We Need Some Writing Ideas

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9 thoughts on “We Need Some Writing Ideas”

  1. I don’t know how much it’s truly CI so I’m taking a risk in posting. I’ve done some writing exercises that have generally seemed good to me. I have students in grade 6, 7 , and 8 – all started Chinese in grade 5. I’ve done some writing in a sort of combination input-writing output. Then, the kids have created tons of available input that we can use in reading, discussion, acting, etc.

    Idea 1: Susie Gross said she would have the kids read something, then ask them to re-write it, changing at least two details. Something like that. Kids can actually change as much as they can/want. I have sometimes specified which details should change based on vocabulary I think they have acquired. Ex: The 7th grade read a note from Romeo to Juliet. Romeo asked her on a date (with its activities, when, where to go, etc.). They read it, and then re-wrote it, changing several details. So instead of watching a Chinese movie at the local mall, they play basketball in the school gym – whatever. They can also check resources for vocabulary.

    A writing follow-up to the Romeo note could be writing Juliet’s reply. They find particular delight in not being mushy or sweet, so I would expect a lot of cold rejection letters. We could act those out…

    Idea 2: Read an email/note/letter/etc. from somebody. Then write a reply to that person, either as their real selves or pretending. This way a lot of the needed structure of sentences & paragraphs is displayed in what they read. With one class, I had an email as if from a student in China. I collected their replies, edited them to correct errors & take out names, and then showed the whole class the next day. We read & discussed and they guessed who wrote each reply. They loved that way more than I could’ve expected – loved trying to figure out who wrote it, and when the whole class was fooled, the authors really loved it. The level of intense reading because it was classmates’ writing was very high.

  2. I tried Michele’s Movie Talk on Friday – my French twos were my guinea pigs. I watched a short French Cartoon – Trotro et le sapin de Noel. We watched and discussed with the sound turned off and then they begged to watch with the sound and were surprised to find that the structures that I circled did not totally relate to the story line. It was interesting and different. I started to fool around with the Paint program and printed some screen shots from the video and put them into a PP. If I can post the PP, maybe the kids can write a sentence or two about each slide or we could do it as a group in class. Ben has a copy of it – it’s not complete, but it’s a start and it is no more than a series of screen shots – on one slide, I was fooling around with writing on the slide. If anyone wants to take a look and add some ideas, email me at chill1019@gmail.com . Ben, I know one of your goals this year was to streamline and not have so many posters up, but I think they would probably help. Per the district, did your level 1 kids have to output last year? I think for me, coming up with the writing prompts is the problem. Thanks for starting the conversation and your answer! Diane too.

    1. Yeah there is a writing and speaking component to the level 1 exam in DPS. It’s something we have accepted. We did succeed in keeping those two scores down to only about 20%-25% of the weight of the overall score. It’s the best we could do. If we taught a kid a language for a year and the district honchos saw that they could neither write nor speak it, they would want to fire us. I wouldn’t mind if they did, right? Please just get me some motivated learners who accept my idea that they are going to need years of hearing and reading it before they can write and speak it. Pullease!

  3. These are a couple of things I have done with my Level 1B classes this semester. (Grades 9-11):
    – When we were “doing” prepositions of place, I had them take the vocab and free write 5 sentences each. I then went through their sentences, and took about 15 that had (good) errors in them and put them up on the Eno board – no names, no distinguishing characteristics to clue in to who wrote them…and I told them I did it this way to save their anonymity. Once up on the Eno board, we corrected each sentence as a class and discussed why the sentences were formed that way — pop up grammar in conjugation, word placements, adjective agreement, all sorts of pop-up grammar. and they enjoyed it! (oh, I also included making a few negative sentences as part of the assignment too – to reinforce making a sentence negative…much easier to do in Spanish than in French!)
    – I gave them written comprehension questions to a reading, and they got extra credit if they wrote the answer in Spanish. I was perfectly fine with them writing it word for word from the text, as that reinforces proper writing at this low level.
    – I gave them a list of adjectives to use with the verb SER (to be) – both physical and personality traits. then they had to describe their perfect boyfriend/girlfriend, using a picture they chose from a magazine, and the verbs tenet, ser, and they also had to use negative sentences, i.e. ella no es antipática, él no es foe (again practicing negation and just how EASY it is.) I collected them, edited them, and only took points off if they had misspellings — because they had all the words at their disposal! I am trying to reinforce to them to double-check their spelling when they have access to the resources. (just as we do in dictation/correction)

  4. Don’t shoot me for this… Contrasting opinions are good for us, right?

    Personally I think it is discouraging to students to spend a whole year or two years learning a language and not be able to speak it or write it. Historically we’ve only had a 2-year language program, though I’ve now got a couple 3rd year students, so no output for the first 2 years would mean graduating from our school without showing the ability to express themselves. Output may not be helpful in aquiring a language, but it sure make students feel successful in the language. And I really want my students to feel confident about their ability to use Spanish in the real world–yes, after just a few months in Spanish 1.

