Write & Discuss is awesome, y’all! I’ve been doing it forever with my little darlings, but I didn’t know it had a name until I attended Comprehensible Cascadia last summer, and Mike Peto and Tina Hargaden told us that it’s called Write & Discuss. (Not sure who coined the term…but I like it!) Before I used this technique every now and then, but they reminded me what a great tool this is for our Comprehensible Input Tool Box. So last semester we did a lot of Write & Discuss…not every class but every week, at least! What is it and why is it so awesome? Well, I’m so glad you asked…
What’s Write & Discuss?
We know our little darlings need tons and tons of input to acquire language, and this is one way to solidify the day’s input, tie it all together and save it for posterity. After a story, or Movie Talk, or Calendar Talk or Special Person Interview or Weekend Talk or Picture Talk or just shooting the breeze… write it out! The teacher models the writing process either by writing it out on the board OR typing it on the screen. (Which I prefer!) Some teachers just ask their students to watch and absorb, but I find my little darlings need a task, so I have the write (copy) right along with me. I write a sentence, pause, give them a chance to copy it down, maybe talk, maybe translate it, then move on to the next sentence. There’s lots of ways to do this… sometimes I retell the story and have the kiddos feed me the details:
Sra. Chase: Hay un chico que se llama….
(Teacher types it out, and the class silently copies it onto their own paper).
Sra. Chase: Y Paul vive en….
You get the idea. Sometimes I just need them to be quite so I’ll write out the story and they copy it silently. My friend Julie uses Magic Cards to call on kids to feed her back the story that she types out. There are lots of variations…experiment to see what works best for you!
Here’s what it looks like in my Spanish 1 class!
And here’s my Spanish 4 class summarizing all the juicy drama of Gran Hotel. (Sometimes I type it out…sometimes I write it out by hand.)
Simple enough… but why is it so awesome?!
1. Because they’re quiet! They’re focused! And rarely are my students both silent and focused at the same time! Especially in my level 1 class, and especially at the beginning of the year, when they need me to be feeding them input constantly…there’s no down time. And let me tell you, my Freshmen this year are a wild bunch. Like notoriously wild. We even had a whole staff meeting to discuss The Naughty Freshmen Class. (In the first 2 weeks of school, more Freshmen were suspended that all students the previous YEAR combined!) So…let me tell you, the 15 minutes when they’re silently copying down what I’m writing is PURE BLISS!
1a. And if a class isn’t being very cooperative during a story…they’re not participating, they’re participating inappropriately, they’re being little jerks, whatever…..just pull the plug! Write & Discuss (well mostly write and not really discuss) is always my PLAN B. Have them take out a paper and copy down while you write. You make up the story. You give them the details. It’s not as much fun but it’s still input and it’s still good for them, and it’s better than me getting frustrated and mad at them. And by the time we’ve finished, it’s given me time to clam down, reset and move into the next activity much happier.
1b. And while we’re talking about Classroom Management, can I just throw out there how much I love my Wireless keyboard and mouse? (Amazon affiliate link! If you buy it, I’ll get a few cents and it costs you NADA!) If one of my little darlings needs a little help staying focused (and quiet!) I’ll pull my rolling cart up and sit right next to him (why is it always a him?!) and carry on. I can type from anywhere in my classroom and it’s awesome! And that’s what we call Proximity Control, Sweetheart!
2. You could spend your precious prep time after school trying to remember the hilariously creative story that 3rd period spun yesterday, but why?! Do it with them! It saves you prep time, they’ll remind you of their clever details and they’re reading (as they write!). Win-Win-Win!
3. Once you have it typed out, you’ve got a goldmine of extension activities! So many things you can do, all that are zero prep, because you wrote it out during class! Have them do these after they write, or the following class, or the following week…
- Have them read and translate their story, obvious, but not very exciting.
- Have them read another class’s story and compare the two. Which one is better? (Obviously the class that you’re talking to!)
- Add details to make the other class’s story better! (Then of course give it back to the original class to read their “updated” story .)
- Change the Point of View of the story. Model how to change the story into 1st person or whatever. I don’t have them rewrite it, just change their verb endings and pronouns with a different color on their original paper.
