One writing teacher’s experience with an English language learner demonstrates the power of modeling to overcome the language barrier.

Teaching writing one word at a time


One writing teacher’s experience with an English language learner demonstrates the power of modeling to overcome the language barrier

As the writing facilitator for my district, I model writing instruction for other teachers all the time. It gives them an opportunity to see effective instruction in practice, of course, but modeling writing itself is an important component of how we teach our students to communicate effectively.

I didn’t always appreciate the power of modeling. It’s something I began to focus on after adopting the Empowering Writers (EW) approach to professional development a decade or so into my career, and these days I’m a big advocate of teaching by example. A recent experience with one of my 6th-grade students really brought home the power of modeling for me.

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Plenty of access to language—but no English

This little girl had just moved to our district from Europe with incredible language skills. She spoke 15 different languages, but none of them were English. She was extremely smart and she walked around with the sweetest smile on her face all day, but she didn’t really know what was going on around her.

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