Writing challenges of children learning EAL

Children learning English as an additional language (EAL) have been shown to have specific problems in reading comprehension. However, there has been little research to date investigating their writing skills in English, despite this being an area of national concern for primary school children.

In this study, children learning EAL were compared against native-speaking English children on writing tasks at two time points during Year 5. At the beginning of the school year the children with EAL had lower scores on a range of baseline English language measures. They also had lower scores on organisational features of narrative writing compared to native-speaking children. At the end of the school year, all children wrote two more compositions, one narrative the other expository. Again, the children with EAL had different writing profiles than the native-speaking children, with vocabulary being a key variable on which the two groups differed. There were subtle differences between the narrative and expository genres. All children made progress on the narrative composition task across the school year.

This research illustrates that children with EAL, even when matched on language skills to native-speaking children, still show key differences on their written compositions in relation to native-speaking children. This suggests that future work should explore causal relationships between different variables, with a focus on developing longitudinal and intervention designs.