Being out of the classroom has given me fresh eyes. I’ve been looking at my students’ informal writing over the past few days and have noticed some pretty atrocious error patterns. Time for a writing workshop! Certainly not an innovative activity, but this was needed. I typed up five sentences (in English) to describe what happened in the videos that we had watched in my Spanish B and 2A classes this week. All of the sentences were made up almost entirely of words and structures that the students should absolutely know, with a few tricky things and a few they-probably-don’t-know-this things. Then, I had all students take out a piece of paper and write their names at the top. I also gave each student a highlighter. I gave them the sentences one at a time and asked them to write the translation in Spanish. I emphasized to them the importance of (1) doing their own work and (2) trying their hardest. I told them that this would not be graded–it would only be for me to see what we need to work on–so that they had no reason to try to get the answers from someone else. After they had time to translate each sentence, we wrote out the correct translation as a class. I explained and questioned the grammar as we translated each new piece of the sentence, and we discussed any questions that they had after the complete, correct sentence was on the board. Students highlighted any errors that they had made on their papers.
After we finished the activity, I took the class’ pulse to see what they thought of the activity. The results were mixed: in my first class (2A), the students thought that the activity was VERY helpful and wanted to do it regularly. In my 1B classes, the results were EXTREMELY mixed: kids either hated or loved it and either never wanted to repeat it or wanted to do it often. Sigh. My 2A class is composed almost entirely of gifted students, while my 1B class has a little bit of everything, so I guess it makes sense.