End of Year Reflection: Write and Discuss Improvements and Visual Scaffolding

Write and Discuss

This is the bedrock of non-targeted CI. It’s when the teacher guides the class through a review of the day’s conversation and writes a textual summary. This text gets stored in a google doc that can be used for reading activities, comprehension checks, formative grades, studying, and anything else wl teachers do with any normal text.

In 2016-17, I only did a few Write and Discusses. And when I did them, I typed them on my computer either after class based on my memory or during class right on my laptop.

This year, I changed to writing the text on the board by hand, which was a big improvement. It was way better for behavior management to be standing up in front with the lights on rather than sitting off to the side at my desk with the lights off. To get a digital copy, I assigned a job of Class Secretary to type in a google doc what I wrote on the board. Writing by hand also slowed me down, which is always good in the CI classroom! I also like the ability to write in different colors, draw lines, circle grammatical features, and all sorts of stuff that wasn’t possible on the computer.

A quick note: I used to put the new day’s text at the top of the document, but I’ve changed to adding new content at the bottom. That way the formatting of pictures and text doesn’t get messed up every time I add content, which is important if you’re trying to make a class Yearbook as I discuss later.

I also really pushed to make Write and Discuss a daily practice. I didn’t quite get there, but I still did it a ton more than the previous year when it was just sprinkled in. Here’s my totals

Sp. 2: 16 individual Write and Discusses. Plus 7 invisibles stories. +/-3000 words
Sp. 1: 42 individual Write and Discusses. Plus 6 invisibles stories. +/-5500 words***
Sp 1: 20 individual Write and Discusses. Plus 4 invisibles stories. +/-2600 words
Sp. 3H: 19 individual Write and Discusses. Plus 3 invisibles stories. +/-3200 words
Sp. 3H: 13 individual Write and Discusses. Plus 4 invisibles stories. +/-3300 words

***This section of Spanish 1 met every day for a shorter amount of time, whereas all the other classes met every other day. It’s supposed to equal out to the same amount of time for the whole year, but it doesn’t matter. That daily class always gets a ton more done and improves a lot faster.

To get a sense of what the Write and Discuss document looks like and read more about it, you can check out one of my level 1 classes here. I call it a Class Yearbook.

 

Visual Scaffolding

I don’t have a cool name for this yet, but it’s a perfect accompaniment, rather precursor, to Write and Discuss. Basically,  whatever the conversation of the day, I just draw a quick visual representation of the content of the conversation on the board as it happens. It’s almost always a mixture of quick sketches, numbers, words in the target language, speech bubbles, and arrows. For example, one day we talked about this girl in class who won the state championship in horseback riding.

IMG_2813

Her horse’s name was Stella, a girl. She actually just got a new horse, so Stella was her previous horse (caballo pasado). The breed or type of horse was an “appendix,” whatever that means. Stella was 15 years old, which we discussed was pretty old for horses, that usually live between 25-30 years. The student, Sam, also is 15 and was born in November, but she didn’t know in which month Stella was born. And so on. This one is a bit more text-heavy than they usually are. It’s usually more sketches than this.

The point is that in quick notation format, I jot down the content of the conversation off to the side of where I will later do the Write and Discuss. The benefit is that when we do the write and discuss, all the information is visible to the students but not a lot of the actual text. So it reminds them of the content, but they still have to do the cognitive work of creating or at least remembering the language to describe the visuals. It’s great!

Another variation on this is that instead of doing the write and discuss as a class, you can assign the students to write the textual summary individually or in small groups. I wouldn’t recommend this for the first semester of level 1, but in the spring it worked great. This isn’t really as efficient as the teacher leading the summary, but a certain amount of production practice helps with confidence-building I think, and it certainly gives me a break every once in awhile from being the content-creator “on stage” in the front of the class.

 

Improvements

I’d like to be even more diligent about doing the Write and Discuss every class next year.

I’m also going to focus on allowing more time for the discussion of the text. Too frequently, we only had time to write the text and no time to translate it together or do other reading strategies…Sometimes I pushed those text decoding activities to the next day, which is fine, but it would be more interesting to have them do it the same day I think. Or both.

I also hope to print it out each new page of the class Write and Discuss document as it is produced to add to the class Free Choice Reading Library. I call it the Yearbook! This year, I only printed it out in May, but it would be way better to print it out as we go along.

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