & 3) to help you plan for specific teaching ideas and support your discussion about teaching writing with teachers.

Published on: 15 Dec 2015