How I Teach My English-Language Learners to Love Writing

How I Teach My English-Language Learners to Love Writing

By Mary Ann Zehr

When I started a new career as a high school English-as-a-second-language teacher in 2011, I figured I was better equipped than many teachers to help students learn to write. I had been a journalist for 14 years for Education Week, and for most of that time I had specialized in writing about English-language learners. Four years later, I’m still in a trial-and-error stage in finding the most effective ways to teach adolescent ELLs to write. But I have had some success.

Most of my students have made good progress in English on the standardized test, ACCESS for ELLs, developed by WIDA, a consortium in Madison, Wis., and used by about half the states plus the District of Columbia to measure ELLs’ annual progress in English.

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Who Can, Who Should Teach Writing?

Originally posted on the becoming radical:

My transition from public high school English teacher to university assistant professor overlapped with my university debating and then voting to change its core curriculum and academic calendar.

I sat in many contentious faculty meetings mostly listening as faculty held forth about the pros and cons of both the established core/calendar and the proposed core/calendar. One thing that I witnessed was that faculty are quite protective of their own disciplines—but are apt to step carelessly on disciplines outside their area of expertise.

For example, the faculty were considering dropping the traditional first-year composition approach that is taught exclusively by English faculty for a first-year seminar approach that allowed and required faculty across all disciplines to teach the writing-intensive seminars for first year students.

As someone who taught high school English for almost twenty years—most of that time spent learning the complex craft of teaching writing through trial-and-error and dedicating much of…

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