My ELLs, just like other students, often times suffer from writer's block. They take forever to write any type of response to a writing prompt. This behavior definitely hurts them when it comes to taking and passing California's High School Exit Examination (a test that MUST be passed as part of the graduation requirement).
So, to see if I could find a more productive way to alleviate their fears over writing, I went to the internet and found the following site:
The prompts were created by a teacher at a high school in the bay area to build student confidence in writing. Under the title of "Sustained Silent Writing," students are trained to write at the start of the period for a period of 10 minutes--no dictionaries and no talking. I have been using this site for my beginners as well as my intermediates with good results. Everyone is writing.
Now, how do I grade this? What do I look for? As explained in the website, students are "graded" on how much of the page they use in writing a response. Three quarters of a page would be 5 points (maximum) and so on. If students are absent, they earn NO points. I do not look for errors (though I do pull them out for Daily Oral Language Grammar Review). At the end of the week, I add up their points and assign a classroom participation guide.
Kids soon become accustomed to writing and often times now do not want to relinquish their writing journals when I tell them time is up:)