How do we grade speedwrites and freewrites?

Here is another question from Sarah-Beth:

Q:  “I was also wondering how you score the Relaxed Writes? Is it a similar process? I’m not sure what to put the total out of (same with Timed Writes). The marks seem really inflated when I factor in the 40 to top them off and I’m getting over 100% on some students, which are totally skewing their marks. What do you suggest? Merci!”

A:  These are Blaine Ray’s ideas.  First, announce course goals.  For beginners, write 100 coherent words in 5 min; write a 500-word story in 3 verb tenses in 30 min (by end of course).  I use 2 kinds of writing during the year– speedwrites and timed writes.  I start writing after about 20 hours of CI.

A speedwrite is, the kids have 5 minutes to write.  They have to produce as many words as possible during that time.  Then they count their words.  The only “rules” I have are no lists, and focus.  I start grading these with a “handicap” system.  The freewrite is out of 100 and the kids’ scores are the # of words they write, plus the handicap.  First time out, the kids will typically write 20-60 words.  Add 40 to that, and you get a score of 60-100.  Next time, two weeks later, do the same thing…but add only 30.  By the 4th month (semester block system of 6.25 hrs/week) kids should be easily hammering out 100 words in 5 min.

The speedwrites will start out junky and then improve.  EG you’ll get “My am John.  I is tall and me likes girls and videos and my Dad name Mike.”

b) For “freewrites,” they have 1/2 hour to write on a given topic.  I usually use stories.  I’ll say something like “write a story that starts with there was a boy/girl named ____ and include at least one food/clothing item, animal, etc.”  I also tell them, include dialogue, describe characters (and their families etc etc) and include some kind of clear problem that has to be solved.   The kids will begin copying stories you’ve done in class, and as they get better, their stories will diverge from yours more and more.

For marking freewrites, I use the following rubric (from first freewrite right up to advanced students).  The only changes are, I would expect my beginners (after say 20-30 hours of CI) to write say 75-125 words, while end-of-year Level 2 kids should be able to do around 1,000.  In a CI class, the scores– for kids who are always there and who actively listen– shouldn’t be below the 6/9 mark and most will be higher.  I mark /12 if the writing includes graphics etc (e.g. I am doing a “visit Spain” culture project or suchlike).

Writing criteria.doc


  1. I recall Blaine or Von saying two things:

    1. Tell them no English except for the names of ppl and places.
    2. If you can’t say it in target language, find another way to say it.

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