Collaborative Free-Writes

I don’t know about your schools but the bulletin boards that are posted in our halls are incredibly challenging to keep up with. Every teacher has our own in our rooms that we manage and display student work or we use them as word walls but the community bulletin boards are a challenge. We had an open house this week and were asked to re-do them and make them look fresh. Julie Warren, our history teacher spent over an hour re-covering the super long board and I sent an email out to our faculty pleading for student work. I am lucky because I don’t have a set curriculum to follow so I can drop everything and spend a day “making” something to display in the hall.

We did collaborative free-writes. Now, I have done these before on white boards. Students sit in a circle and everyone has 30 seconds to write one sentence. Then they pass the whiteboard to the right and the next person reads the sentence and writes a second sentence, then passes it to the right again, and it goes on. I do this with my more advanced classes, where they are very comfortable writing and creating stories and there will be minimal errors. As I walk around if I see something misspelled, I can quickly erase with my thumb and ask my student to edit it. OR, I can sit in the circle and when the boards come to me, I edit.

What I tried the other day was an experiment and it worked SO well! I created this document. Then I explained to students the plan. (If you don’t teach Spanish you can see my basic instructions written below)

  1. Students sit in a circle with a hard surface to write on
  2. Students have 6 minutes (I WANTED THEM TO BE QUALITY) to draw a story in the boxes. If they use stick figures that is FINE! I want QUALITY stick figures!
    1. If they choose to write anything in the boxes it MUST be in Spanish and preferably dialogue.
  3. Students have 1-2 minutes to color their drawings

Next, after students completed their drawings, I explained the next steps. (Again, non-Spanish teachers see the description below. (The instructions start at 3:20… we always get off task in this class! I love it!)

  1. Students start with their OWN stories. They begin writing a story about their images. They must follow my regular “Free-write” writing rules. They have 3 minutes
    1. No English
    2. Be Creative
    4. Use a variety of verbs
    5. Create a beginning, middle and end.
  2. Then they pass the story to the right. The timer is set for 2 minutes. Students read what is already written and add on to it.
  3. They pass it again, they read and then write.
  4. etc. etc. etc.

The results were INCREDIBLE. Students did NOT write their names. Here is what my babies created. I hope you enjoy and you can use this your room! 🙂 Obviously some are better than others, but I didn’t want to only include the best for you here. So there is a mixture of all of the levels of writing from the class. 🙂

My student Halle was bummed the time went fast because she was about to turn Billy into a LOUP GAROU!!!
Marcus is a stuffed animal in my classroom! We love him!







There you have it!!!

Until next time,



La Maestra Loca


  1. Good one!!!! Very fun for this time of year when story asking can feel stale. Will be using this week!

  2. I am definitely going to try this free write model. Starting with a visual and giving students something to anchor their writing to makes so much sense. Thank you – as always – for sharing your ideas.

    1. 🙂 Yes, My students call this a “structured” write when I show them pictures to base their writing off of. Some students flourish with it and others do better with no restrictions on their creativity. Good luck!

  3. This is amazing. I just tried a free write with my Span. 1s…but about a story we’d been talking about. I didn’t get great results. It’s my first year teaching and I’ve been mostly doing CI and we’re working on one novel, but I’m sure it’s my inexperience. Not sure how to transfer how much they can understand into better writing ability. Maybe trying their own story would help.

    1. Perhaps but with level ones this can be a real challenge. That is why I do it with higher levels. I don’t want there to be so many errors since the kids are going to be “reading” each other’s stories… I also don’t want kids to feel like they don’t understand and become discouraged. Remember, the more input they have the more they will output eventually. Don’t worry if it isn’t a lot or as perfect as you want right now.

  4. It is a great activity. I also tried it with my Level 1 students and got mixed results. Some tried to write the entire story in the first 3 minutes. Some had trouble interpreting others’ drawings. I might experiment with having the first student draw one panel, write about it and then pass the paper to have the other students draw the next frame and write about it I will definitely try it again.

    1. The reason I chose not to do it with level one is I didn’t want them reading each other’s stories because with level ones there are usually a lOT more grammatical and spelling errors than in higher levels. With level 1 this sort of activity might create tension or nerves in students because they’ll be outputting together in written form. My students don’t mind it spoken but if they know they will be seeing each other’s writing they really get nervous which in turn raises their affective filters.

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