Writing Template 1 – bWT

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23 thoughts on “Writing Template 1 – bWT”

  1. Man, I absolutely LOVE this. I can see this in a Latin class, in my Latin classes, immediately. Okay, so now I am so excited about starting next semester (we are going into final exams this and next week). And, I love how you have outlined the CI templates. VERY< VERY helpful. Thank you. I am going to read and re-read these posts. It feels like having coffee with a long lost friend (tonight when I re-read, it may feel like having a drink with a long lost friend, but you get my point). Thanks for this, Ben. This is huge. Volcano rumbling.

  2. Thanks Bob. Now all we need is a CI template for developing speaking – three down and one to go. I have been wanting to get into teaching as process for years, so that we can all be less crazy. This really is a mental health move. I don’t have to go in with some dumb ass activity, one of millions, one that I will forget in a sea of activities that sit somewhere in the graveyard of my classroom in some parallel universe. All I have to do now is hand the kids some image and let the template engine move the newly roaring writing engine through all five gears listed above in each class. No need to think about teaching writing anymore; the template frees me up to KNOW that the class will work before the class starts. Thus, I can concentrate on freeing nyself up from trying so hard, as we all do, to MAKE THE CLASS WORK and instead just BE WITH THE KIDS in a fun story creation process like I have learned to do with listening and speaking but somehow could never do with writing. I think it’s gonna work. It HAS worked really well with me this week, especially with those strangely disengaged smart kids, so I am confident that this has real value. Thank you again.

  3. I love it too! I have a few smellies too, and I think they might benefit. Did your smellies make the connection between their writing prowess and all of the input that they have “suffered” over the class period?

  4. No. Or if they did they would be incapable of admitting it. I just smile as they leave the room and make some crack about how they outdid themselves that day or whatever. They have no defense – they will be praised.

  5. After writing about my experience yesterday at a district inservice, I need to report on my department’s collaboration this morning. Our French teacher is also an English teacher, and she showed us a way to nudge our students along in writing and give them the support they need while they do the cognitive stuff. While it isn’t acquisition per se, it helps student writing (which is cognitive stuff in the first place) and gives them enough language that is repeated comprehensible input to be beneficial. I’m planning on starting in my first-year classes with the stories we create. Here’s the process:
    Write down the following in the target language, leaving several lines between each entry:
    “Title” (in quotation marks)
    1. Who or what is it mainly about?
    2. When and where does it happen?
    3. What is the main problem or situation?
    4. How is it solved or how does it end?

    Then, under each question write the start of an answer using words from the question:
    1. Who or what is it mainly about?
    It is mainly about
    2. When and where does it happen?
    It happens
    3. What is the main problem or situation?
    The main problem is
    4. How is it solved or how does it end?
    It is solved by [action]

    Some caveats:
    – Students will have problems with the discernment aspect of this (who is the main character) as well as drawing conclusions not specifically spelled out in the text (e.g. when place and time are not specifically stated)
    – This is long-term training; don’t expect students to “get it” right away
    – Once students really start to understand what they are doing, gradually remove the support; start by removing the fourth question, then the third

    Our teacher told us that this really prepares students for the kinds of tasks they will do on the standardized testing for California in ELA. It is an “old school” task that this teacher has been doing for most of her career, but it is effective in helping students write well. (Her primary goals in writing are for students to be clear, concise and grammatically correct. She says that if they are clear and concise, the grammar generally takes care of itself.)

    I think this fits well with some of the other things we have going in writing.

  6. Robert,

    I’ve been doing something that is essentially this for about three years now. I put on the board, before, and then point to during, and then remind them to consult during a timed write, these clue words:

    quis/qui? (who?)
    ubi? (where?)
    quid accidit? (what happens?)
    quae est difficultuas? Cur? (what is the problem? Why?)
    quid accidit? Cur? (what happens? Why?)
    quomodo resolvitur? (how is it resolved?)

    Students find the cue words very helpful both in R and D and in writing.

  7. Yes. The activities in Textivate (click on the Textivate category on this page for more) provide a good left brain follow up to to the instruction that has been offered up to that point in the writing template.

    The activities – and they are “activities” but in a good sense – also offer us quiz possibilities. This fits in with my own personal belief that in schools (vs. in private instruction where the students are motivated), quizzes must be given to keep the cattle motivated.

    I use the option where you can break up the text in groupings of from 6 to 18 chunks in rectangular boxes, where the students have to put the boxes in the order of the story just produced. Quizzes taken from this option are very easy to grade.

    The students’ answer, for example, the Textivate option of rearranging ten boxes in proper sequence (since I base all my grading on ten points it is the one I use), amount to ten questions. The kids’ answer sheets would look like this, 6, 4, 3, 7, 10, 9, 1, 8, 2, 5, since the point of that activity is to align the boxes in the proper sequence of the story that the class just created together.

    When the kids are thus involved in such analytical thinking, it is odd to see how involved they get, because they think that in this setting they are actually learning the language and doing something “real” when in point of actual fact they are not, which is a point we have made many times on this site.

    Thank you David Talone for originally drawing the group’s attention to this tool.

  8. Just adding a few thoughts to this since I have a few more days of experience with it:

    1.The idea described above of having the kids first write six sentences to describe the image in general terms and then to shift to writing six additional sentences that connect to a specific story that they create, naming characters and such, seems to be working well. It gives the kids a formula to hang their writing on.

    2. Also, if they are stumped about what to write, I ask them to simply look at the list of question words that is always on the wall and use them to add any information that they feel is missing from the picture.

    Thus, all they have to do is to answer the questions words: Where is the couple? What are they doing? How many? When? etc. Like the two Roberts talked about here recently.

