Emily Huff isn’t your average Spanish Teacher in an American school. Teaching Spanish to 16 and 17-year-olds in rural Iowa has its challenges but Emily is determined to provide her students with meaningful and relevant ways to practice their budding linguistic skills. Having stumbled across BoomWriter as a technology coordinator, Emily decided to fully embrace BoomWriter when she catapulted her students into storytelling with Spanish.
‘La Chica de Marbella’ stars a 17-year-old girl in the city of Marbella whose life is about to change. Not only does Emily empower her students to put themselves into the shoes of a teenager in Spain but they also have to use their creative writing skills in a completely different language! For some students, it’s hard enough to be fearless and brave in their imagination using their native language but double that with the complexity in writing in a second language. However, with BoomWriter the task was made more accessible in a way they hadn’t been engaged before. “I wanted to give them something to write about that really pushed their language skills and kept them engaged at the same time” shares Emily.
"I have noticed that while all my students love it, I am getting more info from my lower students," shares Erica. "So many times in the classroom we have to prepare them for a certain type of test or writing and there is not enough creative writing happening in the classroom. Students that can barely write a paragraph responding to an informational text are able to write multiple paragraphs when they are able to be creative."
Hear more from Emily about how she’s changing the way students learn and engage in storytelling through BoomWriter.
An Interview with Emily
Why did you decide to use Boomwriter with your Spanish class?
I wanted to give them something to write about that really pushed their language skills so I invented a story start, gave them a few ingredients like the character and setting and encouraged them to be as creative as possible. It took them less than 5 minutes to log in and within seconds they were designing their Boomers and asking how to get more Boomer Bucks.
How often do you use BoomWriter with your class?
We use it weekly over the course of about a 7-8 week stretch. I love how they can read and vote on each other's entries anonymously and I’ve been trying to encourage them to look at their peers writing and learn from each other’s mistakes as well as celebrating each other's successes.
How do you find the voting part of StoryWriter?
I usually supplement this part with additional guided activities that I’ve prepared to help develop their evaluative skills. When I am grading their work, I might value their creative ideas whereas when they look at each other work, they might value their sense of humour. It’s really interesting to see who wins the chapter and how engaged they are by this they are. So much so that one time the class developed an extreme dislike for a certain character in one student's chapter!
What group/type of students within your class has using BoomWriter benefitted the most?
I had a really big win with a student that really struggled academically with Spanish. He lacked confidence and was disengaged in the subject. So, for the first chapter, he wrote so little but his peers understood what he was trying to convey and loved his ideas and they voted for him! I was so surprised! He also then went on to win the next chapter - people liked his thoughts and ideas so ended up voting for his chapters. This gave him tons of confidence and although he was aware that he had mistakes, it surprised him that they saw something positive in his writing and it really boosted his confidence.
How did using BoomWriter impact on his academic progress?
Given his newfound confidence, his word count increased with each new chapter submitted. He was still making mistakes, of course, but what really struck me is that he wasn’t as afraid to make these mistakes - and over time, these mistakes became more sophisticated. A massive win!