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Sunday, 24 June 2018

Improving Writing in Second Language Classes

Written by Lesley Lockhart-Doell, French Immersion Facilitator & Instructional Coach.

Knowing that is takes students sometimes four times as long to write in their second language, how can we as practitioners, better support them? Applying best practices in writing in a second language,  The ÉCRI model  is a reasoned and coherent writing protocol specifically designed for the French Immersion classroom, developed by the Second Language Research Institute of Canada. The model, based on classroom research, is highly regarded by immersion educators across the country. Elements of the model, allows perfect moments to discover the competencies.
Knowing that critical-thinking is using criteria and reasoning to conceptualize, evaluate and make judgements, the writing model allows the opportunity for this specific competency to develop, especially in Phase 2.

Designed and adapted for all grade levels, FSD high school immersion teachers are using the model as they introduce expressive writing.
1. Starting in Phase 1 of the writing protocol, students were given time to reflect upon the progression within the rubrics with a partner as they highlighted key words.

2. Using the ECRI model of analysing model texts (Phase 2), the teacher first read an exemplary text to the students. They were given time to underline the theme of the text. As a group, they discussed what made it exemplary.

(Interestingly, the text was short as the teacher encouraged students that they don’t have to write five pages. They discussed about how to move out of an imposed structure and rigidity, to take be creative and take risks in their expressive writing. The competency of creativity is a purposeful creation of something that is novel, but also has significance.)
3. They then moved into phase 2, whereby students used the criteria provided to make a judgement. Using the criteria from the rubric, she specifically explained : “You are now the teachers.” Five copies were handed out to each students. With partners, they highlighted the theme of each text and then completed the rubric.

By taking the time to move purposefully through stages 1 and 2, students are much better prepared to embark on an expressive writing piece, especially after given the opportunity to critically think through analysis of writings. Most importantly, students were given time for thinking, time to build that capacity and were provided the background knowledge to go deeper in their own thinking. I look forward going back to see the texts they wrote as they move into the next stage!