Including Editing Practice in the Writing Classroom

By Joyce Cain

As writing teachers of English language learners, we are often so focused on helping our students master the structure and content expectations of academic writing that the final editing stage of the writing process may get little attention. This is understandable as our students must learn the conventions of academic writing if they are to succeed in college and beyond. However, they must also be able to successfully edit their own written work if their instructors, peers, and eventual bosses and colleagues are to fully understand their writing. For many students to achieve this level of competency, class and homework time must be devoted to practicing this important skill.  In this article, I’d like to offer some ideas that take students’ editing skills to the next level and can easily be integrated into writing lessons with little additional time and few extra resources.

Students create their own exercises from authentic pieces of writing

When a teacher notices that students are struggling with a particular grammar structure in their writing, he/she might ask the class to create grammar editing exercises similar to those found in their grammar textbooks. By writing original editing exercises, students not only further their understanding of the problematic structure but also provide additional practice for their fellow students. An added benefit is the topic of the exercise can be directly related to the writing topic students are currently working on.

The first time this kind of assignment is used, the teacher should provide a relevant article with several examples of the grammar structure that students are struggling with. Students locate all of the uses of this structure in the article and together create “mistakes” that will later be used for editing practice. Once students are familiar with this process, they can locate articles that use the target structure in the magazines, newspapers, and books they are already reading for their writing class. From these, students develop editing exercises for further classroom practice or homework. The process of identifying a target structure in a piece of writing, creating “mistakes,” and later editing for those grammar errors develops a strong understanding of not only the grammar structure but also the topic that they are reading about in these articles.

Students create exercises from their own pieces of writing

A similar activity can be integrated into the writing classroom by using students’ own writing rather than published pieces. Again, the exercises will be based on a topic that students are currently writing about in their classes. The creation of these exercises will be most easy if the teacher has been using grammar correction symbols to mark student writing. Once a problematic grammar structure such as word forms, verb forms, or articles has been identified in student writing, students can create sentence or paragraph level grammar editing exercises from their own writing. The creation of exercises reinforces a student’s understanding of the particular structures and also helps the teacher by providing authentic classroom and homework practice on grammar structures that are being used in a particular writing assignment.

Students read aloud to identify areas of weakness

Another way that teachers can integrate editing practice into the writing classroom is to have students read their own writing aloud. This is most effective once students are quite familiar with English and are able to hear what sounds correct. Students should bring an extra copy or copies of a writing assignment that they are currently working on to class. With their partner(s), each student will read his or her paper as the other(s) follows along on the extra copy. As the writer and his or her classmates notice areas in the writing that they are uncertain about, the errors can be immediately corrected or noted for later discussion. As an alternative, students can read their partners’ piece of writing while the writer listens along and makes corrections as needed. This exercise might be most effective if students focus on only the grammar structure or writing point that is under discussion during that class period.

Students use an editing log to focus their editing

Students often lament the fact that editing takes a long time and they cannot locate their own errors. One way to focus their editing task is for the teacher to use correction symbols as he or she marks papers and later require students to complete an editing log where they record each of the grammar errors that the teacher has marked with a correction symbol. Only if used sparingly will editing logs be an effective way for students to become aware of the errors that they make the most frequently. It shouldn’t be until about half way through the semester or at a point where students have several completed writing assignments that they complete their first editing log. By reviewing all of the writing they have done to that point in the semester and recording the errors on an editing log, they may see a pattern of errors. This should provide them with enough information to focus their editing on their weakest areas for the remaining weeks or months of the semester. A second editing log can be assigned at the end of the semester for students to further focus their editing and hopefully see the editing improvements that they have made over the past months.

Students do the teaching

As all teachers know, the best way to learn something is to teach it. In this way, students might truly learn a grammar point if they have to teach that point to their classmates. In a writing class, this may be the only grammar instruction that an instructor has time for. At the beginning of the semester, teams of students can be given different grammar structures that they will be presenting on a particular date in the future. Just as instructors would do, each team should present a 15-20 minute lesson that includes practice, assessment, and homework. This might be an appropriate time for students to use the grammar exercises they have previously developed from their own writing or the writing they have located in magazines, newspapers, and books. This allows all students the opportunity to examine a grammar point in depth and to hone their presentation skills by teaching one lesson during the course.

