Interactive Writing

Last week our 7th & 8th graders spent 3 amazing days at Sargent Center’s Nature’s Classroom in New Hampshire. I knew I wanted to use this shared experience as a hook in Spanish class when we returned. Talking about a shared experience helps elicit new vocabulary, and gives students a reason to talk. My dream come true!

I want to share the sequence of activities we did. This can be used with many different topics and at a variety of levels. Below, I’ll share some other ideas.

The activity looks like students drawing, then moving around to music and writing comments on one another’s drawings. The purpose is to elicit vocabulary, communicate in writing and scaffold conversations about an experience! Below I give a more detailed step by step account of how it worked.

Here is the sequence that unfolded:


  1. Warm-up: We started with a warm-up, talking in pairs about October and how it’s different from September. I was intentional about not talking about Sargent Center first. It’d been almost a week since our last Spanish class, and I knew the experience was going to be tricky to talk about, so I picked a question that was relevant (it was the first school day of October) and something they could discuss at their level.
  2. Thinking: I asked students to think about their experience at Sargent Center and to choose 1 specific memory. I gave some examples with actions of different things they did during the 3 days so that they could start picturing it.
  3. Instructions: I showed them a blank piece of printer paper and demonstrated that I would soon be passing out a piece to each student. I explained that they should draw a picture of their memory from Sargent Center. I said, no words needed, just art. I asked them how much time they think they needed to do that. We negotiated to 7 minutes.
  4. Art: At this point in the year, my classes are already bought into the 100% TL in the classroom, so I knew spending 7 minutes drawing would be doable for them without breaking into English. I played some music and students talked in Spanish while sitting in a circle and drawing. Some simply focused on their drawing and stayed silent A few curious students asked for words for things like Dangle Quad, Climbing Wall and Ropes Course by acting out those activities or pointing to their drawings. I gave them the words or phrases to use and wrote some up on the board.
  5. Set-up for next part: As students finish up, I ask them to clean up the markers, get 5 sticky notes and also a chair. I can tell who is ready to move on by who is sitting in the chair. Chairs should be randomly placed around the room, not in a circle. As the 7 minutes ended, I moved everyone to that step.
  6. Vocab Eliciting: I told them (while always acting it out) that we would be writing about and talking about these pictures. I asked what vocabulary do you think you might need? Each class came up with different words! We put those on the board. I reminded them to let me know if other words came up during the class.
  7. Sticky Notes: Each student was given 5 sticky notes and wrote his/her initials in the bottom corner. I told the students we would use these in the next activity.
  8. Movement: I modeled for students that they would put their picture on the chair and stand up with their pencil and post-it notes. Then I started playing music and modeled walking around the room. Then paused the music and chose a new chair to sit in. I picked up the picture, looked at it and mimed writing a description of the drawing on one of my post-it notes. Then I asked if people understood and had someone retell me what the directions were while I looked around for evidence of comprehension. Then I started the music and students started walking around (in some instances having fun and dancing). I paused the music and everyone found a new chair.
  9. Writing: At the new chair, students would look at the picture and write a description on a sticky-note. Some students wrote words while others tried to push to sentences (depending on the level).
  10. Repeat! We repeated steps 8 & 9 five times! As this happens, students asked for new vocab as needed, and used the drawings to help point out the words they needed.
  11. Share out: In pairs or groups of three, students shared out what the descriptions were in their notebooks.
  12. Writing: Students then had an opportunity to write more about their picture, using some ideas from the sticky notes or their own thoughts. (Some groups did this on the second day).
  13. Conversations: We moved into double circle conversations on the second day, discussing our experiences at Sargent Center with rotating pairs. The students had more of a shared vocabulary to do this and had already processed a lot through the writing activity earlier.

The students participated in all of this in 100% Spanish or silence and worked hard to effectively communicate by inferring meaning & expressing meaning throughout the class. Those pieces were key to establish before doing this type of activity.

Some other things I think you could use this same sequence for:

  • What students did on the weekend or summer or vacation.
  • Talking about a scene from their favorite book or movie.
  • Sharing their Halloween Costumes or traditions. (Costumes are usually hard to picture without the visual)
  • Discussing their perfect day.

What other topics do you think would benefit from the drawing and interactive writing?

How could you use this in class?