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Story frames for free writes

October 20, 2015

If you've done any number of timed free writes with your students, you have probably identified one or two students that consistently experience "writer's block". You know that they know some language and are certainly capable of writing in the target language on demand, but for distraction or lack of motivation, they turn in papers with no more than five or ten words each time. "Señora Bex", they say, "I can't think of anything to write!"


As a quick fix, I made these two story frames back in 2010. I posted them on my old google site, so a few of you might have seen them before. Each frame consists of a very basic story in English with missing details, and there is a Spanish word bank at the bottom of each page. I made a bunch of copies, laminated them, and placed them on my front table anytime that I announced a timed free write. If a student anticipated writer's block or if I encountered a struggling writer after the timer began, he or she just grabbed a copy and brought it back to his or her desk.

Students that used the story frames typically would begin by translating the pieces of the story that are already determined and writing them down on their papers (either plain lined paper or free write forms--there are a bunch of different options linked below). Whenever they came to a blank space, they had to fill in their own details. By the time the students reach the end of the story frame, they usually have enough momentum to continue on their own.


During timed free writes, students are also free to write informational texts. There are many options for writing frames that can help them in this endeavor, as well! Keeping in mind the purpose of the frame (getting the information that is in their head onto the page using the language that they have acquired), here is a simple framework that my students have used for writing informational texts:

DEFINE IT: [name of thing] is [kind of thing - event, place, person, concept, thing, etc.].

DESCRIBE IT WITH [3] DETAILS: is, has, wants, does, eats, goes, is located, lives, feels, etc.

CONCLUDE IT: Re-state the first sentence, just add an intro clause and an adjective! Ex: "It's obvious that [Alaska is an] amazing [place]!

Use the Define/Describe/Conclude writing framework to support students in writing informational texts.


Here are some forms and posts about free writes:

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