Do You Write & Discuss?

How I love and use this teaching strategy!

Beth Hanlon, OFLA Executive Recorder and Editor of The Cardinal
Spanish Teacher, Oberlin High School

Write & Discuss is one of my favorite teaching strategies that I never tire of and I am always looking for new approaches to.  Do you Write & Discuss?  You should give it a try!

What is Write & Discuss (W&D)?

In a nutshell, W&D is a summary co-constructed between a teacher and students in the target language about content from class.  The teacher leads the discussion by asking questions and clarifying student responses while simultaneously writing the summary on the board, in a Google Doc, etc., for the class based on student responses.  

What is being co-constructed?

Anything you have done in class!  You can W&D ANYTHING!

I use W&D a lot to summarize the chapters of readers with my classes.  We also summarize Card Talks at the start of the year as well as discussions of weekend plans, Movie Talks, stories, and songs.  There is no limit to what you can W&D and, honestly, I should be doing it more to summarize class in general.   

What do students do with the W&D?

The sky’s the limit here!  The following are a list of activities I do with W&D…

  1. An easy no prep activity is the volleyball translation. I highlight every other line of the W&D and then have students work in pairs.  One student is responsible for the highlighted lines and the other students for the non-highlighted lines.  They go back and forth, like a volleyball, and read the sentence in Spanish, then translate it to their partner.
  2. Another no prep activity is ¡Profe está loca!  I adapted this from Megan Murphy when I observed her French class and saw her do this in French.  Instead of students reading the W&D in English, the teacher does BUT, messes up the translation every once and awhile.  Students have to catch you and say “¡Profe está loca!” and then tell you what it should be.  It keeps them on their toes!
  3. Students can take their W&D home to share with their families as suggested in Señora Chase’s blog post about W&D!  I’ve had students come back the next day with comments from their stakeholders at home after having the student tell them about the W&D.  (Please do visit this blog post – it’s amazing!  It has so much information about W&D!)
  4. I have given students sentences from a W&D to draw or used them to create a Running Dictation activity.

What are the benefits of W&D?

First, this discussion provides a formative assessment for me as the teacher.  I can determine if my students understand what we just did in class by their responses to my W&D questions.  It also provides another reason to have interpersonal communication as a whole class.

Second, W&D serves as notes for my classes.  Students copy them down in their notebook and have summaries.  These summaries lead to the next benefit: the modeling of correct sentence structure and grammar for students.  This often leads to pop up grammar moments!  When reviewing, I have watched my students pull out their notebooks and flip to the W&D (“their notes”) in search of words and ideas to contribute to conversations.

W&D helps me keep things organized for each class and helps me remember what we talked about.  By the time the last bell of the day rings, my first period class seems light years away but if I have a W&D saved, I know what happened!

I am always finding new ways to use this powerful teaching strategy and I don’t feel like you can ever go wrong with it!  If you are new to it, check out the videos on Señora Chase’s W&D blog post and then give it a try one day in class!  I can’t think of a single time that W&D had not been a great tool in my teaching toolbox!

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