While writing teachers may feel overwhelmed with the quantity of information that they have to teach during a semester, it’s important that they not leave out lessons and practice on the final stage of the writing process: editing. By using students as a resource and their writing assignments as teaching tools, the development of editing skills can be integrated into a writing course without much extra time and effort for the teacher.

Joyce Cain has taught English language learners at the community college and university levels for over 20 years. She started her career at the University of California, Los Angeles, where she received her M.A. in TESL and also served as a teaching assistant. She is currently a professor of ESL at Fullerton College in southern California. She is the author of Grammar for Writing and Eye on Editing 1 and 2.

Helping Students with Appropriate Language

 by Joe McVeigh

English language teachers who work with students in the United States know only too well that teaching language by itself is not sufficient. Language learners also need to grasp the culture of the country they are living in, as well as learn how to overcome intercultural differences. These differences often surface in issues such as how to be polite, how to express yourself non-verbally, and how to maintain academic integrity in the classroom.

One challenge for English language learners is discerning the appropriate register  to use in different situations. A communicatively competent person doesn’t speak the same way all of the time. For instance, a teenager would probably use one form of expression with her friends and classmates, but a more polite and formal type of language, or register, with a teacher or principal.

To help students learn about different types of register, try this activity:

1. Write the following on the board:
“Shut the door.”
“Shut the door, please.”
“Would you please shut the door?”
“Gee, it’s a little chilly in here. Shut the stupid door!”

2. Ask students to identify which sentences they think are the most and least polite. Discuss which sentences would be appropriate to use with different people.

3. Write the following on the board:

“What time is it?”
“Hand me those scissors.”
“Bring me a glass of water.”

  • Form small groups and ask each group to choose one of the sentences and write a list of possible ways to express the meaning ranging from very polite to rude.
  • Ask groups for their ideas and write them on the board. Discuss the sentences and the students’ ideas.

You can find more ideas for teaching culture in the classroom in Tips for Teaching Culture, part of the Tips for Teaching series from Pearson.  The Tips for Teaching series covers topics of practical classroom-centered interest for English language teachers. Written in clearly comprehensible terms, each book offers soundly conceived practical approaches to classroom instruction that are firmly grounded in current pedagogical research.

Joe McVeigh is a teacher, teacher trainer, and independent educational consultant based in Middlebury, Vermont. He has worked in a variety of countries and has taught at Cal State LA, Caltech, USC, Middlebury College, the Bread Loaf School of English, and Saint Michael’s College. He is an active member of the TESOL International Association and has worked as an English language specialist for the U.S. Department of State. He is co-author of Tips for Teaching Culture from Pearson along with other books for students of English. In addition to talks and workshops at professional conferences, Joe contributes to the field through his website, which contains videos, resources, and presentation slides and handouts at

Resources for Adult Educators and Adult Education Advocates

During the Adult Education and Family Literacy Week (AEFL Week), we have been promoting the value of and the need for adult education in the U.S. Advancing adult education and English language acquisition benefits not only individuals and their families but also their communities and the nation’s economy. By offering educational opportunities to adults, we help them achieve economic independence and social mobility.

But advocating for adult education should not be limited to just one week a year. It is important that we bring awareness about the need for adult education every day. Below is a list of resources for anyone who wants to get involved in advocating for adult education and family literacy.

Adult Education Is Needed Now – COABE website that explains the need for adult education

COABE/NCSDAE Educate & Elevate Campaign – A national campaign to help policy makers understand the value of Adult Education.  The website offers a helpful toolkit for organizations and individuals who want to get involved in the campaign.

National Coalition for Literacy – a national coalition of the national organizations and other advocates dedicated to advancing adult education, family literacy, and English language acquisition in the U.S.

Project Literacy – a global campaign founded and convened by Pearson that aims to end illiteracy by 2030 through partnership and action.

“Low literacy has a major impact on income inequality and parenting.” Read this AEFL Week Fact Sheet from the National Coalition for Literacy.

