Today I did my final freewrite of the year with my German II class. They grumbled throughout (Don’t you know the year is almost over? Don’t you know it is Veronica’s birthday? We can’t possibly let down Veronica this way) Sound good to me; I let Veronica take the free write off. Big smile from Veronica and more groans from the class.
Right before we took it I decided to do a free write of my own at the same time. I always have them track their word scores from one writing to the next; I wondered how well I would do.
The ten minutes goes by. I write a story about a student complaining to the teacher about a freewrite who eats his pencil to protest, so the teacher x-rays the student and finds…etc. etc. When the time is up, I turned in a score of 230 words.
People write up their scores as normal. Not so much grumbling. Hey, Herr Black–Be sure to read my story! Did you see what I did here? You gotta check this out.
Then I asked them to look at the first freewrite we did this year: October 5th. I had given them a month of CI to warm up the school year and then gave one to establish a baseline. Now that we just finished the final freewrite of the year I asked them to call out their word scores for their first and last freewrites. Not everybody did so, but several did. Here’s what I wrote on the board:
The first number is their October word count, and the second is their June word count. I asked them what they thought the difference was. Some said the extra time. Some said the teacher. Most said “I don’t know.” Primarily this gave me time to just point out how well they grew and point out to them that they hadn’t probably noticed their growth because it was so gradual. Nothing to do with me; this is what growth looks like.
I also made sure to point out that I couldn’t do any better than 230 in my freewrite, and several were edging into my neighborhood. Yeah, the straight score doesn’t mention anything about grammatical forms or sentence complexity, but so what? I seriously let it fly while writing, which means my students coming in around 200 are writing almost without any hesitation.
I paid especial attention to my 30/169 student. She was a freshman who came to me from a program that taught her to double check every word she said and wrote and her first freewrite almost had as many words crossed out as there were written. My goal for her this year was to have her learn to just let it fly. Over the course of the year she got more and more comfortable. A month ago we did a verbal assessment where each member of a group spoke for 30 seconds about a series of pictures they drew: she described the last picture and just had the German flowing, was hilarious and really rocked the house. Seriously; she ended with an ovation from the class. Now she just dropped a 169 word freewrite in ten minutes. Great year.