Getting students to write even in their native language is difficult let alone a foreign one.  Students who are new to English will need an immense amount of support in order to write.  The good news is that the kind of writing they really need to do (nonfiction) is probably the easiest for them.  There are many strategies they can use in order to convey their thoughts and knowledge.  Read below for some ideas.

Newcomer writing:

1.  Nonfiction writing is more concrete and less abstract which is good for ELs.  Start by giving them the vocabulary you want them to use. Have them match pictures to the new vocabulary.  Probably nouns would be the best vocabulary to start with.

2.  Then add adjectives and have visuals to go with them. 

3.  Have them read and work with this new vocabulary and write sentences.  Give them a sample sentence that they can use as a guide.

4.  Have them apply and connect the vocabulary to themselves.

5.  Then build on this foundation and add more vocabulary to create more complex sentences.

6.  From this you can work on writing a paragraph etc. 

For example...


1.  Look at the pictures and decide which things are good for your health and which are bad for your health.

2.  With a word bank (and pictures to go along if necessary) list which things are Healthy and which are unhealthy.  (graphic organizer / t-chart)

3.  With a partner compare your lists.  Tell which are the same and which are different.  Tell which foods are common in your country.  Ask what foods your partner likes to eat.

4. Then give them a structure to work within.  For example:  Write a sentence about what your partner likes to eat.  "My partner likes to eat....  My partner likes to drink..."

5.  You can give them an outline with words to choose from.  They circle which words they hear spoken. 

6.  Then they rewrite the paragraph about themselves. 

7.  Another practice activity would be to have them interview a classmate, but give them the questions to ask and a place to write the answers.  Then they can take that information and turn it into a paragraph.

Source:  Writing Workout:  A Program for New Students of English  by Jann Huizenga and Maria Thomas-Ruzic