“Writing more does not make writing better. But there is value in writing. Writing is communication with others and with the self. My students seem to really value the communications they were seeing from themselves to themselves about all that we had read this year in Latin through their own words.”
–Bob Patrick (from this article)
Timed writes, and beyond.
If you have not been incorporating timed writes and other varieties of open-ended writing activities, I want to recommend it. This year, I have branched out from my 8-minute timed writes every 3-4 weeks, to including relaxed writes (scriptio otiosa) of 15-25 mins, with and without scaffolding like sentence frames (which my district really wants teachers to be using, and which really helps the kids who would otherwise be crippled by writer’s block).
As part of their final, my students (in all 3 levels I teach) wrote a 15-25 min “relaxed write”, open folder, which means they had access to all their previous writings which go in their writing portfolio, and I invited them either to rewrite a previous work, or write something brand new.They were also allowed to bring notes with them (as long as it wasn’t Latin paragraphs to copy down)
After the extended write (and about 3 mins to wrap up their story), I had them organize their portfolio, that is, arrange all their semester writings chronologically, write a reflection (see link below for reflection sheet), staple it together, and put it back in their folder. This was fast grade for me, and, since it is measuring their individual progress, pretty much all students did well, and I got to see not only the progress they are making with no error correction on my part, but I am also seeing that they are aware of the specific ways in which they are developing as writers of Latin.
Another new thing I did was to give each of them a list of useful transitional phrases (I created this in spreadsheet format for ease of organization) to support their writing of narratives. They keep it in their writing portfolio and use it for all future written activities. Students really liked having this. This is adapted from a list I created for Rusticatio back in 2007, and put it into a Google sheets (linked below)
Doing this activity during the final exam period, is so low-anxiety, and positive. I highly recommend this.
Added bonus: During parent open house, rather than (or in addition to) talking about what I do, I can show parents these portfolios, and they can see for themselves how much Latin writing (and drawing) their kids are doing. It will be just like my conference with my daughter’s 3rd grade teacher: she pulled out a portfolio containing free writes, timelines, pictures with captions, etc. I’m doing exactly that: including little book projects, 4 frame illustrations, captions on Movie Talk stills, etc. In short, anything they produce becomes an artifact to show off and/or use as data/evidence of progress.
UPDATE: what to do if/when you do more and bigger writing projects, and can/do you include these in the self-assessment?
I have recently expanded it somewhat, to include all written work. In addition to periodic 8-min timed writes every 3 weeks, each worth the same as a quiz, I also have larger essays with more structured support along the way, worth a test. So at the end of every semester, students go through all their written work for that semester, they put it in chron. order, then they choose their best, in their estimation. The work that shows the most improvement, the highest quality of Latin that they have written so far. I really don’t directly assess their writing in a critical way. It’s more just to confirm that they are producing writing that is coherent, and is at least consistent in quality and quantity that they are capable of (so say a student writes a timed write which is far lower quality and quantity than their last one. I will give less than full credit for that one, and give them the opportunity to redo the same week.) In general, especially for the first 3 years, I think the value of written work is for students to become comfortable with the language, not that they be error-free.
Critiquing their written work for errors is very problematic. Assessing in this way: (1. completion credit for each individual sample as long as they are consistent based on their own benchmark; 2. specific self-evaluation twice a year) helps them to get the most out of the process, and I get out of their way.
Article by Bob Patrick describing the whole concept, especially related to learning grammar:
More detailed description of the portfolio analysis (in year 4)
Here is a Slide Show that I presented to my world language colleagues in Nov 2019