The Case for Investments in Adult Education – A white paper from ProLiteracy

Adult Ed helps immigrants integrate into the U.S—a brief description of why it pays to invest in Adult Education

Adult Education and Family Literacy Week Fact Sheet and articles

The World Education’s blog The Well – interesting posts on the topic of Adult Education, including ESOL.

Adult English language instruction in the United States: Determining need and investing wisely. An article from the Migration Policy Institute.

Links to best practices/resources for teachers:

Six simple ways to strengthen independent learning skills

On teaching effective learning

Tips for collaborative learning

Increasing student engagement

Toward comprehensive assessment in the adult ESOL classroom

English Literacy and Immigration

by Gosia Jaros-White, Marketing Manager, Pearson ELT USA

Immigration Statistics

According to American Community Survey (ACS) data from 2015, there are approximately 43 million immigrants in the U.S., which accounts for about 13.5 percent of the total U.S. population (321.4 million in 2015).i Furthermore, according to the Current Population Survey (CPS) from 2016, immigrants and their U.S.-born children totaled approximately 84.3 million people—27 percent of the overall U.S. population.

In 2015, immigrants accounted for about 17 percent (26.7 million) of the nearly 161 million workers in the civilian labor force in the U.S. The percentage of immigrant workers more than tripled (from 5 percent to 17 percent), between 1970 and 2015. Of the total number of immigrant workers:

31 percent worked in management and professional occupations;
24 percent in the service sector;
16.9 percent in sales and office occupations;
13.1 percent in construction and maintenance;
15 percent in production and transportation business.

The top five states with the highest immigration population were California (10.7 million), Texas (4.7 million), New York (4.5 million), Florida (4.1 million), and New Jersey (2 million).

Demographically, approximately 51 percent of immigrants in 2015 were women. Immigrants were also older than the native-born population—the median age of immigrants was about 44 years in 2015, whereas the median age for the native-born population was 36.

Immigrants with Limited English Proficiency (LEP)

In 2015, there were nearly 26 million individuals in need of English Literacy. ii These individuals are classified as Limited English Proficient (LEP) and represent 9 percent of the total U.S. population ages 5 or older. Out of that number, nearly 5 million LEP individuals are native-born and 21 million are foreign-born. The 21-million number represents approximately 49 percent of the 43 million immigrants ages 5 and older who were LEP.

Spanish speakers accounted for 64 percent (16.4 million) of the LEP population, Chinese speakers accounted for 7 percent (1.8 million), and Vietnamese accounted for 3 percent (867,000). The states with the highest share of LEP residents were California (19%), Texas (14%), New York (14%), Hawaii (12%), Nevada (12%), New Jersey (12%), and Florida (12%).

The overwhelming majority (75%) of LEP individuals were adults between ages 18 and 64. About 16 percent of LEP individuals were adults 65 and over. LEP children constituted 9 percent of the total LEP population.

In general, LEP individuals were less educated than English-proficient individuals. Forty-five percent of LEP adults 25 years old and older did not possess a high school diploma (compared to 9 percent of English-proficient adults). Only about 15 percent of LEP adults had a college diploma (bachelor’s degree or higher), compared to 32 percent of English-proficient individuals.

English Language Education for Adult Learners

According to the 2015 data, 1.5 million adults were enrolled in adult education programs.iii Out of the 1.5 million, 44 percent of adult students were English Language Learners (ELLs). These numbers indicate that only a fraction of LEP adults are served by adult education programs, and most states have waiting lists because of limited funding.

The population of ELLs attending English language courses is very diverse, representing adults from many different cultures, languages, educational backgrounds, and socio-economic and life situations. Many of these learners face very difficult financial circumstances, even though they often work long hours outside the home. Some of the ELLs are refugees from countries torn by wars or conflicts, and many deal with emotional and psychological traumas due to their experiences. The adults attending English literacy programs might possess post-secondary education, or they might be migrant workers from Central America with interrupted education. Some might have low literacy skills in their native language, and some have very little schooling and no written language.iv

Demographically, according to the National Reporting System (NRS) data for years 2014– 2016, about 64 percent of ELLs attending English literacy programs were women. Fifty-six percent of adults in these programs were between the ages of 25 and 44.v

