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Taiteliyeva M.A. Baryssova N.T.

South Kazakhstan State Pedagogical University, Kazakhstan

Approaches to teach writing to English learners

Literacy instruction which helps students become interested and involved in a meaningful activity and provides students with the support they need to complete the activity successfully is known as the constructivist approach or constructivist model and was based on literacy research and the ideas of Vygotsky. According to Vigotsky, learning is a social process that takes place through interactions between a child and others in their environment. Gradually, the child internalizes the skills and knowledge acquired through these social interactions. He suggested that a child learns through interactions that take place in the zone of proximal development (ZPD), in other words, through interactions that provide guidance and support in areas or parts that the child cannot manage independently, but can do so with help. It is beyond the zone of proximal development when a child cannot manage parts of a task at all, even with assistance. The zone of proximal development is the area in which instruction can be of greatest benefit to the child.

The concepts of constructivist approach and Vigotsky’s ZPD have been used in conjunction with the notion of scaffolding, as scaffolding refers to the supportive behaviors by experts to help learners achieve higher levels of control. It seems that English Learners acquire literacy skills when they are interested and involved in meaningful activities while being supported by teachers through interactions (between student and teacher) that take place when a student cannot handle a matter independently than when this type of support is lacking. Among the most prominent characterizations of the constructivist approach in literacy instruction are the whole-language and the writing-process models to be discussed next.

The whole language model. Advocates and teachers of the Whole Language Approach believe that literacy learning happens within the context of reading and writing natural and authentic whole text and that language is best learned when it is not broken down into distinct parts to be leaned by pieces. They think that children, including English Learners, can explore topics of interest to them which will engage them in reading and writing and through this engagement literacy is acquired.

The teaching of writing through the whole language model would reflect the following environment and practices:

1) The classroom is designed by teacher and students to promote learning

2) High frequency words and vocabulary words (including writing materials) are always ready and accessible for the students

3) The teacher, and eventually the students, put emphasis on the meaning and importance in written communication

4) Interactions between the teacher and student or group of students to discuss about what needs to be written, as they have the opportunity to choose what to write and to choose literature written by adult and children authors

5) The teacher acts as the facilitator who demonstrates what it means to be a writer

6) Students are risk takers who see learning to write as an exciting opportunity for unrestricted written responses with meaningful purposes

7) Students work cooperatively to share, discuss, and revise their written products

8) Students write on a daily basis

9) Teachers are observers who evaluate and assess based on their observations on what students can and can’t do.

Richardson described one example of a whole- language classroom. He analyzed the classroom context that influenced a group of beginning-level English Learners to view themselves as writers and act as writers. He described the classroom as surrounded by meaningful print and children’s books. The teacher read stories and nursery rhymes to children, rather than isolated reading skill exercises. She also believed that students would learn to write by writing, so she modeled writing and her own thinking process that led her through her writing.


The writing-process model

  1. Kasper was one of the first researchers of composing processes. Her investigations showed that students write either in the extensive writing or the reflexive writing mode. Extensive writing is school writing that addresses the teacher as the audience with minimal attention to prewriting, rethinking or contemplation of the written text. In contrast, reflexive writing has an audience other than the teacher (e.g.; a peer or even him or herself), attention is paid to revision, and it involves contemplation of the written text. Based on her research, Kasper identified several categories of composing common in reflexive writing: planning, starting, composing aloud, reformulation (correcting, revising, and rewriting), stopping, and contemplation of the product. She also found that composing is not a strict left-to-right, linear process, but it is rather a recursive process.

Early research recognized the recursive nature of the writing process as Kasper suggested. Unfortunately, the recursive characteristic of composing was not present in elementary and middle schools. A linear writing process was being used as a model for students, and students’ writing began to follow a predictable format. This model became institutionalized as the model of writing process.

The emphasis had been placed in a product-centered, traditional model (which stressed expository writing and a strict, linear writing process) until the writing- process model caused a major shift in composition theory. The writing-process model (as found in early research) focuses on recursive writing processes and teaches strategies for invention and discovery; considers audience, purpose, and context of writing; emphasizes recursiveness in the writing process; and distinguishes modes of written communication (e.g., expressive, expository, persuasive; and description, narration, evaluation, classification, etc.) as described by Godwin-Jones R .

In the writing-process model steps are followed to produce a piece of writing. In other words, this process breaks writing into manageable pieces, allowing students to concentrate on one task at a time towards a final writing product. Generally, the writing process is seen as consisting of five steps:

-Prewriting: planning, research, outlining, diagramming, and clustering

-Drafting: initial composition in prose form

-Revision: review, modification and organization (preferably with a peer)

-Editing: proofreading for clarity, conventions, style (preferably with a peer)

Sharing the Writing/Submittal/Publishing: through performance, distribution of written material, or printing Godwin-Jones R emphasizes that the writing-process theory is diverse, flexible, and still emerging. Teacher-researchers who used think-aloud protocols discovered that there are different writing-processes and composing is not necessarily linear, but the steps follow a recursive pattern. Students frequently go back to the written text to previous words, sentences, or paragraphs to re-read, to remember, to add, to edit, or simply to catch the momentum of their writing. Researchers have found that successful writers often use a variety of composing processes and not a single strict process, depending on the writing situation; as situations put social, psychological, and rhetorical constraints on the writer.

Quality research that supports teaching writing to English Learners through the writing-process is limited. Researchers consider that the writing-process model is still emerging, even though it is not as strict and linear as the product-centered model. There are also indications that the field of inquiry is moving towards an integrated theory of writing that includes both process and product models.

Additional Points to Consider when Teaching English Learners to Write.


1 Richardson W. (2003). Weblogs in the English classroom: More than just chat. English Journal, №3, 2003. vol. 7. - p.57-64.

2 Kasper L.F. New Technologies, New Literacies: Focus Discipline Research and ESL Learning Communities // Language Learning and Technology. 2005. №4(2). Pp. 1-17.

3 Godwin-Jones R. Blogs and wikis: Environments for on-line collaboration. Electronic Version. // Language, Learning and Technology. 2003. -№ 7(2). -Pp. 12-16.

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