    Then tell them to think about what else they can say about what they see. Does the couple like each other? Are they happy? etc.

  9. I agree that too many activities is too much work! My goal is one “zinger” per week, just to keep things novel and fresh. Most of my zingers are based on a class story or discussion. We generally “do” one zinger per week, and then I post the zinger activity to our class wiki. They provide great CCCI in between classes (learning episodes) and require me to do much less “review” during the next class. I have a list of zinger options. I actually make a tentative schedule of zingers for 4-6 weeks at a time. I’ll assign a unique “activity” for each week, so that I remember to do something different each time. That way, I don’t kill myself trying to incorporate a gazillion different activities into everyday instruction. I do just enough to keep students hanging on from week to week. They actually look forward to the week’s ‘zinger’, which is nothing more than a fun way to receive CCCI.

    1. Carol,
      This sounds cool. Could you give an example of a “zinger” or part of your “list of zinger options?” I am trying hard to keep things simple but I have a tendency to branch off in too many directions. This could keep me on the trail while still allowing for some meandering. Thanks! Um…also what is CCCI? I assume one of the Cs is “comprehensible.” Do tell 🙂

      1. Yes, I have these same questions, Carol.
        Also, does anyone have a good recommendation for a collection of these images? I hate to say it, but the first thing that comes to mind are the stupid pictures from the FLES Grand Concours speaking section…

        1. Allison,
          I use Google to search for images. I usually search in the language I teach, so then I get images from Chinese culture – but sometimes search in English so there are more familiar scenes, too. It’s easy for me to use these images because I have a computer connected to a projector & screen in my room.

      2. A ‘zinger’ could be anything that helps students maintain contact with the target language through CCCI (Compelling, Contextualized Comprehensible Input). Sometimes they are comic strips based on a simple quip someone made in class. Sometimes they are videos or video-quizzes. I can’t post them anywhere public, because they contain licensed material. I sent Ben a video sample, and since his blog is ‘private’, maybe he has a place he could post it. It’s really kind of silly, but my guys loved it. They wanted to watch repeatedly, and although it took us about 4-5 times listening for them to hear (over their laughter), I only allowed them to watch it twice IN CLASS. They were mesmerized each time and asked to watch it more, but I only allow the zinger 2-3x during class and encourage them to watch OUTSIDE of class. Sometimes, I use the zinger as leverage- If I get really great behavior or contributions, I’ll reward them with seeing or doing the zinger during class.

        There are several web-based programs that are templates and others that require images, which can easily be retrieved from the internet. But BEWARE!…Using licensed images or songs and posting them on the www (publicly accessed site) can get you in big trouble. That’s why I maintain a private class website- also for the privacy of my students.

        Zinger Makers:
        Basic software – Camtasia, ppt, keynote

  10. Here is a link to a website that has many picture series. Often these are timely (the most recent one is of protests in India over the death of a rape victim there), of human interest (two recent ones deal with nomads in Mongolia and children born to women in prison in Argentina, respectively), general interest (2012 in pictures), nature (“Let it snow” and “Best nature pictures of 2012”), etc.


    I use pictures from here regularly; they are certainly not the typical textbook picture. You can do a search or browse by category.

    1. Just as an example, I browsed “sports”. The following series came up:
      -Motor sports (2 series)
      -Pigeon racing
      -Paralympics 2012
      -London Olympics (6 series)
      -Tour de France (2 series)
      -Euro 2012 soccer (2 series)
      -Ice skating
      -2012 Winter Youth Olympics
      And much more

    2. So glad to have seen this resource…… I spent some time just going through the various categories…. Wonderful….

      Thanks for sharing and thanks Ben for the blurb above on ideas on how to incorporate these in class…

  11. Also guys a creative writing exercise – a very common one is where you bring to class print outs of a series of interesting postcards photos etc. You also ask participants to bring an interesting photo or image with them to class.

    Then you share all the pictures in the middle of the table … lots of them… and everyone has to pick up one they find interesting. Then you do a free write about your chosen picture.

    I have done this with teenagers in an English language class. The teenagers enjoyed it. The adults were too stiff and panicked – still they were in an IELTS writing class so very left brain, inner critic mode.

    Another variant which is interesting is you bring some lovely, old or interesting objects to class. Ideally participants bring an interesting object. And then everyone chooses one and does a timed free write about it.
    You have to be careful though that they have enough language to do it. I think they need to be intermediate level or it’s an object that relates to topics you’ve already covered in class.

    You can ask – is it old? Is it new? How do you feel about it?

    I did this with an intermediate level Thai private student – I gave her a tin mermaid playing a ukelele. It related a bit to a story we had already done and I had a feeling she would like the object. Anyway she was nervous through the writing but smiling and very happy writing about it as a timed free write.

    There are other fun writing activities such as free writes in pairs. I’ve done this in a creative writing workshop – but I don’t know if it would work for English learners. Each student starts a story – from a prompt. You want a choice of prompts so each story is different. Timed free write. Then they give their piece to their partner who has to continue the story. You could fold some paper into 4 or 6 sections and get them to complete each. Sorry I’ve not tested this one … but it could be a lot of fun.

    You can simplify by making it follow a specific structure / prompts for each section like consequences. You could give some sort of incentive for the craziest stories.

    1. Just be sure to keep everything in bounds. These are great ideas, but we need to avoid the one most common error in CI instruction – going out of bounds.

      And don’t you ever leave this group. I know you are over there in Thailand and claiming to not get how CI really works, but I will take care of all that with the videos I am planning for those in the group who are newer or who need to de-jumble their minds about TPRS and TCI and all those terms.

      You just stay with us and keep sharing from your area of expertise in writing.

      De-jumble. Pretty good one, huh?

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