Learning English is not an easy task for adults, especially those with low literacy skills in their native languages. Research shows that adult learners need between 85 and 150 study hours per year for six years in order to gain full English NRS data indicate that on average, adult ELLs spent 190 hours per year, but two-thirds of them completed only one full level of education. Approximately 40 percent of ELLs completed more than one full level of education.vii What is important to note, however, that the levels most completed by ELLs are the beginning and intermediate levels (NRS Beginning ESL-Literacy–NRS Low-Intermediate ESL). ELLs at these proficiency levels do not have sufficient skills for successful transition into post-secondary education.

The Importance of English Literacy Programs

The importance of English literacy programs cannot be overstated. Since LEP individuals are more likely to live in poverty than their English-proficient counterparts (in 2015, about 23 percent of LEP individuals lived below the official federal poverty line compared to 13 percent of English-proficient individuals),viii adult education and family literacy programs are crucial to help these individuals improve their lives by giving them skills they need to succeed in a career, post-secondary training, family life, and society.

Increased English proficiency:

  • Reduces poverty rates.
  • Raises immigrants’ productivity, earnings, and income tax payments. (On average, English-proficient individuals earn 13–24 percent more than less proficient individuals.ix)
  • Lowers use of public benefits.
  • Allows adults to obtain more specialized training or pursue college education.
  • Allows immigrants to be involved in their children’s education. Research indicates that children of English-proficient parents achieve higher educational and workforce outcomes.x
  • Helps immigrants obtain citizenship and engage in all aspects of civic and community life.

Promoting Adult Education and English Language Learning

Advancing adult education and English language acquisition benefits not only immigrants and their families but also their communities and the nation’s economy. By offering educational opportunities to adults, we help them achieve economic independence and social mobility. A number of organizations are involved in advocating for adult education in the U.S. If you are interested in promoting the value and benefits of adult education and English language learning, explore the sites listed below and get engaged!

COABE/NCSDAE Educate & Elevate Campaign – A national campaign to help policy makers understand the value of Adult Education.

The Educate & Elevate website offers a helpful toolkit for organizations and individuals who want to get involved in the campaign.

National Coalition for Literacy – A coalition of national organizations and other advocates dedicated to advancing adult education, family literacy, and English language acquisition in the U.S.

Project Literacy – a global campaign founded and convened by Pearson that aims to end illiteracy by 2030 through partnership and action.


i Zong & Batalova (2017). Frequently Requested Statistics on Immigrants and Immigration in the United States. Retrieved from:

ii Batalova & Zong (2016). Language Diversity and English Proficiency in the United States. Retrieved from:

iii National Council of State Directors of Adult Education (2016). Blue Book: Adult Education Services, the Success, the Impact, and the Need. Retrieved from

iv National Coalition for Literacy. Immigration and English Literacy Fact Sheet 2013. Retrieved:

v State-Administered Adult Education Program Enrollment of Participants by Age and Enrolled in ESL Functioning Levels Program Year: 2014–2016, using the United States Department of Education’s Office of Adult and Vocational Education’s National Reporting System figures retrieved from:

vi McHugh, Gelatt, & Fix (2007). Adult English language instruction in the United States: Determining need and investing wisely. Washington, DC: Migration Policy Institute.

vii See v.

viii See ii.

ix See vi.

x See vi.

Adult English Literacy Student Success Stories

Adult English literacy programs are crucial in helping adults with limited English proficiency improve their lives by giving them skills they need to succeed in a career, post-secondary training, family life, and society.

The population of English Language Learners (ELLs) attending English language courses is very diverse, representing adults from many different cultures, languages, educational backgrounds, and socio-economic and life situations.

In today’s post, we are featuring adults who have overcome challenges and reached their life and educational goals. Their stories are truly inspirational and show how adult education impacts the lives of so many adults.

