8th grade free writing samples

New Doc 4_1

I will never forget an encounter with a colleague in the first year when I committed 100% to teaching with TPRS. I was so excited to share the first free/speed write results of my 1st and 2nd year high school Spanish students. As I was discussing with another Spanish teacher, my colleague at the time commented that she would much rather have 3 perfectly written sentences instead of 30 inaccurate ones. Six years later I am still scratching my head about her opinion and criticism of those writing samples.  Timed writing assignments represent a snap shot of what students can actually DO with the language.

Michigan State Professor Bill Van Patten said something interesting on his talk show this week,  Tea With BVP episode 4. He said, “there are no such things as errors.(Beginning) learners cannot make errors. Errors are an external perspective.  I couldn’t agree more with Van Patten’s remark because errors are part of the development path of fostering implicit linguistic system in students.  In these free write examples the writing is just a small reflection of where they are with the language. There are no errors. Their L2 grammar is slowly developing and should be judged in this way…not yet fully developed.

With limited time this school year, students have responded very well to a class that is based on Students and Stories in Spanish (the new title of my course thanks to Eric Herman). In a new school this year, I have noticed some ups and downs to bringing CI-based instruction that centers around the TPRS approach.  It has been, at times, uncomfortable for students to understand why we conduct class in the ways that we do.  These are students that are accustomed to studying and memorizing and working diligently in their classes. These are really great students!

They have had to get used to a class that is about them and stories.  Recently, I asked students to retell a MovieTalk story that we have been working on.  I am very pleased with the results of these 8th graders that are new to Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling.  This is a 7.5 minute timed writing and class averages were over 150 words. The fundamental part of grading these free writes are based on 100 words per 5 minutes. I vary the time each time that we write as the school year continues because I always wnats students to attempt their very best.

To learn more about the lesson that led to this activity click here ALEX.

8th grade

Click to see 201 word count


8th grade

Click to see 215 word count

New Doc 6_1

Click to see 180 word count

8th grade

Click to see 231 word count

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  • Miguel, what’s your philosophy with regards to correcting student speaking errors? Example pqa:
    Profe: Mary, juegas futbol? (Do you play soccer?)
    Mary: Si senor. Juegas futbol. (Yes sir. You [I] play soccer)

    I’ve heard that we should just take what we get and applaud their attempt at output and not correct them, thus strengthening confidence. On the other hand, if we didn’t correct wouldn’t we be reinforcing incorrect L2? Classmates are receiving this interaction as input.

    Mike McPeters 3 years ago Reply

    • I make a correction by restating or asking a different student or giving my 1st person response. Students tend to pick up the changes and self correct. I would feel uncomfortable letting a nagging error go unchecked. If all else fails it is no problem to do a grammar pop-up. I would go right to the board and explain in an clear way that students can understand. You can watch Blaine Ray take his time and park with students until he gets them accurately responding in this video.

      Michael Coxon 3 years ago Reply

    • Also since I want to encourage more output or risk taking I love making a big deal when students make attempts. There is a lot of “Fuerte aplauso” in my classes…I try to make it a big deal. I never want to point out a negative aspect of errors in a way that would hinder more risk taking.

      Michael Coxon 3 years ago Reply

  • Hi Mike,

    Awesome work. Are these 8th graders new to Spanish or just new to the TPRS? I am curious to know if they had any background in Spanish at all prior to your class. I ask becuase most of my students come to me having had zero exposure to Spanish. I took Blaine’s class over the summer but I am struggling to get going…. Angela

    Angela Bougher 3 years ago Reply

    • These 8th graders are not new to Spanish. The school considers 7th grade Spanish to be like level 1 but we have fabulous teachers now using TPR/TPRS with limited class time in pre-kinder thru 8. If things stay on track, in a few years you will be reading about 8th graders and AP exams :)

      It is very challenging to get going and stay with it. TPRS is like a very high maintenance relationship. Check out the Facebook group for support. Search TPRS CI NTPRs iFLT group.

      Michael Coxon 3 years ago Reply

      • “TPRS is like a very high maintenance relationship.”

        Well said, Mike! I’ve been seeing this here in Scotland as well. Some days are so focused and positive while others are the complete opposite. We can only do our best and encourage the kids to do theirs.

        I like how you drew attention to how Blaine handles error correction above. Often times I use gestures and a bit of verbal emphasis on the restatement. Sometimes all it takes to encourage self-correction is pointing to yourself while using the first person form.

        Jason Bond 3 years ago Reply

  • When you are doing the re-write of the stories or the movie talk, do you leave words on the board? T

    Jeff Easthon 3 years ago Reply

    • Hi Jeff,

      I would say it depends on the time of year and level of class. My observation is that if I do, only a couple of students look up to use them.

      Michael Coxon 3 years ago Reply

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