Monday, April 5, 2010

Gibbons Chapter 4

Learning to write in a second language can be a tough task to face, but an absolutely necessary one to accomplish for students who are ELL. "Effective writers are likely to think about and plan their writing, at least in a general way, before they begin. They understand that writing is a recursive process-that writers continually revise and edit at all stages of the writing process, from first draft to final product" (Gibbons pg. 52). One of the most important steps in teaching children to write in a different language is showing them that good writers make a plan before they begin and are constantly re-reading their work to make it the best as it possibly can. Sometimes it can be hard for ELL students to learn, because in the western society, they put a great emphasis on understanding the processes of language and implementing that into their writing, which may not always be the case for these ELL students. Grammatical structures can also pose a great difficulty for ELL students, but preparing students with the proper guidelines for writing, such as organization, proofreading, and editing will help them be successful.

There are several explicit teaching strategies about writing that Gibbons presents in chapter 4. One of them being process approaches which put the learner at the center of the learning process which encourages them to use their own expressive language to write about their own experiences. At this stage of writing, "meaning is more important than form, and writing should take place frequently and within a context that provides real audiences for writing" (Gibbons, pg. 57). Structure and the actual mechanics of writing are not nearly as important right now in this stage of learning to write for ELL students, as it is to start expressing themselves in writing and getting the practice that is necessary to help them be successful.

Another important point that this chapter brings up is called 'The Curriculum Cycle", which is a way that particular text types can be made explicit to students. There are four stages in the Curriculum Cycle that allow students to get a better understanding and recognition of how exactly that are supposed to go about learning to write. The stages include, Stage 1: Building the Field, Stage 2: Modeling the Text Type, Stage 3: Joint Construction, and Stage 4: Independent Writing. Each of these stages are equally important to go through and introduce to students, even though it can take several weeks to accomplish all of these steps. One important point to note is that "not all activities will be appropriate for all ages, and they also are not all appropriate for use in the teaching of every text type. In addition, from your general teaching experience you can no doubt think of other language focused activities and ways of developing the topic" (Gibbons, pg. 61). Although these stages are beneficial to helping ELL students learn to write, it may not always be the best approach for every type of text that is introduced to the class, so the teacher has to use their best judgment to recognize what will work best for the students.

Scaffolding is extremely important for students to learn writing, because teachers need to scaffold and model beneficial processes in order for the students to learn properly. "The more planned and responsive the scaffolding, the more likely it is that students will write effectively, feel they have control over what they are writing, and gain confidence in using written language" (Gibbons, pg. 76). This quote sums up the chapter and shows how significant it is for teachers to be an integral part of instruction and teaching ELL students to learn to write.


  1. I liked how you pointed out the importance of DE-stressing mechanics (such as grammar, language structure, etc.) when an ELL is in the early stages of learning to express him/herself through writing. When a child is being pushed to spell every word correctly, use perfect grammar and punctuation, etc. they lose confidence, and they don't enjoy the process. Writing is an intimate activity. It is a creative process that should be enjoyable for children. When ELLs are constantly berated in regards to straight mechanics, they put their work at arms length, and disassociate with what they are writing...making it impossible to feel motivated to try hard and improve. As teachers, we have to make a concerted effort to back off of those students and allow them opportunities to free write and let their creative juices flow.

  2. I also like how you pointed out inventive spelling but I find that I have a few students who really want to learn how to spell new words. How would you deal with a student who is constantly asking you how to spell words when you have already stressed to the students that they should use inventive spelling? I enjoy seeing their curiosity but I also want them to focus on the content of their writing.