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by Erica Fischer on Jan 21, 2013

Promoting Writing Proficiency in the World Language Classroom

Children working with computers. Date unknown. Roding Primary School & Nursery. Students writing diligently on computers while in school. Accessed January 18, 2013. http://rodingprimary.co.uk/project/children-working-with-computers/

#Langchat participants discuss online writing outlets, working in groups, word games, and writing keys

During Thursday night’s session of #langchat, participants discussed various interactive ways to develop students’ world language writing skills. The discussion topics included ways to foster many types of writing through analysis and discussion. By using various methods such as online tools, group discussion and word games, teachers are encouraging and incorporating writing into the world language classroom.

Utilizing Traditional and Online Language Writing Outlets

While traditional paper journals and free-writes remain a staple in many classrooms, several teachers support the use of blogs or similar online tools. @Mundayasa loves using blogs in the classroom as they provide excellent opportunities to read, write and discuss in the target language. As @Emilybakerhanes pointed out, blogs are “Great for incorporating little doses of writing into a busy day.” @Sonrisadelcampo agreed with this statement and offered KidBlog as a solution for those concerned with online safety and monitoring.

Online discussions are another way that participants have incorporated writing into their classrooms. @CoLeeSensei suggested using Twitter to introduce students to authentic Spanish speakers. For those schools where Twitter is blocked, @Professor suggested using an online bulletin board system called Linoit. Other teachers create their own version of Twitter in a paper format during class. @Mme_henderson likes to share real sources such as Facebook and Twitter feeds because students “need to see how natives communicate.”

Piquing Students Interests with Foreign Language Writing Games

A great deal of #langchat participants mentioned the usage of language writing games to help students develop and use their creative skills. @Awear10 suggested the word game Mad Libs, although she advocated for creating ones that are tailored for the proficiency level of each individual class. She said, “I’m K-4 Spanish, so the pre-made ones can be too advanced”.

@AmberMocarski suggested also introducing students to the game of Five Card Flickr to increase writing skills. Other participants suggested that Five Card Flickr is wonderful for general practice, but is not specifically designed to help students’ ability to communicate with writing.

Group Writing Project

Working together on language writing projects can encourage communication, collaboration and higher-level thinking skills.

Students Working Together to Foster Writing Creativity

While using online world language writing methods are a wonderful way to help students develop their skills, the importance of grouping was also emphasized. @HeatherMartens2 said, “I have done group writing where they pass one sheet of paper and have to add a line to the story. Very entertaining!” While @Cadamsf1 said, “I used to pull out sentences from [students’] writing and they would have to work in groups to make corrections.”

One way to use the brain power of the whole group was the idea of “Picture Writes,” suggested by @Awear10. In this method, the teacher puts up an image and the students have three minutes to write as many details as possible. Then, the students “pair together to develop complete sentences. Whole group share.”

@Sonrisadelcampo also suggested an activity for using images to get students working together on language writing. In her activity, “Character Sketches,” the teacher puts up a photo and asks students “What is this person’s problem today?” Many teachers agreed that picture prompts can really elevate writing to a more creative and collaborative level.

Tools to Support Students’ Writing

Teachers also shared the many tools they use to support students’ writing. For novice learners, graphic organizers and word banks are especially helpful. Many teachers favor the use of circumlocution over dictionaries as students can become overly dependent on dictionaries. MartinaBex encourages the creation of personal dictionaries.

@DiegoOjeda66 suggests that teachers give students good content and ask them to complete specific writing tasks. His idea list includes reorganizing paragraphs, substituting repeated elements with pronouns, summarizing, and interpreting graphics.

Reading Supports Writing Skills Development

Many participants believe that good writing skills are directly related to reading activities. The more students read, the more they will pick up various writing techniques.

Leading by example is perhaps the most beneficial way to bring out students foreign language writing skills. When proper writing techniques are demonstrated by the teacher and witnessed by the students, they are more willing to open up their creative side. @Mme_henderson pointed out” Students need to see the teacher writing too… It’s good for them to see the process of writing in action”.

Additional Resources

Five Card Flickr (Sadhana Ganapathiraju)
Awkward Family Photos (Awkward Family, LLC)
Evernote (Evernote Corporation)
Linoit (Infoteria Corporation)
KidBlog (Kidblog.org)
Using Writing-to-Learn Activities (Helga Thorson)
Spanish Mad Libs (Spanish411.net)
Today’s Meet (James Socol)

#LangChat is an independent group of world-language education professionals who come together every week via Twitter to share ideas and discuss pressing issues in the world of education. Check out the #LangChat wiki for more information about our goals and the team behind it all here. These weekly discussion summaries are sponsored by Calico Spanish as a service to the world-language community.

Erica Fischer
Erica is the founder and CEO of Calico Spanish. Her passion for teaching her own children to speak Spanish led her to create Calico Spanish. Our mission is to give all children the opportunity to learn to speak real Spanish for life.

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