The University of Iowa

Written Expression

Definition of Component

  • Students can communicate coherent ideas1
  • Students can write letters, words, and sentences fluently
  • Students can apply grammar and writing mechanics
  • Students can use the writing process 

Overview of Skills

  • Correctly use capitalization and punctuation
  • Vary use of words and sentence types
  • Logically order words in sentences, sentences in paragraphs, and paragraphs in compositions
  • Follow the writing process of prewriting, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing
  • Compose narrative, informational, and opinion/persuasive written products for different audiences2

English Learner and Bilingual Footnotes

Early writing instruction should emphasize that written language conveys meaning. Just as readers monitor comprehension while they are reading, writers monitor the comprehensibility of their writing. The teacher should constantly ask students to reread their writing to make sure it makes sense and that they are writing what they mean to say. Frequent rereading often leads to revising.

2 ELs require scaffolding for composing texts. Teachers can talk about the topic beforehand to reinforce ideas and have students articulate about what they are going to write. Students can be encouraged to support their writing with drawings, images, and graphic organizers aligned to particular genres or organizational patterns of text.

Grade 3 Students

Write sentences with correct use of comparative adjectives, subject-verb agreement, and pronoun-antecedent agreement (L.3.1)

Compose complex sentences with accurate use of commas and dependent clauses (L.3.1)

Maintain correct verb tense (i.e., past, present, future) across sentences of a composition1

Use the writing process to compose multi-paragraph essays (W.3.4, W.3.5)2

  • Write multi-paragraph persuasive essays with a position and reasons linked to supporting evidence (W.3.1)
  • Write multi-paragraph informational essays with an introduction, body, and conclusion (W.3.2)
  • Write multi-paragraph stories with major literary elements (e.g., characters, setting, problem, sequence of events, outcome) and dialogue (W.3.3)

English learner and bilingual footnotes

1 ELs will benefit from instruction in signal or connecting words that indicate sequences (e.g., first, second, third), comparisons/contrasts (e.g., however, but, as well as, although), and cause and effect (e.g., because, so that, in order to, etc.).

2 When possible, ELs should be allowed to mix their two languages so they are encouraged to write more in English. Allowing students to produce multiple (two or three) revisions of their text with feedback from the teacher and peers will allow ELs to make closer approximations of a native English speaker’s writing.

Grade 2 Students

Expand sentences (L.2.1)1

  • Add adjectives and adverbs
  • Use compound sentences and/or compound predicates
  • Accurately compose compound sentences (L.2.1)
    • Use commas and conjunctions
    • Use irregular plurals
    • Use irregular verbs
  • Use the writing process to compose paragraphs
    • Write 1-2 paragraph essays communicating an opinion with reasons (W.2.1)
    • Write 1-2 paragraph essays on a topic with details, facts, and a concluding statement (W.2.2)
    • Write stories with details on the characters’ actions, thoughts, and feelings (W.2.3)

Write multi-paragraph friendly and formal letters (L.2.3)

English learner and bilingual footnotes

1 ELs may produce shorter texts with limited sentence and lexical variety. Teachers should focus more on overall organization and text style.

English morphology and word order can be affected by ELs’ native language. For example, Spanish-speaking ELs may write the adjective after the noun, leave out the subject, or have difficulties knowing when to include non-referential “it.” Moreover, in Spanish, when the sentence has two clauses and the subject is the same, the subject does not have to be mentioned the second time.

Grade 1 Students

Compose complete simple sentences

  • Use a variety of types (i.e., declarative, imperative, interrogative, exclamatory)  (L.1.1)
  • Use correctly spelled single-syllable, regular words and other high frequency words (L.1.2)1
  • Use phonetic spellings for longer, irregular, or unfamiliar words (L.1.2)2
  • Use correct order and verb tense (L.1.1)3

Combine several simple sentences to produce short written products (e.g., stories, poems, messages, opinions) in a logical sequence 

  • Link an opinion to a reason (W.1.1)
  • Write a story containing two or more events (W.1.3)
  • Write an informational text containing a topic and details (W.1.2)

Correct basic errors in the capitalization and end punctuation of composed sentences (L.1.2)

English learner and bilingual footnotes

1 At the very beginning stages, ELs will rely heavily on phonetics when writing English words of all types (even frequently used short words). They will be using the sounds of their native language to represent the words in English.

2 At first, ELs may use phonetic spellings that correspond to the phonetics of their native language. For example, Spanish-speaking students may confuse “b” with “v” or misspell vowel sounds that they perceive differently because of the influence of Spanish.

3 ELs can become familiar with English syntax, phrasing, and vocabulary by frequently re-reading exemplar written texts.


Dictate short stories, poems, and messages in a logical sequence (W.K.3)1

Compose a sentence with phonetic spellings for most sounds in high frequency, regular words and invented spellings for other words (L.K.2)2

  • State an opinion (W.K.1)
  • Identify a topic (W.K.2)
  • Name a story event (W.K.3)

Identify that a sentence begins with a capital letter and ends with a period, question mark, or exclamation point (L.K.2)

English learner and bilingual footnotes

1 ELs should be encouraged to participate in these activities, either in their native language or, if able, in English.

2 Students can engage in “pretend” writing activities that encourage them to “write sentences” and express their ideas in writing, regardless of their linguistic abilities. During these pretend writing activities, the teacher can emphasize the direction of script and the symbolic nature of printed English.