Picture Dictionaries

This year I created a new template for the picture dictionaries I have students fill out. I borrowed the idea for the format from a math teacher at my school who uses something very similar. So far I think it’s working really well. It doesn’t take them long to fill out, and doesn’t seem to be as confusing or hard to explain as the previous version I had created. Basically the students write the Spanish structure in the circle in the middle. The English translation goes in the top left box, then we write an example of a sentence in Spanish that uses the structure in the bottom left box. In the top right box they then draw a picture (using stick figures) of that sentence or of something that reminds them of the structure (ie. for “se llama” lots of students drew a simple name tag). In the bottom right box, students can either describe in English how to do the action associated with the structure, or they can draw a picture/diagram of it.


Timed Write Rubric

At one of my presentations this weekend, I was asked to post the rubric I use to grade timed writes. I have posted it along with the timed write handout that I give to my students. Basically for this activity, students write sentences with one word per line. They have 10 minutes to write as long of a story as they can. The rules I give them are that they cannot give a character more than two names (first and last) and they cannot repeat the same word twice in a row (eg. very very very very happy). Their sentences have to make sense, but spelling doesn’t count as long as I can figure out what they are trying to say. They are not allowed to ask how to say words or look them up in a dictionary because I want to know what they have acquired. Their options for the story are to rewrite a story we have told/read in class, write a similar story with different details, or write an original story. The most important thing I tell them every time we do this activity is to focus on using language that they already know. Sometimes students get stuck because they get a great idea for a story but aren’t able to write it with the limited amount of Spanish that they know. I tell them to repeat the structures we have learned in class as many times as they can and to add another character when they get stuck for ideas. I also encourage them to use cognates that they know as well as proper nouns, especially for places (eg. Walmart, Starbucks).

My favourite part of this activity is that it allows me to see where my students are at in acquiring the structures. It is very easy to tell when reading their timed writes which students have acquired the structures and which students still need more input. The first time I do a timed write, I have students write down a target for themselves. This number is the number of words they think they can write in Spanish in the 10 minutes. After the first timed write, they continue to set their own target but it must be at least equal to the number of words they wrote the previous time.

I love to have students do this right at the beginning of the semester and again at the end so they can see how far they have progressed in the language. Click here to see a French sample from a student who was halfway through the year of grade 10 French at the time.

What to Do With Free Writes

Judith Dubois in France has a great idea of how to use students’ free writes in a way that still respects the comprehensible input theories behind TPRS. Since we know that error correction doesn’t really help students anyways, but rather just discourages them, I think that this is a great way to use students’ free writes. Judith suggests typing up the students’ stories and fixing the errors as you do so. Then the following day in class, you can pass out the stories and the students will have something to read that should be comprehensible and also repeats the structures you are working on, thus helping students to continue acquiring them.

Source: Judith Dubois, Mrs. D’s Funny Little Classroom

Storytelling Cube

In order to do this activity, you will need to create storytelling cubes for your students. One cube should have a different character on each side and the other cube should have a different problem image on each side (ie. thunderbolt, broken heart, etc.)  Once students have rolled each cube, have them come up with a story. This activity is very flexible and could be used as a speaking or writing activity. Students can work individually, in pairs, or in groups, depending on what you want them to accomplish. You can even hand out a cube template and allow students to make their own storytelling cubes. This way they get to decide which characters and problems they want to use.

Source: Elizabeth Peterson, The Inspired Classroom

1-3-10 Free Write

This is similar to the regular TPRS free write where students write for ten minutes and try to get as many words as they can, however there is a slight twist. The 1-3-10 free write is more like a scaffolded free write because students work their way up to writing for ten minutes. The first time, have students write for one minute (with or without a topic). After the one minute, they count up their words and write the total next to their work. The second time, have students write for three minutes. They should copy what they wrote before and then continue on and write more. While copying what they wrote the first time they can fix mistakes if they catch them, but they should not spend a lot of time editing their work. When the time is up, they count up their words and write the new total next to their work. The third time, have students write for ten minutes. Once again they should copy what they wrote before (without spending too much time on editing) and then continue on and write more. Then at the end of the ten minutes have them do a final word count.

The idea behind this is that students often have trouble transferring what they want to say from their brains to the paper. By writing in steps, they are ‘priming’ themselves, and you should find that students will write more than 3x the original word count in the second step, and more than 10x the original word count in the final step. The whole process takes about 20 minutes, but it will be encouraging for your students to see just how much they can write!

Source: Martina Bex via Betsy Paskvan, Lesson Plans for CI/TPRS Classrooms