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Writing Competencies of Adolescents

Background and aims

Children experiencing language difficulties, for example specific language development disorders or difficulties with German as a second language, face the danger of not realising their full global academic development potential because of their insufficient language skills.

The results of many research projects, initiated in reaction to the inadequate language competencies of pupils as highlighted in the PISA study, were intended to assist reforms in language facilitation within the kindergarten and school environment. Reading competencies were central to these research efforts, writing competencies received less attention.  

In modern society, the ability to write is central to our media culture, and as such ranks alongside reading competencies as a necessary basic qualification. It is, infact, exactly these written products that form the basis of pupil's school grades. Writing also opens up a personal means of expression that remains closed if writing competencies are lacking. Our experience and observations, together with statements from teaching staff, have found that adolescents with German as a second language and adolescents with persistent language acquisition disorders have difficulty correctly handling written tasks (text production). The few existing research studies on this subject also show a distinct deficit in the writing competencies of these two groups. If the results of these research projects are compared, then the deficit of these two groups can be described according to Grießhaber (2008), Neumann, Uhlig (2004a and b) and Romonath, Uhlig-Waldermann (2006) as follows: short texts, poor information content, no perspective taking, deficiencies in formal construction, little use of stylistic devices (choice of words) and incorrect sentence structure.

The appropriate facilitation of pupils with persistent language learning difficulties or German as a second language is covered by the responsibilities assigned to special needs teachers. It is their function to develop suitable support provisions and concepts and to assist teaching staff in the implementation and evaluation of an individually adapted language learning support programme. This can only succeed with the help of precise knowledge about the competencies and difficulties of each of the two groups.


The project investigates the following questions:

  • How do adolescents with persistent language learning difficulties and adolescents with German as a second language realise a specific text type (e.g. a letter) with a view to subject matter, language form and communication?
  • How do the results differ qualitatively and quantitatively between the test groups and from their contemporaries in the control group?
  • What suggestions for provisions can be deduced from the results of the investigation?


116 texts (stories on a given picture) from pupils at the end of 5th grade or at the beginning of 6th grade were analysed. An analytical framework was drawn up in order to judge the pupils' texts regarding various dimensions of writing skills. It was prepared based on the competence model by Ossner (2006) and by further models and contains criteria on text pragmatics, vocabulary and syntax.


The text analysis of the total random sample shows that, as to the text pragmatics, most examined criteria are at least partially met: Titles are set (aspects of formal design) and the texts show an introduction and a main section (aspects of content design and mastery of tasks). Very seldom do the pupils structure their text in paragraphs (aspect of formal design), and in many texts a concluding sentence (aspect of content design) is missing. When comparing the results of the four groups, learners with German as first language, who have learning difficulties with the language, and those learners with German as second language, who have learning difficulties with the language, and such without, the following shows:

  1. The pupils with learning difficulties in the language class, at least in almost all areas of text competence, achieve poorer results than those pupils without learning difficulties. This also applies irrespective of the fact, whether the pupils speak German as their first language or not.
  2. Pupils with German as second language and with learning difficulties in the language class show in some – but not in all – areas of text pragmatics weaker performances.
  3. Only some competences and deficits can be identified that are typical for pupils from one of the four groups of our study

Consequences in practice

The prediction of the need for support is limited due to the group belongingness. These findings reaffirm the meaning of focused individual support, based on differentiated support diagnostics for the area of text writing skills.


  • Sodogé, A., Kern, M. & Greminger, E. (2012). Wie Schülerinnen und Schüler mit Deutsch als Zweitsprache und mit Lernschwierigkeiten in der Sprache eine Geschichte schreiben. Schweizerische Zeitschrift für Heilpädagogik (SZH), 18(5), 31-38.


  • Becker-Morzek, M., Böttcher, I. (2006). Schreibkompetenz entwickeln und beurteilen. Berlin: Cornelsen. Grießhaber, W. (2008): Schreiben in der Zweitsprache Deutsch. In: Ahrenholz, B., Oomen-Welke, I. (Hrsg.). Deutsch als Zweitsprache. Hohengehren: Schneider, 228-238.

  • Neumann, A., Uhlig, B. (2004). Schreiben Sprachheilschüler anders als Regelschüler? Die Sprachheilarbeit 49/2004, 119-125.

  • Romonath, R., Uhlig-Waldermann, G. (2006) Textproduktionskompetenzen von Schülern mit einer Sprachstörungsgenese - Ergebnisse einer vergleichenden Untersuchung in der Sekundarstufe I. In: Bahr, R., Iven, C. (Hrsg.). Sprache, Emotion, Bewusstheit. Idstein: Schulze-Kirchner Verlag, 512-517.



Project Management

  • Prof. Dr.  Sodogé

    Leiterin Institut Sprache und Kommunikation unter erschwerten Bedingungen

Project team


Forschung und Entwicklung
Tel: +41 44 317 11 81

zfe[at] zfe