World language teachers can support Common Core State Standards by modeling the writing process and providing a variety of writing opportunities. CCSS specify that students should be spending about 35% of their time writing to persuade, 35% to explain, and 30% to convey an experience. Students in world language classes can write about topics of their choice in the target language that enhance their first language vocabulary and writing skills.
Like reading, writing is a process. First students need something to write about (a topic) and someone to write for (an audience). Teachers can use lots of target language in the prewriting stage. This could be a brainstorm and categorize session, or it might involve research, or both. Then students need to write a draft, edit, revise, and publish.
I love the technique of Semantic feature analysis. I use this to describe character traits and actions, and as a pre-writing activity. Semantic Feature Analysis helps student discern how things are alike or different. It can be used to engage student thinking, as a way to collect data, explore similarities and differences, or as a way to quickly evaluate students’ knowledge. Create a matrix. Along the left side, the students list key terms in the chosen area. Across the top of the matrix, they write features that the words might share. Ask students to them use an “X” to indicate if the feature applies to the word or write in specifics about the features.
One topic of high interest each year is the family and home presentations. This project reinforces writing, speaking, and presentational skills. Students can create any family or present their own. They need to give name, age birthday, hobby, occupation, nationality, and description of themselves and four other people. They also describe their home or future dream home. Students can present with any multimedia format. Use famous families or families from the target culture as examples.
During National World Language Week each March my students make “Did you know posters….” These contain facts and graphics about countries that speaks the target language. These are displayed around the school. We have a school wide trivia contest. Students read brochures, books, and websites to create questions about the target languages and cultures. The questions are read by students during the morning announcements. All students in the school are encouraged to put answers in a jar in the library and the first correct answer drawn is the winner, who receives a small prize.
Students can create travel brochures about a country or city where the target language is spoken. This incorporates reading and researching informational text including internet sources, and creating a brochure which involves expository and persuasive writing. Students can present their brochures to the class to practice persuasive speaking in the target language. The brochures can be displayed in library or posted to a class website.
Each spring I compete for students to take my class. I call this “sweeps week”. Students use their persuasive language skills to make posters called “Why Study a Foreign Language”. After several YouTube clips, a brainstorm session, and my power point, they are armed with reasons to cover the school with quality posters promoting world language study. We also cook this week so students are following recipes in the target language to create something delicious. You can smell this all over school and students poke their heads in and ask what class is this? It’s really not fair to the other elective teachers.
Chart source: http://smnorthwest.smsd.org/Pages/World-Languages.aspx
Holiday celebrations are especially good to compare and contrast. After viewing a video, some internet research, and a TPRS story in Spanish we find similarities and differences between Day of the Dead and Halloween using a Venn diagram and make cards explaining the difference to friend and family. The same could be done with the Christmas or winter holidays. Social customs for family life and typical holidays connect to Social Studies and encourage students to make comparisons to their own culture. Students could compare the traditions of the quinceanera with a sweet 16 party.
My students create cities in the courtyard outside my room with butcher paper, spray paint, and chalk. They draw a place to start from a jar containing places in the target language and another student draws a place to give directions to and they act out an impromptu skit. They also write directions (sequencing and expository writing) and drive match box cars around city maps that they created in the fashion of European cities with plazas and major buildings built around the plazas.
One research based strategy for increasing student achievement according to Robert Marzano in his book Classroom Instruction That Works is summarizing. I teach summarizing in three steps: delete, keep, and substitute. Keep the important parts, delete the unimportant parts, and substitute a general term for lists, like fruit instead of all the individual fruit names. Students can be required to write a summary or opinion as an exit tickets. This can be done in two Words. Two word summaries force students to synthesize the learning and think of two words to convey the new knowledge.
This is a good get acquainted activity. Students write 2 facts and a lie about themselves in the target language. This could be about family, hobbies, food, places traveled, thing they did over the summer, or break. In groups they take turns reading their two truths and a lie and see how many members of the group they can fool. Transfer this activity to CCSS by distinguishing fact from opinion. Have students write facts about a topic and their opinions. Have them read their sentences to the class as other students hold up white boards if they think the statement is a fact or opinion.
Children’s Pattern books are great for students to create spin offs. The Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle is one that can be easily adapted by students changing the things he eats to class objects, clothes, or other food items. One connection to CCSS would be to have the students research foods from the target countries and rewrite the story with examples of foods from the cultures studied. In a dark, dark forest, there was a dark,dark house…In the dark, dark house, there was a dark, dark….???
Who am I? Students write descriptions of themselves in the target language a create Picasso like self-portraits to go with the paragraphs. We then put the portraits under the document camera, read the paragraph and guess who am I? Another variation is to place the self-portraits around the room and have student walk around gallery style and try to identify the artist. A great website for making the self- portraits is www.Picassohead.com.
There is a good Poetry unit available from www.foreignlanguagehouse.com. Some examples are: hide and seek poems where students choose ten words from an article to make a poem, Bio-Poems, Diamantes, Acrostics, hello/goodbye poems. Even though there is a focus on argumentative writing, narrative writing also supports CCSS. Student are creating and using higher level thinking skills.
Dictees, dictados, dictations provide immediate feedback for self-assessment. I dictate a few sentences in the target language and students write them as I repeat them slowly over and over again. After I finish the dictation the students check their own work from a correct copy I put under the document camera. I like to use informational passages about Costa Rica or the people of Cameroun from the novels by Kristi Placido, Mira Canion, and Carol Gaab. Check out the novel samples at http://tprstorytelling.com. Running dictation is another fun reading, writing, speaking, and listening activity that I learned from Jason Fritz. Copy of a paragraph of text on a piece of butcher paper and tape it up to a wall outside the room. Students are in teams of three or four. One student is the writer as the other students take turns running outside reading the paragraph and trying to recreate the paragraph in the room.
The refreshed World-Readiness Standards for Language Learning state that learners build, reinforce, and expand their knowledge of other disciplines while using the language to develop critical thinking and to solve problems creatively. It is not a stretch for world language teachers to incorporate more explanatory and persuasive writing strategies. World language educators can examine how they currently teach writing and ways we might be able to support CCSS while teaching the target language.