Sunday, February 17, 2013

Different ways to tell a story

Okay, this isn't a story, but I think that it's something that is worth saying.

I used to always follow the same format:  Day one--PQA, then a mini-story with actors, then review, then retell.  Day two:  written story and retell, Day 3 (and sometimes 4) extended reading and written summary.  Day 5 could have been anything.  Then I moved to a different school, and things changed slightly.  Day one:  mini-story with actors, review, etc.  Day two:  written story and retell.  Day 3-4:  repeat days one and two with new vocab.  Day 5:  catch up if necessary, otherwise start a new story.  This is basically what I still do.

However, I have gotten away from stories with actors.  I still think that way is best--it allows more focus, it gives the students more opportunities to create the story themselves, and so on.  My colleague in 2H does acted-out stories every day with great success.  His students are motivated and love what they do--or at least they realize that their grades rest with comprehension and proficiency, and so they're willing to play along.

Other classes, on the other hand, do not do as well with actors.  It can become disruptive, there are classes in which nobody has the desire to act (and I think that it's important for them to at least be okay with coming up), or it simply isn't in the nature of the teacher or the students.  For these classes, you are faced with the decision:  do you continue to insist on acting and then spend time cleaning up the messes that ensue or do you try something different.

For those of you that have decided that acting isn't working out for you, here are some suggestions.

1.  Story boards.  You can start the class with an empty cartoon box with six squares.  Ask a story, filling in the squares as you go. Here's an example:
Clase, hay un chico.  El chico es alto o bajo--flaco o gord--tiene pelo largo o corto--qué color de pelo tiene--.  Then draw the boy with a thought box.  ¿Qué quiere hacer el chico?  Answer goes in the box.  Second box continues the story.  Third thought box contains the problem.  Fourth box--solution one. Fifth box--why it doesn't work, next idea  Sixth box-- solution.  As you can see, you're still asking the story, the students are still giving you information, and you still are getting lots of ci.  You can also have the students fill in their own storyboards and then use them to retell the story to their partners.

2.  Telling the story and acting it out yourself.  I sometimes do this, especially if the story I'm telling doesn't have a lot of q and a.  I know it isn't "real" tprs, but I will sometimes modify the idea and retell a legend or fairy tale in Spanish.  You still can have q and a, but it's more retelling of info (or them giving you info that they know about the fairy tale) instead of making up the story.  I think that this is doable in Sp 2 and above--not so much in Sp 1.  If you know how to tell a story well, you can keep their attention even without actors.  For example, I recently told a story of a girl who loved to dance, so she went to a hotel where there was supposed to be a dance. Nobody was there, but there were a beautiful pair of shoes.  She couldn't stop herself--she had to put them on.  The minute she did, she began to dance and couldn't stop.  As she was getting sicker and sicker, a handsome man came into the hotel.  She thought he was going to help her.  Instead, he asked her how she liked the shoes--he was the devil. She danced until she died.  I told the story in small chunks and retold it by questioning the studnets.  The students also retold it to each other.  They loved it and keep asking me when they're going to hear another legend.  It's also a good way to bring in culture.  Note--I did do this with a story board.  I like story boards because it gives them something to relate to if they get lost in the story.

3.  Using puppets or dolls.  I have lots and lots of props, enough for everyone in class to have two.  I give them the toys, GIVE THEM TIME TO PLAY WITH THEM (they get 5 minutes--that allows them to get it out of their systems.  After that, if they play instead of work, they get to use their hands as puppets), and then they use the puppets as actors.  I ask the story and then tell them to retell with changes for their animals (había una chica con pelo azul becomes había un perro con pelo blanco y negro).

4.  Skip the story--do a short reading instead.  This is tricky--you are teaching vocab and reading the vocab at the same time.  I gesture the vocab and then when reading, I do the gestures.  That helps.  I also use fairy tales or contemporary people for this, and I make a cartoon with captions, not a real story.  The captions are very content-driven, and it allows me time to ask a bunch of ci-related questions.  I recently did one of these on Snow White.  I was surprised at how easy it was to set up--I simply did a Google Image search for the parts of the story that I was telling--all the photos were there!

5.  Use real stories instead of weird ones.  Last year I did a story on Karen Carpenter for the vocab dealing with gorda, flaca, and gaining and losing weight.  I had photos of Carpenter at different stages of her life--the kids really understood, and they also learned about the problems of anorexia.

Those are just some ideas.  If you have an issue you want to discuss or would like to see more of this sort of post in this blog, please let me know by either commenting or emailing.  This blog is for you, and I'm happy to do whatever you want.  I want to see you succeed!!

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