Writing Question

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8 thoughts on “Writing Question”

  1. Last year was the first time that I hit free writes pretty hard. This year, my Latin 1 students have done two 5 minute writes already (we have finished 5 weeks of school). We did the first at three weeks and the second at the end of 5.

    What to expect? Wide variety. Some of mine right now are writing 50-60 words in 5 minutes. Others are writing 9-10. That observation, all by itself, shows me where students are in the input-output dynamic, and each is just fine wherever they are.. I repeat that to them each time. The only number that matters is their own. At the end of the semester I have them look at all their timed writes an reflect on what they all show (we put them in a portfolio) and mean to them.

  2. I’m so glad you put the writing at only 10 percent of the grade. I was putting grades into the system today and decided to change my scale to reflect what we are really trying to accomplish so I put writing at only 10 percent. Another thing is that Chinese character writing is the hardest part of the language. The listening and speaking are much easier, even easier than many other languages because there are no verb declensions, no masculine/feminine, no articles, and only a handful of prepositions so kids can make pretty fast progress until they hit the reading and writing. I have seen Chinese teachers lose half their enrollment because they were pushing the characters so hard. It is partly a cultural thing because to be well educated in China means to be highly literate so too many Chinese teachers place a huge emphasis on characters.

    When I see my kids getting frustrated at learning characters, I tell them, “look I spent 7 years working in China in an interesting and good paying job and for most of that time I was illiterate in Chinese. If I needed to read something, I would ask someone to read it to me. And I could read some things I needed to like train tickets and hotel registration forms. I will teach you all the tricks I know for learning to read and write characters and when you really need them, like when I got a consulting job that paid $10,000 to help a company set up a study abroad program in China, you will pick up what you need fast. Besides, there are so many software programs that help with reading these days.” By changing the grading scale, I keep the students who have trouble with characters from dropping out. The only thing I worry about is what will happen to them when they get to college and encounter some of the much more traditional Chinese teachers.

    1. Tamula,
      I am not sure why but reading your comment just made me think of something I recently read in this article about why Chinese people have an advantage in learning numbers over the rest of the world. Their numbers are monosyllabic and thus they can retain them faster, and retain more numbers simultaneously than the rest of the world does !
      Here is the link if you are interested:

        1. I originally read this in Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers. He has a lot of interesting things to say:
          – 10,000 hours are of work are necessary to become an “outlier” in any given area
          – once you are “good enough”, factors other than expertise or intelligence are more important for success
          – no one ever got there alone; there were always “ecological” factors (opportunity, support, etc.) at work as well
          – our heritage plays a significant role in how we react to life (Gladwell has a fascinating section on how culture can support or hinder success in a given field)
          – to engage people, work must be meaningful and the results must be organically related to the effort (interesting comparison between the legacy of the European feudal system and the Asian rice cultivation system)
          – Community is important in solving problems (good example of students working together to solve a problem)
          – Persistence, i.e. continued exposure, is as important as intelligence in solving problems / gaining insights (great example of a woman working out a math concept and spending 20 minutes on a single problem but understanding the concept thoroughly when she was done)

          BTW, I think the area of significance and correlation of effort to result is where the US educational system falls down; students do not generally perceive the work they do in school as meaningful, and they do not generally see how their effort relates to the grade they receive from the class (Witness the generations of students who talk about being “given” a grade in a class.)

    2. Hi Tamula,

      I’m a non-native Chinese language teacher, too! I’ve been thinking a lot about characters lately. I’ve decided I’m not going to test them on characters at all, definitely not writing them. I’m going to have them use Skritter (www.skritter.com) and work at their own pace on characters that are the most important from words they hear in class. Lots of hearing, a good amount of seeing them (along with pinyin), my reading aloud to and with them a lot without pinyin, and them going at their own pace with Skritter to learn as many characters as their own pace. The kids like it because it almost feels like playing a game. I tell them there’s no pressure: just spend the amount of time (I’m expected to give homework daily, 15-20 minutes.)

      At least, that’s how I’ve begun doing things this year. I’m transforming my classes and my thinking. This is my first real year only using CI/TPRS and I’ve been rethinking a lot.

  3. …students do not generally perceive the work they do in school as meaningful….

    That’s because it isn’t in most of their classes, the legacy brought to us by the old model. But when I tell my kids that homework will not be part of my class, nor will big tests that require them to memorize things (since they can Google anything now), and that how they sit in class and interact with me is pretty much the entire ball game concerning their grades, they always nod their heads up and down, and most dive into the new, human kind of reciprocal and participatory learning with kind hearts and a sense of adventure. It is gratifying to just go in and have fun creating comprehensible input with them as a community, all of us facing together in the same direction, me fighting for them to succeed, and half of them doing the same for me. I love it. It’s not orwellian at all, as it is for them in many of their other classes. It’s positiviely gladwellian.

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