Write Before You Speak

TECHNIQUE #37:  Everybody Writes

Classroom1950Moving into Chapter 8, Building Ratio Through Writing, I was tempted to jump ahead to what I considered more practical, ‘meat & potatoes’ techniques, but, who’s to say that developing solid writing skills in the classroom isn’t practical.  Therefore, ¡Escribamos!; let’s all be scribes!  As it reads, Everybody Writes, asks: “Prepare your students to engage rigorously by giving them the chance to reflect in writing before you ask them to discuss.”,(p.282)¹.  On the cusp of a classroom discussion, or prior to asking students complex, mastery level questions, require them to develop a written response to specific prompts or ideas.  I like that the text phrases this activity as an ‘entry ticket’ to a discussion.  student-writing-at-desk-line-drawingNot only does deliberate in-class journaling allow for more complex and developed responses, it also allows for all students to be better listeners and participants.  Doug Lemov, explains, “Having written down my ideas, I’d be better able to listen to my peers in subsequent discussion and build off their thinking…Everybody Writes [is] a technique in which teachers ask all students to prepare for more ambitious thinking and discussion by reflecting in writing for a short interval.”,(p.283)¹.  And therein lies the rub;  creating time and space for in class writing activities.  How much time do you allot, where is the writing being done, and appropriate prompts for students with “writers block”?

moxpencil16If, like myself, you wonder about the benefits of allotting time for in-class writing; below are some extremely salient points for doing so.

  • Enables the teacher to review student ideas, gather observable data while checking for understanding by reading “over the shoulder” as students write.
  • Affords the teacher a means to determine who might be the student to call upon in order to start a rigorous discussion.
  • Allows the teacher to Cold Call students simply and naturally; everybody is prepared, to some extent, with some thoughts to kick off the discussion.
  • Enables the teacher to give all students, not just those who raise their hands, the chance to be a “part” of the conversation, even if it’s just on paper.
  • Students remember significantly more of what they are learning if they write it down.
  • “Every idea that gets shared in discussion is in effect a second draft, a 2.0 thought of higher quality than what would otherwise be shared off the top of a student’s mind.”(p.284)¹.

Teaching a foreign language has some constraints, regarding writing.  The challenge of accion166writing complex ideas, while translating simultaneously, is indeed, a challenge for U.S students.  Writing in a second language is much less spontaneous an activity than it is for a student to write in their native language.  Within that framework, I’ve never incorporated in class writing/journaling in my foreign language classrooms, but would like to take some time to develop some prompts that might facilitate more in class writing.

In this chapter I was looking for some specifics, how to establish the writing routine, how much time to allot for this type of activity, how frequently to ask that Everybody Write, where do students write (journals?, piece of paper?, should it be collected?),etc.  The basic premise of Everybody Writes in this text is theoretical.  Great to contemplate. This section is a movement toward assessing how solid classroom discussions begin; how to make classroom discussions more productive, rigorous, and engaging through directed writing.




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