Chances are, if you teach writing, your students have a wide range of ability levels in the same classroom. Using differentiated writing activities can really help you challenge all students, but it also will give them a lot of confidence when they work at the right level. Here are some differentiated writing activities I’ve used with my French classes.
For intermediate and advanced French classes:
Set individual goals for writing in French.
If you’re doing journaling or longer writing sessions with your more advanced French classes, you’ve probably noticed that some students write a lot more than others. To help students grow from where they are, I help them set a goal for how many words they will be able write by the end of the grading period. Sometimes I use differentiated writing activities where each student picks his/her own topic, but often, I use the same topic and each student has an individual goal.
Here’s how I start:
Each week for the first month of school, we write for a solid five minutes. I usually provide them with a French writing prompt or an image to describe.
After a few weeks of practice, I ask them to write for ten minutes. The expectation is that they write for the entire time, even if they start to digress a little. The goal here is to write more in less time, so encourage students not to stress over mistakes. You can think of these as a series of (very) rough drafts.
Before you start, it’s a good idea to let students know that they shouldn’t ask you how to say something as they are writing. This may sound mean, but you’ll find that if you let them ask you questions, then every thirty seconds, someone will have a question and it will interrupt the entire class. In addition, they’ll revert to English so much, and you want them to start thinking in French (as much as they can for the level they are at).
Get a baseline for each student.
To start, have students do several writings at the beginning of the year. Just tell them that you want them to do their best so that you can get an idea of what their writing looks like right then.
After students have done a few sessions writing in French, you’ll have some good samples. Have them count the total words written during each writing session. Next, you’ll want to have them add up all the words written and find their average.
You’ll want the average, because some questions will be much harder or easier for a student, and you don’t want a really low or high score to the the sole indicator of his or her ability.
Here’s an example:
Session 1 : Sophie writes 75 words in 10 minutes.
Session 2 : She writes 135 in 10 minutes.
Session 3 : She writes 110 words in 10 minutes.
She wrote 320 words in all during 30 minutes of writing. Divide that by 3, and her writing average is about 107 words in 10 minutes. On the inside cover of their notebooks, have them note their average words writing in French.
Now it’s time to set individual goals.
Take the student’s average at the beginning of the year, and set a goal of whatever percentage you like by the end of the grading period. For example, for a 20% increase, a student that writes 50 words in 10 minutes needs to get to 60 words. A student who writes 200 should move to 240. Make sure they know that overuse of words like et or très does not count!
Looking to mix up French writing a bit? Here are some easy French writing activities you can do with any vocabulary unit. Whether you’re using differentiated writing activities by using a variety of topics or by differentiating the writing goal, you’re helping students reach their full potential.
For beginning French classes:
Use differentiated writing activities created just for them.
Not all students are going to have the same abilities. If you teach beginning French students, you’ll probably see that some are ready to jump into paragraph writing while others need a lot of practice writing basic sentences.
By using differentiated writing activities, you can help students all write about the same topic, but everyone will work at a level that is challenging for them.
Here’s how to use these differentiated writing activities:
For students who are struggling to put together sentences, start with a sentence starter activity. They’ll need to provide the vocabulary to finish the sentences without worrying about subject/verb agreement.
For students who can write short sentences, you can have them draw a picture and describe it. The task is still short and manageable, but they’ll need to conjugate verbs and place words correctly.
For students who are ready to write paragraphs, you can give them the French writing prompt and a helpful vocabulary list, and they will often jump right into it on their own. You can also provide pre-writing pages to help them structure the paragraph.
By using differentiated writing activities, it’s easy to challenge all students while meeting them where they are!