Pattern-Based Writing

ELLs and Patterns

  • Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5

The idea behind using patterned writing to support ELLs is that literary patterns are easier for them to see, imitate, and remember than straight prose writing. The fundamental structure of patterned writing stands out because of its repetition. When particular words appear over and over, children remember them. Not only do ELLs readily add these words to their spoken vocabularies, they also remember their meanings, how they are used and, often, how they are spelled. When a pattern has rhyme and rhythm, too, the whole thing sticks in memory.

Possibilities With Patterns

Here’s one example of what young children could do by imitating the pattern in the popular children’s book, Mary Wore Her Red Dress, by Merle Peek. The book tells a simple story about animals going to a birthday party in the woods. On each page, one new animal appears. The text names each animal, a prominent article of its clothing, and that article’s color, using the same sentence structure and the same rhythm. The page illustrations represent all three text elements visually, giving strong support to beginning readers and ELLs. The book begins—

Mary wore her red dress, red dress, red dress,
Mary wore her red dress all day long.

—and continues with the same pattern throughout.


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