WOWATS & Other Collaborative Storytelling Options

Last Wednesday, we did our first MovieTalk (yes, still calling it this because I have no intentions or expectations of students acquiring specific vocab, and that’s peachy according to Dr. Ashley Hastings’ 2018 note to teachers who were misinterpreting the method). Believe it or not, but Wednesday’s MovieTalk has been the *ONLY* story so far. Yep. Other than that, no stories. With student interviews (i.e. Discipulus Illustris/Special Person), discussions based on a simple prompt (i.e. Card Talk), and questions about the weekend and upcoming week (i.e. Weekend & Week Chat), class has been compelling enough without any narrative. But stories are awesome, and we have a ton of other MovieTalk texts already prepared for every other week, so I’m thinking now is a good time to get into collaborative storytelling…

Experience in my current teaching context has shown that the students just aren’t interested in acting, so those more-compelling types of storytelling are out. I’m not even considering TPRS or Reader’s Theater. Perusing my list of how to get texts, then, I was reminded of OWATS (One Word At a Time Stories). However, even that would be a bit much at this point, especially since students have done only two timed free writes. But the format is solid enough, so I thought “why not gather a list of words, then lead students through a whole-class version of OWATS—WOWATS?!” In fact, the idea is similar to the scaffolded storyasking I’ve done with Rory’s Story Cubes. I then brainstormed other ways to co-create a story as a whole class, all based on typing up the story in real time (like Write & Discuss), and no acting. Here’s that list of collaborative storytelling options:

Script-Based
Take any existing script, and ask either/or questions to get the variables (just 4 of them in the no-travel story).

Template-Based
Use these templates, asking either/or questions to get the details.

**Using VERBA cards for either/or questions**
Consider selecting cards ahead of time that might fit certain questions. I always keep thems separated into piles, like characters, objects, food, etc. ready to use without shuffling through so much. To ensure parallel texts from each class section, eliminate the option one class chooses from the possibilities by physically removing them from the pile. For example, during Period 1, the first two cards from your “character” pile were an alien and soldier. The class chose the soldier. Therefore, draw a new one to present along with the alien to the next class, etc.

WOWATS
Generate a list of words (e.g. from most recent text, high frequency, etc.), randomly choose one, collaborate to use the word in a story, and continue. Consider following Mike Peto’s story structure of limiting each story part to 5 minutes so ideas don’t go off the rails.

1) Who? Where? With Whom?
2) Problem
3) Fail to Solve
4) Solution

Embedded Readings
From Michele Whaley’s iFLT 2019 presentation, this begins with just 2 sentences. Start from scratch, like “X wants Y,” and ask students for details to get a 2-sentence story. Then, give a minute or two for students to write additional details (e.g. dialogue, back story, questions, a twist) on a post-it or scrap paper, in English or the TL, doesn’t matter. Whereas Michele collected the ideas, then during planning time assembled them into a second, third, and maybe fourth version using all the student details, you could also do this in class in real time, looking through student details and working them into the story as it unfolds before students’ eyes, perhaps morphing into WOWATS using the student ideas as list of words to work into the story.

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