Stephen B.– who after twenty years of traditional grammar teaching jumped headfirst into C.I.; how bad-assed is THAT?; writes
“Anyways, I had a question about grading speed/timed writings. I know Blaine says one point per word and he talked about scaling and not to mark it for accuracy. However, what does one do in this situtation: for example, if after a 5 minute speed write one students writes 85 words but is all over the place and makes several grammatical and spelling errors, and another student only writes 60 words but it is almost perfect, how can I give the former student a higher mark?”
Here is how I do it (with many suggestions from Adriana Ramírez, whose Teaching Spanish Through Comprehensible Input text I am using this year). First, classic TPRS in a story cycle, with movietalk and picturetalk:
A) story cycle: establish meaning, ask story (with a few parallel characters), review, retell, read a couple of versions of story
B) have the kids create a comic of the story. Story must be “complete” but obviously not everything can be put into comic. Story must be coloured, look awesome, etc (clip art fine). Each panel must
- have at least one Spanish sentence
- have perfect alignment between Spanish and pictures
- where there is no dialogue, “thought bubbles” in the first person
- where appropriate, have dialogue
This will make the kids read, choose sentences, and clarify meaning via illustrating.
C) movietalk and picturetalk to support story structures (e.g. if you taught “wants,” movietalk and picturetalk a video where a person wants something)
Then, for assessment, I am doing the following:
1) when the “story cycle” (A-C above) is done, kids will do a five-minute speedwrite and a forty-minute relaxed write.
Their first speedwrite topic will be “describe yourself.”
The speedwrite is evaluated in 2 ways:
First, wordcount. Kids count the # of words in their composition (tell them no lists, or, if they want a list, they must describe all things in the list). End of year goal: 100 good words in 5 min. For their first speedwrite, they get a 40-word bonus. So if they write 30 words, their wordcount score is 70/100.
Second, they get a grammar mark out of 3, thus:
1– it’s full of mistakes and largely incomprehensible
2– it’s mostly comprehensible but has some “whaaat?” moments and “feels” junky
3– it’s fully comprehensible, has no “whaaat?” moments, and “feels” fluid and solid (but not necessarily perfect)
Multiply their grammar mark by 33.3 and they have a grammar mark /100.
Now, average the two marks and they have a spedwrite percentage.
For the 40-min relaxed write, I tell them “either retell the story, or write your own, and you must have 3 dialogues, but put changes into your version of the story.” The goal for the year: write an 800-word story in 40 min. For their first story, I’ll expect 70-150 words. I will assign a wordcount mark out of, say, 200 and give them a 50-word bonus. I will also give them a grammar mark /3 above. Every time they write a story, the amount of words expected goes up and the curving bonus goes down.
We average their grammar mark and wordcount: if Johnny gets 2/3 for grammar, and writes 90 words, his score is 66.6% (grammar) + 140/200 (70%) for wordcount = 69%.
After we do the second story of the year (and until the end of the course), we repeat the procedure, with a few changes
A) the speedwrite bonus drops by 5 words each time
B) the relaxed write bonus drops by 5 words each time and the “benchmark” goes up by 75 words. By end of year kids should be able to write 800 words in 45 min.
C) we use another topic for the speedwrite for the second time: describe a picture that you project onto your screen. This picture should support what was in your story. So, if the story had a girl who wants an elephant, your picture could be a boy who has an elephant.
D) for the third speedwrite, use topic #1 (describe yourself). For the fourth, use a picture. Keep alternating. I use fully unsheltered grammar from Day 1 (all verb tenses, subjunctive, etc) so the picture describing tests evaluate how well they can use present tense.
The writing will improve during the year. As I write this after having done only two stories, wordcounts are WAY up and grammar is also improving.
A few notes:
— you MUST carefully restrict vocab. This has been my single-greatest problem with TPRS: adding vocab at random. If you don’t restrict vocab, you get fewer reps on each item…and worse/less acquisition.
— initially, the kids will generate pretty crappy stories. Later, word count goes up and grammar will get better. Some kids will re-write the story; most will start to improvise.
— their “mark” at any given time is simply their most recent speedwrite and relaxed write mark, combined. I also do exit quizzes for listening and reading (1 each/week) so I have a pretty good overall picture of how everyone is doing.
— PQA is super important. Adriana’s book has a list of “personalised questions.” The Blaine Ray books also do. If you are doing your own stories, you make them up. Personalised questions are super-easy: you basically ask the class the questions you ask the actor.
So if you narrate “the boy liked running,” you ask your actor “do you like running?” and he says “yes, I like running.” You then ask “do you like vomiting?” (something contrastive) and he says “no, I do not like vomiting.” Then, starting with your superstar, you ask the class members “do you like vomiting or running?” etc. Simple.
This is important because the kids need to hear the present-tense forms.
— Adriana’s advice was to make sure all the kids do the comic. This is because the comic writing is “deep reading:” it makes the kids re-read, choose, copy and write, etc. For the non-artists, translation also works: copy story, underneath it translate (diff coloured pen), leave a blank line to keep it clear. Here is a pretty good example of “Los Gatos Azules” turned into a comic (one of Adriana’s kids did this one):
Anyway, this is how I have organised the “units” of TPRS and how I assess. Coments, as always, welcome!