By: Inés Cazenave, Valeria Battioli and Karen Roberts
Writing is always a challenging skill to teach. Students do not tend to like it and find it hard to express in their second language what they want to say. This leads to frustration and lack of inspiration. Therefore, it is crucial to motivate the children by giving them a real audience and an outcome which they look forward to create.
In Year 5, one of our objectives is to learn how to write a descriptive piece. In order to do so, before tackling this writing, we had to think of the obstacles they might have when faced with this piece so as to scaffold the content. The first barrier we had to cross was vocabulary. If we expected them to describe someone physically and personally, we had to provide the words they could use. The best way to do this, we decided, was to work in stations and work for a period of time with vocabulary for physical appearance and another period with vocabulary for personality traits. The stations were very successful as students could choose to work individually or in pairs and they could go about the vocabulary in whichever order they deemed appropriate. For physical appearance, they worked on vocabulary to describe the face, body size and hair, amongst others. Once everyone had gone through all the stations, they created a dialogue which they later acted out using new vocabulary. We then moved on to personality traits. We also worked on this in stations but this time they had to sort the words into different columns depending on the connotation of the word. It is important to mention that all words were used in context.
Once this was done, we told the children to think about someone very special in their lives. We encouraged them not to choose any famous people but instead to choose someone they knew very well and could interview if necessary. Most of them chose family members and some of them chose to write about a friend. By this time, they were very motivated to write about their “Someone Special” so we had to tackle our next obstacle: structure.
We dealt with structure in several different ways. First, we read an
example of what was expected. This example had the structure we intended them to adopt and used the vocabulary we had previously made available. Second, we gave them a graphic organizer which stated paragraph by paragraph what information should be enclosed. This graphic organizer included examples and sentence starters. Third, they planned their writing by creating a web with different bubbles according to the paragraph and adding the vocabulary they would use. Lastly, we
provided a criteria card so they could check their work before handing in. The process of writing showed little difficulties after all this scaffolding. We wrote a draft, a redraft and finally a clean copy, making sure to improve every time a new copy was done.
Now our challenge was to give their writing a real audience. In order to achieve this, we decided to use the Ipads and create an I-Movie. We believed that creating the movie would be very beneficial not only for motivation, but also to use the language in a meaningful way. To accomplish the project, students would have to use their creativity and their oral and technological skills. This was carried out in stations to be able to give a more personalized attention to the children while they worked on their projects.
The process to create the movie consisted of three parts. First, they had to record their writing by chunking it in paragraphs. For this they used either Audacity to record on the computer or Voice Memos to record on their Ipod, Iphone or Ipad. Next, they had to search for pictures which were connected to their writing. Once the recording was done and the pictures were chosen, we taught the children to upload them to their drive so they could have them available in the Ipad. Lastly, the children had to compile them all in I-movie, making sure that the pictures coincided with what they were saying in their recording. The final products were really amazing and the children were extremely proud of their work.
We believe this writing was a success. We got children motivated to write, avoiding frustration and lack of inspiration. They worked really hard to carry out the project and found that their biggest critic were themselves. In addition, the final product was interdepartamental and required several skills to be put into practice. It was extremely rewarding and moving to hear them retell the reactions of their “Someone Special” when they saw their movie. Some of them came up to us with the broadest of smiles and full of pride to tell us that they had “moved them to tears.” Little do they know that we felt the same way.
We hope you enjoy these examples!