Looking for Ways to Motivate ELLs to Use More Academic Language in Speaking and Writing.

As the year winds down, I look back on areas where I could have done more for my ELLs in their pursuit of English.  Their writing and reading skills have improved and that is great.  However, you would never know this from listening to them speak in a classroom.  Incomplete sentences make up the bulk of their responses even with gentle nagging.  There never seems to be enough of a transfer of classroom vocabulary to actual speech (without reminding).  I have tried various group settings, games, role-playing, but it never seems to be enough.  BTW, they are the sweetest kids in every respect and that is why I feel guilty this time of year.

Would any of you be willing to share what you are doing with your students be they ESL or EO (English only)? 





Tags: EFL, ELD, ESL, English

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Hey denise,

Couple of thoughts started sprucing in mind when I read your post. Here are some suggestions:

1. Give them some 'simple' short academic paper. Tell them to rewrite those for junior schools. Then give them a kiddie story to turn into an academic or more formal writing.

2. Give them a topic to write. Then tell them to record this via Podomatic so other can listen. Then tell other to comment.

3. Provide a mindmap of a certain concept. Discuss with them the relationship between one node to another. Then tell them to turn that into a paragraph.

Hope these helps.

Hi Wan,

I like your short non-traditional approach. This will be ideal next week for when we have our annual California assessments. With 30 minute classes, I could introduce this as a fun approach to writing. Since they don't fit the traditional approach, they may be more likely to want to take part.



Here are my two suggestions:

1. Make complete sentences the rule.

I worked at a KIPP school last year, and it was a school-wide expectation that every question was answered with a complete sentence. We taught one or two lessons specifically showing students how to do this -- with sentence starters, etc. Students were also expected to address their audience every time they spoke in class, so they'd say "Ms. Scott, I think..." or "Fellow teammates, I believe...." Having them start sentences like this was a big help because it reminded them that a full sentence answer was expected.

Once the concept was introduced, every student HAD to answer in complete sentences. If they didn't, they had to re-phrase their answer until they did it correctly. For the first few weeks, it was time-consuming and painful to do this. But by the end of a month, every student automatically answered every question in a complete sentence.

It had other positive effects, too. When we had visitors to the school, students remembered their names because they knew they'd have to use the name to ask a question or speak to the visitor. Guests were always very impressed with our students. And, once the habit was started, it was one that stayed with the students, making them sound more professional in all aspects of their lives.

2. Offer points for using classroom vocabulary in speech and writing.

When I taught fourth-grade, I had a point system for student behaviors (every team would earn points based on their behaviors). I think a lot of teachers do similar things with marbles, etc. Anyway, because we were learning so much new vocabulary, I told students they could earn points by using the new words when speaking or writing in class. Not only that, anyone who noticed the use of a vocab word would earn points, as well. That way, students were not only using the vocabulary, they were listening for it as well.

It worked well. Because students earned points in teams, they would encourage each other to use the vocab when working in groups. Eventually, the vocab became a normal part of their speech.
Hi Katy,

Yes, the need for complete sentences is a must. With my ELLs, I push this regularly. However, I have not gone as far as you did. First referring to the person by name before responding in a complete sentence to the comment is a technique that will help them later on in life within their professions.

Points for delivering as expected is a must:) Maybe accrued points can lead to a class prize of some sort.

Thank you.





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