Bergen Community College at Hackensack

Enki Bello. Originally from Colombia, Enki began her studies in the USA in 2010 at Bergen Community College’s (BCC) ESL program located in Hackensack, NJ. “She just needed a few fixes on her grammar, vocab and writing skills. Her love of learning and a strong positive attitude towards reaching her lifelong goals were clear,” says Instructor, Kathleen Cronin.  “I suggested to her that she should look into connecting with the College’s theater program as she often wrote and presented in class about her passion for music and her experiences as a Latina musician.” After working on her English skills, Enki enrolled into BCC’s Associate degree program and pursued a major in Music Business.  In 2013, Enki graduated from BCC and transferred to William Paterson University.  Thereafter, she continued studying towards her Bachelor’s degree in Popular Music Studies, which prepared her for a career in music. You can read more about Enki’s musical journey here.

CARIBE Refugee Program 

Justo Elio Crespo Valladares arrived in the United States in February 2016. He learned about the CARIBE Refugee Program through one of the orientations in Lutheran Services of Florida. He immediately attended school to improve his English skills. He came to the United States with a degree in education and wanted to pursue his career as a teacher. He attended school for 3 months. Immediately after completing the ESOL program, he applied to volunteer for CARIBE as a teacher’s assistant. He tutored struggling students at the Foundations level. While volunteering, he got employed by the University of Tampa as an event coordinator and by World Financial Group as a financial advisor/broker. He really wanted to pursue his educational career so he sought the help of the CARIBE Program in getting his credentials translated and evaluated. He submitted his application to the Florida Board of Education. In a month, he received his Certificate of Eligibility to become a certified teacher in the state of Florida. He immediately applied for a teaching position for Hillsborough County Public Schools Adult Education. Justo is now happily working as a part-time adult ESOL teacher in the CARIBE Refugee Program. He started the new class offerings at CARIBE First Baptist Church in March 2017.

Jose Ciro Gomez arrived in the United States in March of 2016. He was an English in his home country. He heard about the CARIBE Refugee Program from one of the orientations at Lutheran Services of Florida. He immediately started attending school to polish his English skills. His teacher, Maria Fernandez, noticed how good he was. When she found out that he has an education background, she immediately recommended him to volunteer for the CARIBE Refugee Program. While waiting for his volunteer application to be approved, he helped teachers at CARIBE Lois: He tutored struggling students and took over classes when a teacher was called for a meeting. Ciro continued to attend school for 6 months. He finally landed a job at GNC as a store clerk. While working at GNC, he continued to volunteer for CARIBE. During the opening of the Fall Semester 2016, a teaching position opened at CARIBE. He immediately applied for the job. His interview demonstrated his skills and determination. Ciro did well and was hired by CARIBE in August 2016 as a part-time adult ESOL teacher. While working for CARIBE, Ciro has demonstrated hard work and excellence. He has earned the respect of his colleagues and was awarded the Adult Education Rookie Teacher of the Year 2017 at the HTCAA Awards Banquet. The CARIBE Refugee Program could not be any prouder of Ciro’s accomplishments. His story shows that anything is possible with hard work and dedication.

Martin M. and His Father

Martin M. and his father both came to CARIBE at the same time early in the Fall Semester. They stayed with relatives at the time. They successfully finished their semester with Luis Cardenas as their College and Career Readiness ESOL teacher. They were later joined by Martin’s mother who is now attending ESOL classes. All three of them are enrolled in A+ Certification Preparation course at Adult Ed and are now living on their own. They have started to establish their lives in Tampa, and they just bought a car!

Manuel Penalver Tadeo. Manuel Penalver Tadeo’s story is a true story of perseverance and success. Manuel Penalver first arrived in the country in November 2013. He was a refugee from Cuba. After getting his social security card, he immediately signed up for ESOL classes with the CARIBE Refugee Program. Manuel already has some knowledge of the English language, having lived in Spain for a few years. Manuel has a high level of literacy as he completed his bachelor’s degree in Microbiology in Cuba. It did not take long for him to complete level 7 of ESOL. Manuel knew then that his hard work was just starting. After completing ESOL, he immediately signed up for the Laboratory Medical Technician Program at Erwin Technical College. With the help of the CARIBE Refugee Program, Adult and Community Services Center, Federal Student Aide (FAFSA) and Hillsborough County Social Services, he was able to pay for the entire Laboratory Medical Technician Program. While going to Erwin Technical College, he was hired by the CARIBE Refuge Program as a part-time paraprofessional. This helped pay for his everyday living expenses and buy a used car. He was able to complete the Laboratory Medical Technician Program at the shortest time possible while earning high grades in all his courses.

