The majority of my first graders do not speak English at home - their home languages in my class include Chinese, Korean, several Indian dialects, Spanish, and Russian. Several of them speak English very well and others are in various stages of learning. My school is in a very multicultural town and that's how we roll.
It's amazing, really, how well our kiddies write. We use Columbia University Teacher's College Reading and Writing Program, created by Lucy Calkins. Our Writing Workshop focuses on learning a variety of writing genres, craft, and using voice in writing.
My class is about to publish How-to stories. After several lessons on craft and revision, one of my little boys, who spoke no English in September (he spoke only Chinese), wrote one of the cutest stories I have read: How to Build a Lego Racecar (words by B, spelling corrected by me for posting purposes, lol)
"Materials List: Lego windows, wheels, wings, doors"
"Step 1 - First, find the Lego windows. Be sure not to let your little sister play with them because they are small and she will eat them."
"Step 2 - Next, find the Lego wheels. You better have four because your car won't work."
"Step 3 - Then, find the wings. I'm not sure why the car set has wings but if it was in there you better use it."
"Step 4 - Finally, put the doors on. If you don't, your Lego driver will fall out and break his leg."
"Now that you have built a Lego racecar, come to my house and race with me!"
Voice! From a first grader! Who spoke his first words of English 5 months ago! I am SO proud of him. :)
And I think his story is as cute as a baby hedgehog. :)