Below are some examples of my Spanish Year 9 students 'timed write' from April this year. This is a mixed ability class (no high/low sets or streaming) of students who were mid way through their second year of Spanish with me. They are 13-14 yrs old and in total have had 1.75 years of Spanish. Each week they have four 45 minute lessons of Spanish. After one week of doing a TPRS (Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling) co-created story with them, at the end of the fourth class class I asked them to write as much as they could remember of the story in 5 mins. They had no prior warning, no studying beforehand, no memorization tasks, no drills or worksheets. They had just been immersed and involved in the story creation for a week with me. The story is typically 'asked' in short 5-10 minute blocks, then students will interact with it by drawing scenes and retelling them to their partner, answering questions from the teacher, miming scenes and discussing, reading back on it with images etc. Then the plot continues and they are intently listening to see what happens next whilst also providing ideas for the details in the story, as well as some of the more extroverted students are helping me by acting it out.
After exactly 5 minutes of writing their 'timed write', they stop. There is no correction of mistakes or individual feedback on this writing. Accuracy is not the goal. The goal is fluency, competence, proficiency and confidence. So, they just count the words to see how much they were able to write from memory of their own co-created story. They are often shocked and pleasantly surprised by how much they can write with no preparation. As the teacher, I read through them all very quickly, looking for common, collective errors and use these to inform my teaching for the upcoming classes. If many students have not mastered one of my key structures, then clearly they need more repetitions of it in the next class, more personalised questions about their lives, more inputs.
In these early stages, the first two years in particular, we do not need to 'drill' outputs for accuracy. It is the interesting, compelling inputs through stories that lead to the proficient output from all learners and not just some! There is a different, more engaging, more creative, more fun and more enjoyable way to get to the same end goal. Think co-creation, not regurgitation. Think autonomy, not monotony. Think engagement, not detachment. Think motivation, not examination.
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