4 Effective Writing Strategies for English Language Learners

Are you looking for fun and engaging writing strategies for English Language Learners? It is often difficult for ELL students to come up with ideas during writing class.

This is sometimes because they don’t have the same experiences as other students. It may take some time for them to feel comfortable sharing their experiences. Some refugee students’ memories are very painful and it makes sense that they may be too hard to write about.

What strategies are appropriate for English Language Learners?

Create Shared Experiences that students can enjoy, discuss and write about!


1) Watch a funny, short video

  • Break students into small groups and discuss. 
    • Have at least one strong English speaker in each group so that students have a language model
  • Here are some discussion prompts in case your students get stuck and need a starting point.
    • Who are the characters in this film?
    • What is the problem?
    • How does this film end?
    • Did anything funny happen?
    • Do you think that this could happen in real life?

The Pixar Short, Mike’s New Car is a great video to use for this activity!

After watching the film and giving students a chance to discuss it in small groups, have students write about it. You can provide students with the following sentence stems but don’t require it. Sometimes students will have had such a great conversation that they will want to take their writing in an entirely different direction!

The funniest part of this film was when __________________________________.

My favourite part of this film was ________________________.

My favourite character is _________________. I like him because ________________.

The problem in this film was ____________________. The problem was solved when ___________________________.

The character __________________is similar/ different to me because ________.

2) Take a Walk Around the School

Take your entire class or a small group of students on a spy mission around the school. Students enjoy pretending that they are spies gathering data on how kids learn. Then have kids discuss what they saw in small groups and they can write about it. Here are some sentence stems that they can use if needed.

On our walk I saw _____________________.

My favourite part of our school is _________ because ____________.

going on a school exploration a writing strategy for english language learners

3) Play a Game:

I have found that sometimes the simplest experiences can be the most meaningful. When the weather is nice enough (not minus 31 with the windchill…) Take your class out to the tarmack and play foursquare. Here are the rules in case you haven’t played before. https://www.squarefour.org/rules

strategies for helping english language learners to write

After playing, kids have a discussion using the following questions.

What are the rules of foursquare?

How do you win the game?

Did you like playing?

What was the best part of playing foursquare?

Then students get out some paper and start writing. You might even choose to ask your ELL students to make posters with the official rules of foursquare and then we hang them in the boot room. This gives their writing an authentic purpose. 

4) Complete a fun science experiment!

I have a ton of really fun and relatively easy science experiments in my Creepy Chemistry Pack. You can check it out in my TPT store here. Alternatively, you can complete a science experiment from your own curriculum. 

science experiment as a writing strategy for english language learners

After completing the experiment, have students meet in small groups to discuss what happened. Then students can write about their experiences. 

science experiment as writing strategy for english language learners

3 Essential Steps for Teaching ELLs Writing:

As you can probably tell, each of these examples follows a simple 3 step formula. These three keys will help your English Language Learners to write with confidence!

1) Experience

2) Discussion

3) Writing

So what are you waiting for? Try one of these strategies in your class today and then send me a DM on instagram to let me know how it went!

Are you looking for more effective writing strategies? Check out this blog post all about my No Excuses List!

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