Write & Discuss is a short end of class routine (or end of activity, or mid-class routine if you have long block classes) that lasts from 5 to 10 minutes. Doing this during every class period is essential for deep acquisition and building a class library of easy texts that your students will have no problem reading.
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 also a great answer when parents ask what their children are supposed to study for midterm or final exams.
The following video of a W&D activity was filmed after spending 10 minutes developing a class story. It s humbling to see that, after a lot of repetition and comprehension checks, one or two students still were confused about key plot points in our story. For this reason the W&D is the best way to make sure everyone is on board before the daily exit quiz.
But what do you do with the text once the Write & Discuss is complete? Despite the video, I almost never have students 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 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. To correct it, I certainly don’t read the translations 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 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.
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.
The best use of Write & Discuss text is to use the text as the basis of an cartoon that students illustrate over the weekend. These cartoons then form the basis for your classroom library. Not all students will enjoy reading these during independent reading at the beginning of the period, but that is okay. Those students who reject everything that you have as too hard to read independently need an easy read, however, and what could be easier than a packet of readings that were created by the students themselves! It is a smart solution to a problem that could otherwise cripple your independent reading program; every kid needs to be able to read something.
Below is a video describing how to turn the every day W&D text into a cartoon template for your students to illustrate as weekend homework. Click here to download a copy of the template; you’ll notice that each paper folds in half to make a four page pamphlet. That means you’ll have to boil your W&D texts down to four sentences that can be illustrated.