Essay Writing With English Language Learners and Special Populations

By Justin Lim on September 13, 2009

As our classes become more and more diverse, it is clear that addressing the needs of English Learners and Special Populations is quickly becoming a focus of many teachers. The difficulties are numerous. In many programs, EL and SP students are required to take classes that were originally designed for general population students. In other situations, they are required to complete school mandated writing assignments in order to graduate.

This post is dedicated to the numerous high school teachers who have struggled to find ways to teach sophisticated essay writing to EL and SP students.

I don't know how to describe what it was like the first time I tried to teach EL and SP students how to write a persuasive essay, except to say that it was a MAJOR TRAIN WRECK. I spent hours upon hours conferencing and editing, only to receive essays that were still far inferior to what most native speakers produced.

After a few more years and many more essays, I started to develop templates for scaffolded writing assignments so that my EL and SP students could keep up. I'll admit, the templates have so many sentence starters that they basically artificially infuse academic language into the finished product, but I just couldn't stand the beating that these essays would lay on my kids' morale.

These templates are great for teaching essay structure and academic language. You can also couple them with pair-share routines for fluency development.


I've attached two essay templates for all of the teachers out there who, like me, are trying to find ways so that every single student has the tools to be able to complete the very toughest assignments.

Let me know what you think!

Download Persuasive Essay Workshop

Download Autobiography Workshop

Warmest regards,

Justin Lim
Rosemead High School
El Monte Union High School District



Terrific source for all educators! I teach fifth grade, and will definitely use portions of this to assist my second language learners! This is similar to the SIOP model format in giving students language sentence frames to help them be more successful in writing.

Thank you again for sharing Justin!

Joy Varney

Maybe you have not idea about something new,which is Language Letter Wall decals,that could help students learn English.

Wow Justin, you really took the time to create some amazing scaffolds for your ELL students. The templates are awesome!! Bravo!! =)

[Edit: Response]

Hi Danielle,

Yes, it did take some time, but it's so worth it!

Thanks for the encouragement!

Warm regards,


Great source I have here in Puerto Rico students from grade 12th who last year didn't have their english teacher for the whole year and they don't understand the essays very well but i've been working with them. I will appreciate if you have something different with simple definition so they can have it. but really this material is excellent. thanks.

[Edit: Response]

Hi Marelisa!

I'm glad that the materials are useful! Please email me at and let me know some of the topics that you are teaching! I'll do my best to get you some useful resources for your kids!



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