- Textivate it! This is my first year playing with Textivate, and it’s a great way to give them lots of practice with any text. And it’s easy for me to copy and paste our class text right in and let textivate do it’s magic. It has like a million and a half reading activities, matching games, ordering exercises… check it out! The subscription price is totally worth it!
4. My dear friend Rita (CI Teacher extraordinaire and Author!) uses her class stories as homework, but secretly it’s just excellent PR for her program! Her students take their stories home, read and translate them to their parents and bring them back with a parent signature. The parents are totally impressed and it makes her look good. (Not that she needs it, it’s already good, and did I mention, she just published her first novela?!) I don’t give my little darlings homework, but I give them Optional Extra Credit Homework- they can take a story home, read and translate, bring it back with a note from their parents and they get a stamp on their stamp sheet. It doesn’t penalized anyone who doesn’t do it, it rewards kids who spend a bit more time with Spanish outside of class, and it shows parents that their little darlings are acquiring Spanish. YAY!
5. Speaking of acquiring Spanish...so much of what we do in class is invisible. They are absorbing language and it’s hard to see or measure that. Having a written record of what class was about is helpful to show them, Look! Look how much you’ve acquired! Look! You can read this whole page easily! Sometimes our kiddos need those little reminders and visual “proof” if you will, that we’re actually doing something in class other than making up silly stories 🙂
6. Easy Study Guide for Celebrations of Knowledge (aka Tests!) So we’re teaching for proficiency here and we know that our little darlings can’t really study for their final exams, but their parents want them to study and they want us to tell them what to study…SOOO… I tell my kiddos to re-read all the stories we’ve written this year. They’ve got them all in their binder and they’ll also available on google classroom. And by re-reading (hello, more input!) they’ll do better on their final as well. So, win-win!
7. Everyone wants to be on the inside of Inside Jokes and Spanish class is a great place for everyone to feel included. It’s fun to open up old stories that your class wrote months ago and reminisce about the hilarious details. Sometimes if we have student actors I’ll take a picture and add it to the document, just to make it more fun when we re-visit it down the road. By creating class stories together, we form a tight bond and lots of inside jokes but I can’t remember them because I have 6 classes, 180 students and my brain is practically mush! Thankfully we have all the good times documented.
8. When I’m Story Asking or Movie Talking I keep things super basic and very comprehensible…but after we’ve done the story and we’re writing it out, I like to give my High Flyers more to chew on. Here’s where I load them up with exciting transition words and meaty complex sentences. My Lows and Slows might not notice them…but my High Flyers latch on and I see amazing things like por eso, entonces, así que, por fin, para que appearing in their Timed Writings, without any direct instruction at all. And that’s the power of language acquisition, folks! It’s supposed to be easy and painless!
9. Accommodations made easy. Lots of my kiddos have the Special Education accommodation “Teacher will provide copy of notes”. I’m not very good at keeping track of who needs what, so I make our Write & Discusses available for everyone. We’re a Google School, so each class has Google Classroom. I have a folder on my Google Drive for each class and that’s where I type all our Write & Discusses. They’re all linked to Google Classroom and students (and parents!) can easily find what we’ve written. During class, I require all kids to copy it down in class (the best they can) but it’s easy for them to find the clean text on Google Classroom. Plus absent students can read what we did in class.
Avoid the Pitfalls-
- The biggest pitfall is that I type faster than they write, so I start asking questions about the next part of the story while they’re madly copying down…and I get irritated that they’re not responding to my questions. Duh! SLOW DOWN, SPEED RACER. Type slow. Watch them. Wait until they’re done writing. Give them time to copy before you move on to the next sentence.
- Usually I have them keep their writing in their binder…but after a few weeks they catch on and a few little stinkers will think they can just take a quick vacation while the rest of the class writes. Nice try, buddy! Before I have them put it away, I “spot check” their work. I buzz around the classroom and they show me what they’ve written before they put it away in their binders. Gotta keep ’em honest! (And during a spot check, if I have a kiddo that didn’t write or only wrote the first part, I’ll very sweetly tell them they can’t leave until they have it copied down and to please show me it before they leave. They madly copy it down from a classmate and the next time you Write & Discuss, they join the party. 100% Success rate, so far!)
If Write & Discuss isn’t a regular activity in your classroom, I’d encourage you to play around with it next semester. You’ll love it…did I mention it keeps the kiddos quiet!?! 🙂