Cut & Grow Writing Strategy for ELLs

Instructor: Frank Clint

Frank has been an educator for over 10 years. He has a doctorate degree in education with a concentration in curriculum and instruction.

The cut and grow writing strategy is an effective teaching tool for all students, especially ELL students. This lesson explains how to implement the strategy and how it can help students' writing.

Cut and Grow Writing Strategy

Stacy had a light bulb moment recently when Henry handed in a short scribbled paragraph with the claim that he had completed his essay. She had assigned an expository essay about how the internet impacts students' lives. This was not the first time Henry had turned in such a short piece, but it wasn't until this very moment that Stacy remembered a strategy she learned in her final year in college called the cut and grow writing strategy.

What Is It?

The cut and grow writing strategy is a way to help student revise their papers, or make the writing better than it was. When a student revises, he or she adds sentences, takes sentences away, replaces words with better ones, or moves sentences around, so they make better sense. In Henry's case, the strategy can also help with elaboration, which means adding more supporting details to his key points.


The strategy requires writing paper, construction paper, scissors, invisible tape and a writing utensil. Depending on the age group, chart paper, butcher paper and glue might work well for the activity.


Once a student finishes writing, the gist of the strategy is to ask the student to revise their paper by cutting it up and rearranging the pieces. You can adapt the strategy for any age group, so this may or may not require prompting on your part. For example, for a second-grade group of students:

  1. Ask them to pick the sentence that they feel is the weakest in the entire piece because it lacks proper description or details, and cut it out of the composition.
  2. Have them take the portion of the composition preceding the target sentence and glue it to a piece of construction paper.
  3. Beneath this, on the construction paper, is where students can tape the sentence they cut out.
  • Before doing this, they might decide to cut out a weak adjective and replace it with a better one by writing it in on the construction paper where the weak adjective was.

An example of how student writing actually grows using the cut and grow strategy

Older students can do this as well to move multiple sentences around, delete them or insert entire new sentences, or even whole paragraphs, to improve their compositions. You can also use the strategy to help your students understand how to develop their writing when they are reluctant or struggling to produce substantial pieces.

In Henry's case, this is what Stacy intends to do. She will likely use each of his five sentences as a topic sentence for a new paragraph. This way, he can write a five-paragraph essay as she intended him to write. She might have him cut all of the sentences apart and tape them to a piece of paper with several blank lines between each of them.

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