First, I needed the right questions so I looked to elementary level Spanish language classrooms for ideas, particularly to teachers in dual language Spanish Classrooms and bilingual classes. Once I had questions, students had a notebook a I had a colorful, not red! Flair pen, the really learning began.
Last fall, I began with 5 questions for the students, which at the time seemed reasonable. I asked the students to answer questions about the main character, events, problems, etc. Each time students wrote, I watched carefully. I looked for what they were trying to say that they didn’t yet have the vocabulary for. I then created a Quizlet set and added those words so they could find what they were looking for. I gave them feedback: 1 positive and 1 tip with something to work on. I also noticed that over time, the students actively applying the feedback started writing longer and were showing the ability to support their claims with reasoning. I started asking less questions and coaching students to think deeper.
By the time 4th quarter came this year, I was rolling out the process with my 7th grade students in preparation for next fall. I was able to take what I had learned from watching the 8th graders along with what I had learned from consulting literacy teachers and our 8th grade science teacher about writing with evidence and set the 7th graders up well from the beginning stages. This group of 7th graders just finished their 2nd reading response on character development and relationships and I am impressed to see them describing the characters in general and then going on to use their sentence stems to talk about how they know what they know, make some inferences, and give evidence for claims they are making about the main character and the relationship they have with a secondary character.
Before I explain the basic nuts and bolts of how I have made this work for Spanish 1, I must state that the way I have implemented a workshop model in my classroom evolved from my observations of my students and consulting with my colleagues. At the same time, I garnered the backbone of how to make this work from strategies that are used in the literacy classroom as part of the workshop model that I did not create. For example, mini-lessons, conferencing, creating the space to read and write, etc. are not my creations.
- A Library: Spend time collecting reading materials that are appropriate to your level of students. I use books exclusively for the work my students do in class because it is a week-long workshop.
- A Writing Progression: Having a writing progression helps you and your students know what the next step is to move forward in developing their skills. I was able to develop one during our professional development this year that underpins the skills I want students to develop in their writing.
- A Notebook: Students have a physical notebook that is divided into sections with one particularly set up for reading responses.
- Time: Students need time to read and write in class. Determine how often and for how long students can engage in a reading/writing cycle within the constraints of your curriculum.
- A Guide: Create a reading response guide that gives students a roadmap. The guide I share with students has basics like how to set up the entry, ideas for their weekly goal, required information with model sentences, the required information for the next step, and a slide for their reflection. The one embedded above has samples from my guide.
- A Focus: Each quarter I have a particular focus. Starting 4th quarter with my current 7th graders, they are writing about about a main character and their relationship with a secondary character.
- A Clear Rubric: Students need a clear explanation of how they will be evaluated. The rubric should be tied to the writing progression and the content and skills they are working on on in the response.
- A Mini-lesson: Watch as you see students working during the week and as you provide feedback on their responses. Look for something that you think the whole class would benefit from and choose a student example from the previous journal response that you can use to discuss that skill/topic/strategy.
- Mini-conferences: Seek out opportunities while students are working to conference with them on their progress. Circulate around the room and look for ways to coach them toward their goal. Your proximity in circulating will encourage their questions as well.
- Scaffolded Support and Models: Students need access to models from the teacher on how to develop answers to the questions. For me these include general sentence models, sentence stems for showing their thinking and reasoning, resource sheets with transition words, vocabulary sheets to help them begin talking about relationships, etc. The resource sheets can be kept in their class notebook.
- Anchor charts/Posters: Anchor charts and posters are really helpful references to keep on the wall. Watch for what students seem to need as a visual resource on the wall and add it. Students are apt to make good use of easy to access resources that are in a known location.
STUDENT INVESTMENT IN THE PROCESS
- Agreed-upon Reading and Writing Habits: Discuss with your students what habits they need to have for reading and writing time. Come to an agreement on them and use a tool to track their observable habits as needed.
- One Student Driven Goal: Each week students write one goal they will work on in their writing. Provide them with a few specific and actionable examples that tie to your rubric to give them some ideas. This gives the student choice and ownership in their learning as well which leads them to a high level of self-accountability to their goal.
- Clear Feedback with Next Steps: Students get specific, actionable feedback during the week as they progress with their responses when the teacher notices something or when the student requests feedback. They also get formal written feedback when they complete the response at the end of the week. I provide feedback on one thing they are doing well and then give a suggestion to help them progress.
- A Weekly Reflection: Students need a chance to stop and reflect on their learning and appreciate the connection between their effort and their growth. This act increases their personal investment in their learning too. I ask if they met their personal goal, to show/tell how they applied my feedback, and give them a chance to express requests/appreciations/things that worked well for them during the week.