Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


School of Teacher Education and Leadership

Department name when degree awarded

Elementary Education

Committee Chair(s)

Sarah Clark, Steven Camicia


Sarah Clark


Steven Camicia


Troy Beckert


The population of English learners (ELs) is growing rapidly across the U.S. Concurrently, elementary students throughout the country are being required to produce more sophisticated writing products than ever before as a result of the heavy emphasis on writing instruction in the recently adopted Common Core State Standards. This qualitative study examined how to best support ELs as they develop as writers. It also addressed the strong need to investigate the impact of students discussing ideas with a partner throughout the writing process.

In order to determine how ELs develop as writers, a multiple case study was conducted in a fourth-grade English as a Second Language (ESL) classroom. The ESL teacher used the “Thinking Maps” program to teach students to write opinion pieces. Part of the program included partner talk, in which the students conversed with a partner throughout the writing process. The study took place over a period of 6 weeks. During that time, I did twice-weekly observations, took field notes, collected samples of student work, audio recorded students as they participated in partner talk, and conducted interviews with the students and the teacher. In addition to an ongoing, reflective analysis of the field notes and audio files, the grounded theory approach was used for final data analysis. The data analysis and interpretation of the data reflects the constructs and theories that initially structured this study.

A number of key elements emerged from the data analysis that indicated that important supports are needed in order for ELs to develop as writers of opinion pieces. These included the opportunity to work with a more knowledgeable other, communicating despite language barriers, utilizing the structure provided with Thinking Maps, a chance to participate in group discussions, and the opportunity to examine written models to use when writing their own opinion pieces.