Relaxed Writes (scriptio otiosa)

Recently I have introduced longer in-class writing assignments in my Latin 2 and 3 classes. This is an extension of timed writes, but here I provide more structure, and allow students to access their notes in producing a longer and more coherent essay which includes specific elements that they have worked on separately in the days leading up to this assignment. My main goal is giving students the tools which allow them to write in a focused way for 25 minutes or more. I will increase the time once I’m sure that students have the confidence and ability to do more.

*Step 1: Students respond in spoken and then written Latin to  guiding questions in response to a particular reading.
*Step 2. Students apply questions to another story or situation
*Step 3. Students use language of comparison/contrast with two stories. I encourage students to focus on what we have discussed, but as long as they are using compare/contrast language, that is fine.
*Step 4. Students speak and write in Latin using language of preference and opinion about what is best.  Short written prompt, followed by Q and A. By writing first, students can formulate their thoughts.
*Step 5: The essay, in which students put all the previous elements together in one written work over the course of 25 minutes or more. Afterward, students will do a word count, then label their sections/paragraph, and staple all their writing together.

Requirements and accountability:
I have no minimum requirements regarding specific grammatical or vocabulary uses. By focusing on the content of their arguments, letting them use the readings, and providing sentence frames, this ensures that students will be using target words and structures which are necessary for communicating their ideas and optnions. The content drives the language usage, not the reverse.

All elements must be there. We are building writing skills: summary/description, compare/contrast, stating opinion-preference with support from the sources. At the end, students must show me that they have included these elements. If one or more are missing, students will be required to complete those sections before receiving credit. Failure to include an element of the essay shows that they may need more time before they are able to demonstrate that skill. Students can work with me and rewrite it at a later time

Why in-class, and not homework/independent?
When it is independent, students can easily get frustrated, and make use of unhelpful resources like a dictionary or Google Translate. By doing these in class, I can limit the time and the number and kinds of resources to the most useful ones.

How do you grade? I grade based on completion and clarity.

Step 3. The essay.
Here is the writing guide I gave students right before. It contains the sentence frames that they have used separately. I made time to address questions (in English) once I handed this out.

Scriptio Otiosa (relaxed write) 25 min. Sentence frames.

Par 1. Virtues in B et P.
In fabulā, ______ demonstratur (is shown), quod____
In the story (choose a virtue) is shown, because ____

_____ quoque demonstratur, quod__________
(another virtue) is also shown, because ______

Part 2, Compare/contrast B et P with another story, 

Fabulae diversae sunt, quod in ________, ____________, sed in _______, _____
the stories are different, because in (story), (description)_ but in (story, description)

Fabulae similes sunt quod in ambobus fabulis____________________
(the stories are similar, because in both stories______)

Part 3 conclude with your opinion:

in fine, (in conclusion)
Sententiā meā (in my opinion)…

Fabula ___________ mihi maxime placet, quod ____________
The story _____ pleases me the most, because _________

______ est exemplum bonum / malum, quod___
(character) is a good / bad role model, because _________

I am providing a lot of scaffolding and structure. This is not absolutely necessary, it depends on what your students are comfortable with. My school encourages all teachers to provide sentence frames. Structured academic writing.  If a teacher is new to this kind of work with students, or structure might be more helpful for everybody. But these are optional, or might only be necessary for certain students, especially students who struggle.

By having students do a mini self-assessment imediately afterwards, which includes both quantitative and qualitative criteria, it reduces the amount of scrutiny we need to give these papers right away in a superficial way. But it also is encouraging the students to be metacognitive. And lets students see immediately how their progress matches or doesn’t match the expectations