Raising Attainment in Writing for EFL Pupils

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A school resource dossier containing strategies and subject knowledge to help teachers raise attainment in writing for EFL pupils in primary schools.


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    Raising Attainment in

    Writing for EFL Pupils

    in Primary Schools

    Kaleem Raja

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    Introduction 3

    The Structure of Language Acquisition and Writing 4

    Phonics 6

    Effective Teaching of EFL pupils 7

    Spelling 9

    Speaking and Listening and Drama 10

    Resources and Activity Ideas 11

    Conclusion 14

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    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.

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    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

    open this.

    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

    of writing.

    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:

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    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


    Sentence level

    Combining words to make phrases and

    combining phrases to make sentences.

    Simple sentences give way to complex


    Word level

    Forming words, learning the meaning of

    words and developing vocabulary

    Text level

    Sentences are combined to make

    longer pieces of writing with increasing

    complexity and stylistic range

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    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

    is 5.

    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

    English speakers.

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    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

    the curriculum.

    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.

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    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

    and worksheets.

    Board and flashcard games can also be used to help to build

    on childrens bank of sight words.

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    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:

    - Affixes

    - Graphemes and phonemes

    - Etymology

    - Inflections

    - Grammar

    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    Sentence Level

    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


    Text Level

    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

    - TES

    - Teach it

    - Sparkle box

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    - 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.

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    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


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