Date of Award

Winter 2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA) in English: Teaching English as a Second Language




The author begins this thesis with her literacy narrative and practices what Kirsch and Royster call “strategic contemplation” about the material conditions of her mother’s life leaving school at 12 to marry and to raise 12 children. Her mother’s illiteracy is not the focus, however. Rather it is her mother’s strengths and her commitment to educating her children—all of whom earned college degrees before her mother died. The case study that follows emphasizes that developing English writing skills among multilingual speakers is considered a hard task. In order to improve academic writing, writers must make a tremendous effort and practice using the language while working on organization and writing mechanics through daily writing in class. Several factors have been found to have a direct effect on the writing skills: vocabulary, content, developing ideas, composing well-formed sentences, selecting and analyzing written information, and synthesizing ideas and resources effectively. One of the life-long dreams, especially for the ESL students, is to produce an organized piece of writing. The purpose of this case study and action research was to explore the common challenges faced by the ESL students when writing English and to discover what they consider the benefits of daily writing in class. The study was done at Eastern Washington University’s Department of English. A total of 12 of 20 students signed the consent form allowing the researcher to include their final reflection essays in this thesis. They were also asked to respond to the questionnaire concerning their histories of writing in English, the challenges they had when writing English, and their editing processes. From the data, it emerged that there are many challenges faced by ESL students when writing English. These 12 writers reported that they faced challenges in grammar, vocabulary, sentence structure, and writing speed. In addition, five of nine Saudis identified spelling as a challenge. Further, they identified the following benefits of daily in-class writing of journals and Friday essays: (1) increased fluency—all could write 500 words in 45 minutes by the end of the ten-week quarter; (2) increases in active vocabulary studied in videos and readings and used/tested in the Friday essays; (3) getting to know peers, interns, and professor by sharing their journals in class and responding to others’ writing; (4) development of their ideas and use of examples and details; (5) improved note taking; (6) improved reading for academic purposes, including transcripts from videos and the biography; (7) overall quality of writing improved when conferencing with the intern and the professor; (8) increased motivation to be present every day; (9) increased engagement through listening, speaking, writing, and viewing of materials related to the biography; (10) increased confidence by volunteering to read aloud the daily journal on the document viewer immediately after writing for five minutes. Together, the primary investigator and the responsible investigator (the professor in class and the thesis adviser) concluded that in future English 112 classes they would recommend at least one grammar mini-lesson each week to address learner needs. They will also continue the daily journal writing with volunteers sharing and the weekly in-class essays with intern conferences and professor conferences between drafts.