World Language SLO with Timed Writing

Many states now require teachers to show evidence of student growth as part of their teacher evaluation. One such example is the Student Learning Objective (SLO). This collection of data can be laboring, but it can also be useful as a tool of communication to students and parents about their growth in the language. This past year I used Timed Writing as a data collection piece as part of my SLO for

Timed Writing World Language SLO


The SLO would be to increase student fluency in the target language. The methods to achieve this goal might include: providing comprehensible input, MovieTalk, Storytelling, Reading Novels, Free Voluntary Reading, among others.

The process would be to have students free write for 5 minutes using a 6-picture story prompt. Using the same prompt at each writing nulls any variables. Each student is measured against his/her own score, as scores across the class may show a range since we know that students acquire the language at different rates.

What students said about timed writing:

“I think that the timed writings are helpful to see our progress throughout the year. It also is nice to not have it as a grade so it isn’t stressful.”
“I found it cool to see all the growth because every time we did it, I wrote more and more which shows how much I learned from the beginning of the school year to the end.”
“I think that the timed writings are a great piece of evidence that show how we can use our vocab words from the stories we read in context as if we were telling a story”
“I think that they are good to see your growth over the year because I was shocked to see how much I learned over the year and how I was able to put my ideas into stories.”

How to Do Timed Writing:

1) Find or create a storytelling image sequence. If you can, try to include actions or visuals that would provoke expressions you plan to teach during the year. For example, you might include a thought bubble if you plan on teaching the phrase “piensa en…”.

2) Hand out the paper with the story sequence as well as the timed-writing sheet with blank lines.

Set a timer for 5 minutes instructing students to write as much as they can for the 5 minutes without stopping.

Some rules to remind students:
Don’t stop writing.
Don’t go back and erase anything.
Don’t worry about spelling and grammar.
You can make up details.
Don’t ask the teacher any questions during the 5 minutes.
If you don’t know how to say it, don’t. (Or describe it in the target language).
No English.

Don’t show the time, otherwise students will keep looking up to see how much time is left rather than just writing.

4) When the 5 minutes are up, have students count the number of words they have written. Instruct them NOT to count any English words they may have written. Have them write the number of total words on the top of the paper.

Note: Afterwards, you could have students type up their writing on to figure out the number of total words and the number of unique words (words that are not repeated) to see if student writing is too repetitive or not. We have not tracked Unique Words as part of this process, but it is an option.

5) In a Spreadsheet, record each students’ total number of words under the date.

Keep the students’ writing sheet in a folder. At the end of the year, you can pass these Timed Writing to show Student Growth in writing proficiencyback so students can see their growth in writing. My students were amazed and laughed at how little they could write at the beginning of the year and were able to see how much they had grown.

Repeat this activity every month/quarter/trimester to see their growth. Use the same story images. Some students may complain that it is the same story, but you don’t want to change it because you want to compare the growth in their writing using the same prompt. Some prompts may yield more/less writing.

You can either use our Excel template or our Google Sheet gradebook to keep track of student scores. With the Google Sheet, individual reports are automatically generated (pictured below, left) and you simply can print the report for each student. If you use our Excel template to keep track of students’ scores, we have an additional Score Sheet (pictured below, right) in which you can write in students’ scores and then send home to parents.

Timed Writing     Student Growth in Spanish Class Handout

My level one students started the year at 32 words in 5 minutes and by the end of the school year had an average of 105 words.

Timed Writing Growth in Spanish 1

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Timed Writing Langchat


Our next blog post will focus on our second SLO: vocabulary growth.

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Spanish Educator, with focus on acquisition Educator Enthusiast I love learning about and sharing culture.
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8 Responses to World Language SLO with Timed Writing

  1. asherbody says:

    This is an awesome post! Thank you for sharing. It’s a great idea to have students see their progress as they grow more proficient.

  2. Anonymous says:

    EXCELLENT!! This is exactly what I needed. Thanks.

  3. sraserm says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this! My colleague and I have been struggling with this exact topic for quite some time! There is one thing I am needing some clarification on if possible. You mention that the students should not worry about grammar and spelling and that does make sense. However, are words that are not used in complete thoughts still counted? For example, if a student only makes a list of words, does these still count? In addition, what if the student goes off topic and uses words that do not pertain to the story? Again, thanks so much!

  4. Pingback: SLO and Vocabulary |

  5. Courtney says:

    I’m stealing this idea for my SLO goal this year! Thank you so much. This will be very meaningful!

  6. tarafarah7 says:

    This looks amazing…super organized, structured, and data/evidence that is concrete. I love it!

  7. Nancy Payette says:

    I think timed writing can be good as long as it doesn’t stifle creativity.

  8. I do timed writing using Martina Bex’s 1-3-10 approach. This builds students confidence. I also do unannounced timed writing 3x a year and we compare beginning to end. We also use these samples to show growth during student led conferences. I always provide feedback on my students writing using “glow” and “grow” comments.

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