Understanding writing contexts for English Language Learners

Sarah J. McCarthey, Angela M. López-Velásquez, Georgia Earnest Garcia, Shumin Lin, Yi Huey Guo

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


This article explores the writing opportunities provided to Spanish-speaking and Mandarin speaking English Language Learners at the fourth and fifth-grade level across the various classroom settings in which they participated daily: an all-English speaking classroom, an English-as-a-second language (ESL) classroom, and a native-language classroom. The students' school routines were quite complicated, as each interacted daily with several different teachers, and each setting entailed different tasks, expectations, and rules for governing interaction. As a result, students' views of writing at school were somewhat fragmented. Even when assignments ostensibly focused on authentic communication, the students did not always recognize the purpose or value. Students primarily wrote expository essays, and seldom engaged in extended talk concerning the purposes and audiences for the texts they produced. Further, students were not encouraged to write in their native languages in settings other than their Chinese or Spanish classes, and, therefore, did not have many opportunities to explore their linguistic and cultural identities in the all-English or ESL settings. Despite these limitations, most of the students successfully negotiated the complex curriculum and found ways to explore their bilingual/bicultural identities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)351-392
Number of pages42
JournalResearch in the Teaching of English
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language

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