Thursday, March 14, 2013

Writing--TPRS, non-tprs

I have been teaching for 20 years, and around 13 of them have been teaching Spanish using TPRS.  For the first six years, I taught in a school where I was the department chair and had total control of the curriculum.  This is how we did writing.

In first year, I didn't have the students write at all during the first semester.  We concentrated on input, input and more input.  After the first semester, I took out my pictures for timed writings.

I have a stack of pictures that I found in National Geographic and similar magazines.  They are cut from the magazines and mounted on construction paper (8 1/2 x 11).  I originally used them for ESL, but they worked equally well for my Spanish classes.  I told the kids to write what they saw.  It could be a list, sentences, or the story of the photo.  I was the dictionary.  Nothing was out of bounds.  After they wrote, they did a word count.  They wrote at their own pace--they did what they felt they could do, from word lists to sentences to simple stories to elaborate stories.  I never checked their work for correctness.  I expected x number of words (50 to start, going to 100 in 10 minutes for 1st year).  If they hit the number, they got the grade.  They didn't get extra credit for extra words, but they did lose points for not having enough--generally 1 point per 10 words.

As they got more familiar with the process, I started having them retell stories.  They had been retelling the stories orally since about the second quarter (with all the help they needed), so it was an easy jump to start writing the retells.  Again, they weren't expected to be grammatically correct.  As long as I could understand the story, they got the grade.

Second year was more of the same.  I never went to the 125 words in 5 minutes that others do, but I did go to 125 in 10 minutes.  Again, I didn't ask them to be grammatically correct.  This was exploratory writing.  I did comment on their improvement, though.

In third year, they went to writing summaries, stories, and essays.  Fourth year was more of the same.

In my new school, as I've said, we assess the students using a rubric.  I have only taught second year, so that is all I can address.

I don't use the rubric at the beginning of the year.  At the beginning of the year, I introduce the preterit and the imperfect discretely, but I try to do it in as painless a way as possible.  I don't expect them, yet, to differentiate from each other, just from the present tense.  We start the year by watching the movie "Cinco amigas", and there is lots of possibility both for description and for detailing events.  Every time they write, they are to give me three descriptions about what the girls wore, what they looked like, how they felt, etc.  The example sentence is in the imperfect.  They are also to give me three sentences detailing what the girls did.  It's interesting to me that students have trouble, at times, differentiating between an action and a feeling, but we keep working at it.  The grading is simple.  If they write in the past tenses, they get full points.  If they write in the present tense, they lose points.  They are always encouraged to come in and make up the points.  I don't make a big deal of it, but it's a start--an introduction.

Later on, we begin to do retells.  I'm not sure why, but I don't do as many retells as I used to (orally, that is).  I've started a grading column for it, only so that i can remember to do it.  But I do have them write a retell.  I do this in several different ways.  Sometimes I ask an oral story, retell it, and then have the kids make a cartoon and caption it.  Credit for completion.  Other times I will have them draw a story while I tell it to them, then I retell the story, then they use the storyboard to write the story.  Completion grade.

Around September or so (we start the first week of August), the students begin reading, and they summarize the chapter that they've read.  Completion grade.

In the second quarter, I introduce the ellos form and we continue that in writing. Before that, though,  I start looking for correct use of pret and imperfect.  That's all--just pret and imperfect.  If they use the right tense but the wrong person (El chico fueron a la playa) they get credit.  Basically, they're just exploring the difference between the two verbs.  This isn't TPRS, but as I said earlier, I'm trying to build a feeling of confidence in them so they feel they can handle the rubric in the 3rd and 4th quarter.

As the second quarter progresses, I continue this type of writing.  In the beginning of the third quarter, I also begin to show them (no reduction in grade) if their noun and modifier are out of synch. That's basically all I worry about.  Then in late 3rd quarter, I introduce the rubric.  I start off by telling them that the first writing establishes a base; they just need to work for improvement.  After they get their papers back, they correct their work.  We work on it together, and the students get a separate correction grade.  This continues throughout the 3rd and 4th quarters.

I am always amazed at the writings that I get.  The students do a fine job, and I'm proud of them.  It gets better and better every year.

Okay, next week, back to stories. I hope.

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