Raising Attainment in
Writing for EFL Pupils
in Primary Schools
The Structure of Language Acquisition and Writing 4
Effective Teaching of EFL pupils 7
Speaking and Listening and Drama 10
Resources and Activity Ideas 11
I have compiled this paper using the knowledge I have
attained through the formal study of advanced linguistics and
language acquisition at university, 10 years experience of
teaching EFL pupils, intervention programmes like First
Steps, regular CPD in delivering the curriculum to EFL pupils
and training in teaching spellings, reading and writing to
children from the ages of 5 to 11.
The Structure of Language Acquisition and Writing
First and foremost those teaching EFL pupils should be aware
of the process of acquiring language and that this takes a
precise and systematic structure.
As infants, we first learn the simple sounds that make any
language. We internalise these and when physically able to,
we begin to imitate these sounds.
We learn to combine these sounds to make small units of
language called words. At the same time we begin to
understand that these units of sounds have meaning.
We collect increasingly more words and develop our
vocabulary to be able to communicate a range of things to
meet our needs.
Words are combined to make simple phrases like give me or
Phrases are then combined to make simple sentences.
Simple sentences are developed into more complex sentences.
Sentences are combined to make longer discourse like small
paragraphs, which are strung together to make longer pieces
The final and fully evolved stage is one in which we have
mastered the conventions of different styles of writing and are
able to write a range of different texts in a diverse variety of
genres for different audiences and different purposes.
In graph form, speech and writing development is as follows:
Listening to and imitating the sounds
that make up the language
Learning the most common graphemes
that make the phonemes and forming
letters to begin writing these
Combining words to make phrases and
combining phrases to make sentences.
Simple sentences give way to complex
Forming words, learning the meaning of
words and developing vocabulary
Sentences are combined to make
longer pieces of writing with increasing
complexity and stylistic range
The foundations of language is phonics. A phoneme is the
smallest unit of sound in all languages and it is from this
linguistic germ that all language grows.
The bank of phonics, therefore, that a child acquires in the
first 3 years of its life is absolutely critical.
This phonics knowledge should take formal guidance from 3
onwards with nursery, reception and then into year 1 within
the formal setting and structure of a class room when the child
Those teaching EFL should have a sound grounding in
phonetics or at least its rudimentary basics such an awareness
that the English language is made up of 44 sounds and what
these sounds are.
There must be some understanding of simple phonemes,
vowel sounds and dipthongs.
This must be accompanied by a firm grasp of the variety of
graphemes that make these sounds. For instance that -ch can
make a ch sound but also a k sound. That the ee sound
can be made by ee, -y, -ea, -ey. Etc.
In order for EFL children to understand the subtle but huge
differences between sounds, EFL teachers need to be fluent
speakers of the language and good language models of
Effective Teaching of EFL Pupils
The fact that for Nada pupils English is an additional language
has significant implications for teaching and learning in the
Staff could be made aware of the issues regarding the teaching
of EFL pupils. Much research has been done into such matters
and intervention programmes for the teaching of EFL pupils
such as the First Steps initiative, to name but one, have
outlined how to best raise attainment of EFL pupils.
These recommendations include:
1. Multi-lingualism. Multi-lingual pupils learn best when
links are made between the languages they speak and the
additional language they are learning. A multi-lingual
approach should therefore be taken with resources used
in lessons activities, reading and library books, display
boards and speaking and listening activities.
2. A visual approach to teaching. Posters, graphs, pictures,
animations, etc should be deployed as much as possible
as visual cues. Text heavy resources should be kept to a
minimum. Drama and the arts should be used to deliver
3. Scaffolding. Activities should be aided with writing
frames, modelling of tasks by teachers and illustrated
4. Have spelling and vocabulary log books to broaden their
banks of sight words, phonics and vocabulary.
Speech comes before literacy.
We learn to speak before we learn to read and write.
To help EFL pupils to develop their reading skills, use visual
aids to encourage them to speak first.
