“Teaching” Writing in the World Language Classroom

Here’s a framework I created to help my students write more on timed writes, prompt writes, and to prepare for the AAPPL writing exam.

But first, some framing. In the CI circles, we know that we can’t force output. Students will write once they have acquired a ton of language. But if you’re like me and you have to show data / output results to your admin, we don’t have time to just wait for students to start outputting creative stories. Additionally, my admin has adopted the AAPPL exam as the End of Year Exam to determine teacher effectiveness. How students do on this high stakes exam matters for everyone. It determines which high school students make it to honors Spanish, which middle school students receive high school credit, and which honors students make it to AP. Also, it counts for 50% of the teacher effectiveness level (which matters for teacher retention decisions, promotion decision, and bonus considerations). At our school, a teacher scoring a certain effectiveness level could get as much as $5,000 in bonuses. Needless to say, this exam matters.

So, we have to “teach” writing and prepare our students for the exam. The main hurdles we find are not that our students don’t have vocab or language, but rather they lack the creativity or the ability to “think beyond the prompt”. Many AAPPL prompts are very open ended and require the students to be creative. Here are some examples of past prompts:

  • An exchange student is coming to your school. Tell her all about your school and community.
  • A teacher wants to get to know you. Introduce your self and describe your likes and dislikes.
  • New neighbors move in next door and you want to get to know them. Ask them questions.
  • Your principal wants to create new clubs for the school and asks you to write a proposal.

The rubric the AAPPL uses to score these writings come straight from ACTFL. Novice writers can answer the prompt using lists, Intermediate writers (where we want most of our students to score) must write paragraphs and include language that “talks beyond the prompts”. The challenge we’ve had is that students just don’t even know how to outline a writing nor where to even begin. Most students can write “Hi, my name is Jon. I like food and music. My favorite class is Math. Etc.” But then they get stuck.

So that’s where AAPPLES comes in. AAPPLES is a framework that I created to help my students outline their thoughts, think beyond the prompt and get creative, and then put it into language that they know how to say. It looks like this:

A Action – What’s happening?
A Appearance – Describe the people
P Place – Where is this happening?
P Personal – What do you think?
L Like – What do you like / not like?
E Emotion – How do you feel about it?  How do others feel?
S Stretch – Why?

We start students off on this framework by doing picture writing. Here’s an example:

A Action – What’s happening? They are talkingThey are workingThey are talking about workShe is point to a televisionThey are looking at a map on a television.
A Appearance – Describe the people The first woman has short hair and glasses.The other woman stands up.  She’s black and dressed professionally.The other woman sits down.  She has long hair.They are happy.  
P Place – Where is this happening? They are in an office.They are in a room of an office.They are at a table with lots of papers.  
P Personal – What do you think? I think they are working.I think the black lady is the boss. I think they like their work.  
L Like – What do you like / not like? I don’t like workI don’t like offices I don’t like having a bossI like school more than work 
E Emotion – How are the people feeling?  How do you feel? The women are happy.The women are tired.I get tired at work.  
S Stretch – Why? Where do they work? What type of work do they do?Why are they looking at a map on the TV?Why are there so many papers?  

We first model and guide students through making a chart using one picture. In this example, I would show the picture, do a “think aloud” for the students, and then fill in the chart with them. As we go through the chart, I gradually release the thinking from me to the students. “Now with a partner, see if you can fill in the “E” and the “S”. Once we have filled in the chart, we then do a Write and Discuss in Spanish using what we know how to say. The result looks like this in a level 1/2 class (this would be in Spanish, but I’ll write it in English for this blog:

There are 3 women. One woman is talking talking and pointing to a map. The other women are looking and talking. They are wearing professional clothes and look happy and serious. They are working. They are in an office. I think they are working on something important because they have papers and professional clothes. I don’t like working. I like reading and playing sports. The women are happy, but I am not happy when I have to work and go to school. Why are they looking at a map? Do they work for a travel agency? Why are they happy? If they are at work, they should be sad.

The result of doing this is that instead of just describing what’s going on is that students can better reach the intermediate level, improving their overall composite score. It also helps students not get “stuck” during the writing.

We’ve had great results at our school using this framework. Last year, our 7th-12th graders all took the AAPPL exam, and the writing was by far the highest score out of the other 4 components.

Videos of this in action (credit: Michelle Fuentes)

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close