The Center for Writing Studies

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Navigation: Quick Links

Professor writing on a chalkboard

Working with ESL Writers in Your Classes: Resources for Instructors

How do writers develop advanced academic literacy in another language? Below are some readings and websites that explain how and describe how you, as their instructor, can help. Also check out our blog, WAC@Illinois, for posts about working with ESL writers.

Recommended Books, Articles, and Chapters

Ferris, D. (2006). Myth 5: Students must learn to correct all their writing errors. In J. Reid (Ed.), Writing myths (pp. 90-114). Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Although this chapter is for writing teachers, it highlights three key findings from research that is relevant to all university instructors: 1) learning a second language takes years, 2) error-free papers are not a reasonable goal for a single course; and 3) even teachers’ and students’ “best efforts” at error correction will not yield error-free papers. Ferris then describes what writing teachers can do, and the first few strategies she lists apply to all university instructors. This chapter may be available on our e-reserves page under WAC—Prior.

Hafernik, J. J., & Wiant, F. M. (2012). Integrating multilingual students into college classrooms: Practical advice for faculty. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.

A joint effort by an applied linguist and a writing researcher at University of San Francisco, this book dispels myths about multilingual students, describes ways to create inclusive classrooms that promote students’ language learning, and presents strategies for helping students succeed at listening, speaking, reading, and writing tasks and at group work. It also includes sample grading rubrics.

Matsuda, P. K., & Cox, M.(2004). Reading an ESL writer’s text.In S. Bruce & B. Rafoth (Eds.), ESL writers: A guide for writing center tutors (pp. 39-47). Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook.

Written for writing tutors but applicable to anyone working with ESL student writers, this chapter describes different stances readers might take toward ESL writers’ texts-- and provides strategies for reading beyond error. This chapter may be available on our e-reserves page under WAC—Prior.

Paltridge, B., & Starfield, S. (2007). Thesis and dissertation writing in a second language: A handbook for supervisors. London and New York: Routledge.

This book provides guidance to those in any discipline who mentor multilingual writers or who are facilitating writing groups. Covering topics such as research proposals, introductions, literature reviews, and results chapters, it often focuses on linguistic features common to different sections of research-writing. Each chapter includes tasks that a supervisor can ask the student to complete or reflect on. There's also an extensive annotated bibliography of resources for students.

Reid, J., & Kroll, B. (1995). Designing and assessing effective classroom writing assignments for NES and ESL students. Journal of Second Language Writing, 4 (1), 17-41.

This article provides guidelines for designing assignments and gives examples of successful and unsuccessful assignment prompts in different disciplines.

Zamel, V., & Spack, R. (Eds.). (2004). Crossing the curriculum: Multilingual learners in college classrooms. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

This edited collection explores multilingual students’ and instructors’ perspectives. Part I contains essays by ESOL and writing researchers who have conducted longitudinal studies of students; Part II, essays written by two multilingual learners looking back on their college experiences; and Part III, essays by faculty in several fields (e.g., philosophy, nursing, literature, Asian American Studies) describing the evolution of their classroom practices.

Zamel, V., & Spack, R. (2006). Teaching multilingual learners across the curriculum. Journal of Basic Writing, 25 (2), 126-152.

This article presents accounts from undergraduate students and instructors; shows how language is acquired through engagement in disciplinary content; and argues that strategies for supporting multilingual learners, especially those involving writing, can raise standards and benefit all students.

Zawacki, T. M., Hajabbasi, E., Habib, A., Antram, A., & Das, A. (2007). Valuing written accents: Non-native students talk about identity, academic writing, and meeting teachers' expectations (2nd ed). Fairfax, VA: Diversity Research Group, George Mason University.

A team of writing researchers at George Mason University interviewed 26 multilingual writers about their writing experiences at GMU. This monograph interweaves the project’s findings with student profiles. The team also produced a website that summarizes its findings and provides quotations from students.


Recommended Websites

Many faculty development centers have resources for instructors on working with ESL writers. Here are some of our favorites:

Faculty Resources, University of Toronto: Detailed suggestions for teaching multilingual students and grading writing.

Faculty Resources, OCAD University, Toronto: An online booklet with information on topics such as creating a “participatory classroom,” designing accessible lectures, supporting ESL writers, and plagiarism. Students’ and faculty’s stories are incorporated throughout.

Faculty Resources, University of Minnesota: Detailed suggestions for responding to different aspects of ESL students’ writing—e.g., grammar, logical development, critical thinking, use of evidence.

Faculty Resources, University of Hawaii at Mānoa: Two bulletins for faculty discuss ESL students’ writing. “Writing Matters 4” addresses how interventions at different parts of the course can help students improve their written accuracy. “Writing Matters 6” focuses on errors and plagiarism.

Selected Workshop Handouts

Below are some handouts from our workshop, “Working with ESL Student Writers in Your Classes.”

Sample background questions: As we discuss in WAC@Illinois, we think that asking everyone these questions will give you a sense of the varied multilingual and multiliterate backgrounds of students in your class.

Responding to writing: This handout, which we use in Writing Across the Curriculum seminars, explains general principles for responding to writing. It applies to “native English speakers” and ESL students alike.

Working with error: This handout shows you some ways to comment on errors in students’ writing and lists resources you can give students for developing editing skills.


Resources for Students

In addition to the suggestions listed on the “Working with error” handout, the writing centers below have a variety of resources for students.

ESL Resources from the Writers Workshop

ESL Resources from UCLA's Graduate Writing Center

ESL Resources from Purdue’s Online Writing Lab