Picture books can be used to develop verbal discussion.
This can then be followed by simple texts which are made up
of sight words and simple CVC words (consonant-vowel-
consonant words. For instance c-a-t. Cat.)
Sight word knowledge can be developed by using flash cards
Board and flashcard games can also be used to help to build
on childrens bank of sight words.
Working at a phonic and lexical level, spellings are vital to the
development of reading and writing.
As well as being used to teach vocabulary, spellings should be
used to teach:
- Graphemes and phonemes
For effective spelling teaching, it is not enough to administer
a list of words.
Spellings need to be accompanied with the teaching of
spelling skills. Spelling skills should include a knowledge of
syllabication, common letter strings, mnemonic strategies,
finding words within words, suffixes and prefixes, spelling
rules and exceptions, and derivations.
In their writing key spelling mistakes should be highlighted
and the pupils to rewrite the corrections 5 times.
Spelling log books could be deployed for pupils to record
their common errors as well being used by them for asking for
help from adults with challenging words.
Speaking and Listening and Drama
Key to teaching EFL pupils is the inclusion of speaking and
listening skills and the use of drama.
Speaking and Listening Skills
Pupils, and especially EFL pupils, need opportunities to
articulate their ideas, beyond just through their writing. The
improvement of speaking and listening skills correlates with
the improvement in reading and writing skills.
Ergo, lesson activities where possible need to include
speaking and listening activities.
Group activities, paired work and Talk Partners, in which
pupils are assigned a different talking partner in the class
every week, are a good way to provide speaking and listening
Visual, interactive, kinaesthetic, fun and creative, drama is an
excellent way to engage pupils and to help them to access the
curriculum in an imaginative and lateral way.
Resources and Activity Ideas
The Jolly Phonics handbook by Sue Lloyd contains a wide
variety of ideas, activities, worksheets and other resources that
can be used to teach the 44 sounds of the English language.
Songs, nursery rhymes and choral poems are an excellent way
to help children to distinguish and identify different sound
Digraphs, Trigraphs and Common Letter Strings
Many spelling scheme books as well worksheets have a
limitless supply of activities to help with the teaching of
digraphs (2 letters that make one sound , like ay- to make a
long a sounds as in day), trigraphs (3 letters that make one
sound, like tio- to make a sh sound) and common letter
strings (2-3 sounds that are frequently blended in many
common words, like str- as in strange, straight, strip, etc)
Vocabulary and Word Formation
Sight words can be learnt using various illustrated sight word
worksheets or through the use of flash cards.
These can be used to play snap and other card games or sent
home as homework.
CVC cubes can be used to begin making simple words.
Scramble activities can be used to unscramble sentences on
cut up print outs.
Cloze procedure exercises are also helpful here.
Completion sentences can extend children where the
beginning of sentences is given and they have to complete
Comic strips are a great way of introducing EFL to longer
narratives and texts.
Writing frames, story planner flow diagrams and other
scaffolded activities help them to work towards text level.
Shared and guided writing are also important components in
helping EFL pupils to become independent writers.
Websites and other Resources
The following websites have a wide plethora of teaching
resources, ideas and activities:
- Primary resources
- Coxhoe primary
- Teach it
- Sparkle box
- Standards website for English in England, Scotland and
- Teacher net
There are endless interactive language games on an array of
The internet offers a treasure trove of information and
Multi media in the form of films, audio recordings, music and
educational childrens TV programmes is also very useful in
teaching EFL pupils and helping them towards being fluent
speakers, readers and writers of the English language.
This paper was not designed to be a definitive guide to EFL
teaching but it outlines the key points in teaching English to
speakers of other languages.
This document has used some technical jargon and assumes
the reader has basic understanding of linguistics.
As such, this paper needs a glossary and the guidelines here
need expanding on in the form of a staff inset where examples
can be given, questions answered, exercises and activities
undertaken by the audience to consolidate understanding and
application of the information imparted and the resources