One way that I assess the fluency development of my students is through timed or speed writing. After my students have been exposed to a rich diet of Comprehensible Input via aural and reading strategies found in common practices in TPRS, I want to check and see what they can produce by retelling stories that they understood. Eventually this leads to writing about new topics that are unrehearsed and spontaneous but not before providing hours and hours of exposure to Comprehensible IMMERSION.
Speed or timed writing is an assignment where students write as much as they can as fast as they can. I also like calling these Fluency writes because they serve the purpose of developing fluency. The basic idea is to write in a way that reflects natural language usage that is free of the use of a grammar or spelling monitor. These assignments are unannounced assignments that are only given after extensive exposure to INPUT. A Relaxed writing assignment would allow students to edit and spell check without the element of being under any type of pressure (that is a discussion for another day).
It should be noted that the free writes are just a part of developing fluency. The hope is that students will be able to use a variety of vocabulary and grammar in their writing based on class stories and discussions. These are very much a part of formatively assessing what these students CAN do with the language. This feedback from students guides instruction. It must be understood that certain features of acquiring language happen differently for each learner. These writing activities will not be perfect and will have various types of errors that will be addressed through concentrated use of input.
These particular examples are based on a story written by Bryan Kandel (bryankandel tprs.com). The classes spent 4-5 days engaged in a class story that utilized several student actors, props, present and past tense narration, music, and a choral translating activity before doing the free write on day 5. From my perspective, I am hoping to see students utilize the past tense in these examples. The writings were a 7.5 minute timed writing on day 140 of a Spanish 1 class.
A time writing is based on 100 words in 5 minutes rubric.
5:00=100 words 90-100 words =A
7:30=150 words 135-150 words=A
10:00=200 words 180-200 words=A
One reason to allow students longer periods of writing might be to see various details of a particular story. I find that when I only ask student to write for 5 minutes, that I only get the beginning details of a story. Allowing students to write for longer tends reflect results of more creativity, more complex sentences, and details about the actions of the story rather than language pertaining to characters and setting.
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