How Do We Get Better Writers?
Recently I had a debate with a colleague on whether or not CI is doing enough to prepare my students for high school and IB French. My position is that writing emerges from reading comprehensible messages, just as speaking emerges from hearing comprehensible messages. I also feel that writing together helps students notice aspects of the composing process and the In this video you will see us reviewing a story that we began writing on Wednesday. New words that I put into the reading are propriétaire, heureusement, sous-sol, sans être payés, and paie.
In speaking to the students, I am taking a page from Jason Fritze’s Advanced Fluency Fast Spanish class at iFLT this summer, and using synonyms when talking about the reading, to get some lexical fields building in the students’ brains. Since this is a reading based on their own story, their own character (crested by a student in class), and their own ideas, it is not too difficult for them to take in some cognates. So I read, “The real Santa is good” and then ask, “Is he nice (gentil), and friendly (sympa)” too? And when we talk about fake Santa, I ask if he is dangereux as well as fake. When we get to the word herureuseent, we stop for some simple TPR of its root word heureux, and other related lexical items – content, triste, déprimé. In this second-year class that had a steady diet of 100% CI last year with me, I know that the faster processors are ready for some synonyms. And the slower processors can understand what we are doing through the TPR we do.
I am also able to tell them, as we write, the names of some punctuation marks in French. This will help when they do dictées with upcoming writing pieces. I also look for chances to fold in new grammar right in front of their eyes, like the expression l’avait tué. I neglected to translate that for them as we wrote, which is a good habit to get into, but a student kindly asked for the meaning.
After we review yesterday’s start on the writing, then we finish the story together. The details at the end are actually new. We did not have time to finish the story on Tuesday. We keep getting late starts on the story, and I am still working things out with the Story Driver. This critical job is so important I am finding, even in a class that is used to telling 25-35 minute stories with the Invisibles and levels of questioning. And having the student in constant communication with me is super important because even though I have
Once the story is finished, I have them translate to a partner. The point here is mainly to provide a brain break. Then we chorally translate together. In this process, I have a chance to point out grammar points in L1, such as de + le = du and that we must say de Pablo and not “Pablo’s” as we do in English and that the –ent on pensent means “they” but is silent. Learning the rules consciously is not optimal for language acquisition, but learning them in context this way at least gives them a familiar context for the new rule to “stick” to. And then there is all the incidental, implicit grammar learning that is happening as well! Reading le faux and le vrai as “the real ONE” and “the fake ONE” is a good example.
We then move into Reading from the Back of the Room, which is basically a class discussion of the text, line by line. The students are so familiar with the story that it begins to feel like maybe a first-grade English Language Arts class, with students discussing a text together led by the teacher.