    I think we need to devise writing activities that make them look good. Here are a couple I’ve done:

    First, a minor amount of output–I had them write a Thanskgiving card to a teacher in Spanish, basically feeding them a couple stock phrases. Some wrote nothing besides the stock phrases, some wrote a paragraph–their choice. They taped the cards to the teacher’s door–I got lots of good comments from other teachers and some of the cards are still hanging, visible evidence to my students that what they wrote was valued.

    On the opposite pole is my yearly writing project–using a timed writing as a springboard, they write illustrated books. They do some peer editing and I do a 5-minute one on one with each student. I tell them once a year they will write something that is perfect and I give them the support to create a perfect book. They print and illustrate it and it then becomes high-quality and interesting CI for their classmates. They are proud of their books and it’s a pretty positive experience.

    1. Rita could we have the set of instructions you give the kids on the writing project? It might help those who would like to try it. Do they do this in class?

      I certainly see and appreciate your point about output and student motivation. But I’m all about the hours needed, those many thousands of hours, for that output to be real, so I just tell the kids that we are going to be doing mega input and if they stay with it they will have real output skills one day. They seem o.k. with that, but student populations vary.

      With motivated kids it’s probably different. But even then, I had a kid get a perfect score on the National French Exam one year and when a teacher put her on the spot to speak some French in that class she froze and I don’t like putting kids in that situation. The fact is we need those thousands of hours before actual and authentic output can possibly begin to appear.

      Allowing all points of view and all opinions are crucial to our communication in this PLC, and I think we are doing a good job of that. We’re all trying to learn how to integrate what we can use from the discussions here into OUR teaching, not keep working toward some perfect way of teaching, bc there is none and never will be.

  5. Chill,

    One thing I started doing last year on the second semester with my French 2 students is this: when we finished reading/discussing/doing pop up grammar on the written form of the story, I asked the students to insert another paragraph with a different location/person or whatever. Since they had the structures and the plot was repeated at least twice with or without resolution of the problem, all they had to do was to add in one more repetition of the plot with a different location or person or whatever the case was.
    For example: friday I did a story from Anne ( Talks too much) so:
    Britney talks too much, all the time, in russian, about boys. She goes to the movies and sees Eddy murphy and she talks to him too much about boys in Russian. Eddie murphy is annoyed , doesn’t speak Russian and wants to watch the movie. All of a sudden , the manager whose name is Mark, arrives and tells her to stop. She does not stop and continues to talk so he tells her : “dégage” ( get out of here), they love that word!
    Then she goes to the library , where she sees Justin Bieber who is reading. She talks to him too much, all the time, in russian about boys. Justin Bieber is annoyed b/c he wants to read and doesn’t speak Russian. All of a sudden, the manager arrives and tell her to stop , she doesn’t stop so he tells her ” dégage!”

    When I did this story on Friday, I did not get to a third location/resolution of the problem b/c I had no time left since I showed the artist s drawing and did a comprehension quiz. Now when I go in tomorrow, We’ll do the reading/pop up grammar and questions about it and I’ll ask them to insert a third paragraph to a third location and/or with a resolution. It is output but it is output they can do b/c it s fresh in their memory, having being repeated a lot, although perhaps not acquired yet but doable, not requiring spontaneous speech, and it’s been modeled already twice. It does give them the practice of writing, in a contrived fashion but allows them to be creative with their details . Therefore they are taking ownership of what they write, and hopefully it will boost their confidence and ability in writing.
    I started doing this with my Fr 2 on the second semester last year. Since writing is on everyone’ s mind , I decided I’ll do this with my Fr 1 tomorrow , a little earlier than I would normally have but I feel the pressure coming on , and since these are IB super motivated kids I hope they’ll do OK with it.

  6. I am reading the ACTFL proficiency guidelines, but to tell the truth, I am having a hard time deciphering it. Anyone out there want to give me a tutorial on how to write a rubric that clearly explains this? I am confused as to how to write a rubric based upon these guidelines. If novice-low just writes lists, and novice-mid writes sentences, how do I design a writing project for the same class that has both students in it.
    Sorry if this doesn’t make sense, or if it is too amateurish (?) but I am really trying to break away from the easy grammar-based multiple-choice tests and into CI-based assessments.
    Thanks in advance.


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