Manuel Penalver Tadeo is now a full time Laboratory Medical Technician at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa. He not only serves as a laboratory technician at the hospital, he also serves as the lead technician in his department and is also in charge of training all newly hired laboratory technicians. He is also a proud owner of a new home and a new car. He is also able to travel around the United States during his free time. Manuel started with nothing, but now he is economically stable, and he is a contributing member of his local community. Manuel said, “America is truly the land of opportunity but it would be extremely difficult without the help of social services and Hillsborough County Public Schools.”

Osmany C.

Osmany C. from Cuba was enrolled with CARIBE at Lois and took CASAS test on 9/20/16.He asked for a voucher to attend GED classes and started the GED preparation program in September 2016. In December, he took his exams and passed all subject areas! His counselor, Mireya Cox, suggested he should apply for an A+ Certification course at Erwin Technical College. CARIBE will continue to support Osmany by referring him to the Hillsborough County Social Services at the Hillsborough County Schools Adult Career Service Center to help with the cost of tuition for the A+ Certification.

Kirenia A.

Kirenia A. is a student that came from Cuba in October 2016.  When she first came to class, she was very quiet and shy and refused to participate in oral activities.

As the days went by, Kirenia shared that she had had a very bad experience with an English teacher in her country. Her teacher got very upset with the students when they made mistakes. Because of her teacher, she stopped participating in class and was afraid of speaking English to other people.

After some time at CARIBE, Kirenia realized that her classmates made mistakes but did not feel uncomfortable. So she understood that the English teacher was caring and helping the students, and that the classroom was a safe environment for her to learn. All of the sudden, Kirenia was participating actively in class and finally gained self-confidence and lost her fear of making mistakes.

Kirenia is studying English every day at home and is a very dedicated student. Whenever she has the opportunity, she speaks English. When people offer her help in Spanish, she declines it because she says that she needs to practice English as much as possible. Now Kirenia is able to go everywhere and speak English with anyone with no fear.

Darlin Guerra Diaz

Meeting the 24 year-old Cuban Darlin Guerra Diaz might give you the impression that she is all smiles, but underneath that facade there is this strong-willed and determined student who has always had her eyes and mind set on one target — becoming a doctor.

The elder of two siblings, Guerra is the daughter of Sonia and Roberto. Born and raised in Matanzas, Cuba, her parents worked very hard to give their children decent conditions and good education. Darlin loved spending time with her grandmother, and when she got sick, Guerra was by her side day and night, taking care of her. This experience led her to pursue her interest in the field of medicine.

Although her mother is an experienced dental hygienist and her father a well-seasoned English teacher, they haven’t been able to continue working in their respective fields for many reasons. Cultural shock, language barrier, and other unfortunate personal and family events have emotionally crippled her family. Darlin has had to steer the wheel for the entire family to support them financially. She drove her parents to work and school, she attended her younger brother’s PTA meetings, and she got up every day at 4:30 a.m. to go to work. After her shift, she would drive miles to attend school. It was a huge sacrifice on her part, but it didn’t decrease her perseverance and determination. When in class, she would always find time to help her colleagues, making lots of friends along the way.

Her unwavering desire to learn and pursue her dreams paid off when she got accepted into a local community college to continue studying medicine. She is over the moon. In her own words, “I struggled, worked my fingers to the bone, and studied hard. I believed in my dream when it seemed like a far-fetched reality. I’m so glad I didn’t give up.” I hope her story serves as an inspiration to other refugees and immigrants like her. It has been a sincere pleasure to be the one to share it.

Pearson ELT would like to thank Scott Cohen, Manager, Curriculum and Instruction at Bergen Community College at Hackensack, NJ; and Ronald Allan Cruz, the Coordinator of the CARIBE Refugee Program in Tampa, FL for generously allowing us to share their students’ success stories.