Storyasking Templates & Workflows: Some Structure

I’ve been experimenting with more structure to storyasking. No doubt, I’m a bit rusty after a year teaching classes just 1x/wk, and for which I asked the first and only story on the final day of classes! Prior to that, it had been over a year and a half since I regularly asked stories, which itself wasn’t frequent given the oppressive teaching environment—ēheu! Here are supports that have proved quite useful in helping me get back into the swing of things. But first, what makes good storyasking?

Choice, not Chaos!

A lot of teachers try asking too many open-ended questions that leave students at a loss. The easiest stories to ask include some choice, but not so much that everything feels off the rails. Teachers who attempt the latter, bail quickly. The key is finding the right balance between personalization and control. Experienced storyaskers can release a lot of control over to students, mostly because they have a higher chance of being comprehensible, and the students are more mature, knowing what to expect. Less-experienced storyaskers, or those in particular creativity-resistant contexts, like mine, would benefit from having more structure. The following supports have been helpful in reawakening imagination, something all great stories benefit from, and which most grade students have forgotten about/lost by the time they get to high school, sadly. Give them a try…

No-Travel Story Script & Workflow
If you want a real simple story, this is it! A classic TPRS story has 3 locations because the main character can’t resolve their problem. TPRS is designed really well, exposing students to repetitions of the frequent vocabulary in such an engaging way that the repetition isn’t obvious, or at least seen as a burden. The no-travel script is a faster version, smaller in scope (e.g. just 25 unique words for the Latin version). Looking for similar repetition of classic TPRS? Just ask more questions during the storyasking process. Print the second page of this workflow and use it during class to help guide you (and students) along.

Scaffolded Story Cube Storyasking
Use this template for a heavily scaffolded approach to storyasking that guides you, and the students along the way, especially if there’s some kind of writing expectation you can’t seem to shake! It’s based on what I saw Matthew Mangino present at RIFLA 2018, intended for use with Story Cubes, although you could the template without them. While Matthew distributes the dice, and asks who has a cube that might fit in with the next detail, I did this as a whole class in order to keep things even more focused, at least for the first story asked this way. Here’s my process:

  • project the sheet
  • roll a cube
  • brainstorm what words come to mind that would fit the current question
  • students copy as we go
  • snap pic of the cubes
  • type up, edit, and add details/dialogue, cognates, etc.

**If students are still being sticks in the mud** keep focusing on being comprehensible, and ask them either/or questions based on what YOU see in the cubes. Today, one class either had nothing come to mind, or their ideas were too extravagant/complex for what we could understand in Latin. Reign in those elaborate ideas using the cubes to ask an either/or. Maaaaybe, they’ll reject YOUR story ideas and begin participating more. It’s magic! 

Story Cube Follow-up
The best input-based strategies & activities get us more mileage out of a single product. Here’s a way to expose students to other class stories, as well as get parallel stories for those very classes! I applied the idea of completing OWI character profiles using other classes’ drawings to the Story Cubes rolled for the stories.

  • project pic of cubes
  • in groups, students brainstorm (set a short timer in order to keep English at a minimum) to determine the other class’ story based on the pics of the cubes.
  • Lead a reconstruction of the other class story in the target language using a blank graphic organizer.
  • Finish with revealing the actual story after the whole-class discussion. Use your favorite reading strategy!

So, if there are 4 groups of students, you now have 4 different interpretations of the other class’ Story Cube story. Type THOSE up, then read with the other class, and/or compile for the Free Voluntary Reading (FVR) shelf.

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