assessments reflections

Write & Discuss example

As I was preparing a video session for Scott Benedict’s online conference I looked through some old class footage to see if I could caption a good example of a typical Write & Discuss (W & D) session. This is the activity that I recommend any CI teacher end their class with, regardless of what was being done in class. It is surprising to me that many CI teachers do not end their classes with a quick W & D… whether you have spent the class interviewing a student, chatting about the weekend or even watching youtube videos, W & D is an excellent way to get one last repetition of the input by summarizing the class period and getting that information into their notebooks. The W & D texts are a great answer when parents ask what their children are supposed to study for midterm or final exams.

To be clear, W & D is a short end of class routine that lasts from 5 to 10 minutes. Here is a typical 55 minute lesson that I might have planned (or just performed off the cuff):

The following example of Write & Discuss came after creating a class story like in the first lesson plan, but it could have easily focused on the chat about after school plans, or both. Here is the video:

25 comments

  1. Hi Mike,
    I’ve done Write and Discuss but have never had my students copy from the board. I see you asked your students to take out their notebooks. Would they then copy after you are done with your writing? I teach middle school (beginning Spanish and Spanish I – HS credit class). I’d appreciate your comments on this.
    Thanks,
    Luisa

    1. Hi Luisa,

      Great question. Despite the video, I almost never have them take their notebooks out WHILE we are doing the W&D because I want students to be actively participating in the activity. However once we are done creating the text together I do often (but not always) have them copy the text because I do believe there is some value in having them quickly interact with a text that they have already mastered.

      The manner in which they interact varies on my whim, but they know that something is up and therefore have an incentive to make sure one last time that they really can connect each word with meaning. Every class there is always an exit quiz, but maybe once per week, upon copying the paragraph, they may only have 4 minutes left in class and I ask them to quickly translate the W&D, writing the exact translation for each word in Spanish just above so I can quickly glance at it and match the two. I count that as the exit quiz, and I don’t read them word for word. I just glance at them and if it looks on first glance to be all there, they get 100%, almost all 85%, some gaps 75%, significant gaps 60%. I can grade the entire class in the 5 minutes between classes because most students get 100%, it is just a question of flipping through and quickly identifying the students who did not get 100% and placing their quizzes on top so that when I go to put grades in at the end of the day those quizzes are right on top. I never return the quizzes (same with other exit quizzes), just record the grade and in the trash they go.

      Maybe twice a week after copying the text from the board I then tell them to go home and translate the paragraph aloud to a parent or guardian and have that adult sign underneath. I never, ever waste class time checking these signatures. Instead, this is my PR campaign to impress parents with how much their children can understand. Doing this preempts the expectations that speaking is the only way for their children to prove that they are learning in class, and parents are generally impressed with the ever-growing notebook packed full of rich L2 text that their children can understand. Parents no longer ask, “do you actually do anything in class?!” because the proof is in their hands. Students often go home saying we do “nothing” in class; the notebook is the physical evidence that we do a lot.

      Sometimes I will notice that a student has lost their notebook. That is when I threaten notebook checks. Sometimes parents ask me how their children can study for a midterm or final exam when so much of class content is just made up on the spot each day. I tell them that the best thing their child can do to study is go back and read through their class notebook. If the parent says that the student does not have a notebook, well I AM SHOCKED because the parent has supposedly been signing off twice a week that their child has orally translated the class text. If you have anyone questioning the rigor of your classes, the notebook is the most eloquent response.

      Finally, the notebook can be used as a last resort for reading in class during pleasure reading period (the first 10 minutes of my classes) if the student reports that all of the books in the class library are too difficult. That happens occasionally, especially with students who switch schools midyear. After a while in class they build the reading skills they need to be able to independently read the easiest books in my library, but until then they can read from their own notebook.

      Mike

  2. Hi Mike,
    Are you planning on doing a “Write and Discuss” presentation as part of the Comprehensible Online conference?
    I think W&D is an extremely powerful activity!! I just don’t do it nearly as much as I should. I am going to try to do it at the end of every class-like you said. I think that is a FANTASTIC idea!
    So, you actually don’t have the kids copy it down every class? Or do you? And when you do, you have them copy it down AFTER you are done, correct? The few times I’ve done W&D, I’ve tried it different ways. I like when the kids are not copying it down with me because I like to engage them in conversation as we create the text together and I feel that their interaction with me is low since they are trying to keep up with the writing. So, I like the idea of copying down the text afterwards.
    I’m trying to get a sequence in my head…We create text together, the class copies it down in TL, then they translate OR have some other type of assessment? Is that correct?
    Also, do you have them keep all the W&D in one notebook? If so, do you collect the entire notebook?
    Thank you so much!!

    1. I appreciate the struggle you are going through! Essentially, you are struggling to fully accept the idea that just providing good input is enough for students to acquire language… that is why you are trying to figure out a good assessment piece. Linguist Paul Nation stresses that re-reading is excellent for acquisition, and I think that is why W&D is so fantastic. Not only does it provide a context to immediately reread and re-deliver excellent CI, it really supports the literacy piece as we write out our summary in a way that is often more articulate than oral speech. I love that you noticed how superior W&D is when students are engaged in a conversation about the W&D rather than simply copying the piece.

      The doubts about the process (do they copy? when? what do we do with the copied text? what to do with the notebook?) is less about language acquisition and more about classroom management. I understand that it is super frustrating to see 3 kids not engaging and you want a mechanism to not only draw those three kids back in, but also make sure that the rest do not see their example and decide to stop engaging. That is classroom management. However, don’t let your solution interfere with the acquisition part of W&D; as you noted, if they copy while doing W&D then they engage less, so try to never have them copy while we do the W& D (I know they copied during my video… arggg!). I personally think that having a solid routine for the classroom management piece makes it more likely that idle kids are going to figure out how to game the system. That is why I only sometimes have them copy. Sometimes after copying they pass it in for a completion grade… once I say pass it in I never give more time for the slackers to then hurriedly copy it. Many times we will have an exit quiz and that W&D is what I use to come up with spur of the moment questions, so paying attention to the W&D pays off for students. Sometimes they translate it quickly and pass it in for a completion grade. Sometimes they keep it in their notebooks and I ask them to translate it orally to a parent/guardian and get that persons signature, which I half-halfheartedly check the next day. I never collect the notebooks… that would require way too much hectoring on my part.

      1. Thank you so much for your response! It all makes complete sense! I often spend up to thirty minutes on opening conversation or more and it is usually so engaging but then we just go on to OWI or whatever it is we are doing and I very rarely get to have the kids see in writing what our opening conversation was about. This will be a great review and I believe just randomly holding them responsible will work out just fine.
        Thank you again so much for your time!

  3. Thanks for posting this video! So helpful. Again, to be clear, while you are doing this, the students don’t have to write along with you? I’m wondering what they are doing with the notebooks open. I’m afraid some would start drawing.

    1. This particular time I had students copy as I wrote, but normally they keep their notebooks under their chairs the entire time and at the end of the activity I decide whether they copy and translate the text depending upon the amount of class time left. Several times per week they do copy and translate. Sometimes (perhaps once per week) I collect the translation for a grade which keeps them alert, but I often want this to be part of their notebooks so that when parents ask what their children should study at home, I tell them to have their kids orally translate the writing in their notebooks from L2 to L1. The grade, when I collect it, is based on a brief glance looking for completion. If they were paying attention during the class then they should be able to translate it all fairly quickly and get an A.

      1. Hola…do you a story every day? Is a story that they make up with you or is it your own?

      2. We create a text everyday. It might not be a story… that would be exhausting. I might find out that a student has to cut the grass after school and ask a few questions about that. At the end of class during W & D we discover that was the most interesting thing we came up with that day, so we do the W & D about that student (perhaps asking a few more questions and adding to it). The next day during calendar talk we realize that there is a production of a school play, so we interview a student in the play about the preparation. That is an easy W & D topic. I like making One Word Images, and I think that is a crucial part of my classes from level 1 to AP, but “stories” are not the only kinds of texts created in my classes.

  4. Loved the write and discuss!!. I have often ended my lessons with a verbal review and maybe an exit ticket so I was looking for something a little different. This was so simple yet so effective. I loved how you included the video. A picture is worth so much. Thanks for sharing.
    Also I noticed that the student guides for GH are no longer available at TPT. My kids are so into it and it is such a great resource. Are you able to share?

    1. Hi Nancy,

      The license holder for GH and Internado (Atresmedia) has asked me and other teachers to stop distributing those guides. I am looking into this and if there is a change then I will make those guides available again on my website, but until then I have decided to remove the GH and Internado content from my site.

  5. When you say Write and Discuss, the writing is you writing on the board and discussing with the class as you go? Is that correct?

    1. That is how I do it, a process in which both write and discuss happen at the same time to encourage a more interactive, student-produced product. I think the name originally referred to two activities, write and then a separate discussion, but I have been advocating for this change so that the final product truly reflects student comprehension and I think that actively creating the written product together in this way is so much more engaging.

      1. Thanks so much! Do you feel like you could do this activity with any input? For example, could I do a Write and Discuss after talking about Advantages & Disadvantages of being a bullfighter (a recent discussion in our class)….

      2. OMG YES! That would be awesome. In the past I was more likely to make a Venn Diagram for compare and contrast activities, but I realized that writing lists of words and phrases was not nearly as effective as writing out full sentences with transitions and all. The key, of course, is to make sure that students continue to process while you are writing, that it is not just “down time” for them. That is why I have a more interactive approach and occasionally have them copy and do a follow-up activity such as translate or take an exit quiz.

  6. Appreciate the post and video, Mike! Bought your new book too and looking forward to reading it when it arrives. Any accountability for the W&D? Or do Ss see that it helps them and all do so it’s part of class culture? Just curious.

    1. We often end with an exit quiz, even if it is a choral response. Sometimes we will choral translate, or if I have more time than I thought then I will ask them to do a written translation. Sometimes I ask them to pass in the written translation and I give them a completion grade, that is rare but effective if someone is not actually doing the class work. That helps develop a class culture… you only have to do that a couple of times in September and students are trained to follow through for the rest of the year.

  7. Thanks for the video! I’ve been doing W&D but I think I’ve been drawing it out much too long. What do your exit quizzes look like typically? Do you have a student quiz writer or do you come up with the questions on the fly?

    1. Typically really easy. I am not organized enough to have a quiz writer, but when I ask questions I often try to sense whether students think the question is fair. I don’t tell them that I am going to do this, but often if a kid expresses confusion I will say “just kidding” and give them a different question. If I see someone cheating then suddenly I get serious and ask a more difficult question or promise a real quiz tomorrow, but as long as they are processing the input and putting in a good faith effort then the quizzes are a joke, just an excuse to get one last push of input into the class.

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