Collaborative Storytelling: The COVID-19 Asynchronous Version

At least half a dozen times now, I’ve sent a message to other Latin teachers with something like “wow, I really gotta get back into storytelling, with shorter stories, and a lot of them.” Well, now’s the perfect time for that…

The Problem
Input-based asynchronous instruction lacks interaction. Asynchronous means there’s no live video. Sure, we can record videos and establish meaning with English, etc., but there’s nothing back and forth in real time, which means students aren’t getting personalized instruction, we can’t negotiate meaning, and we can’t *really* check comprehension N.B. if you think your comprehension questions are a valid measure, think again. Correct responses could just mean a student used Google Translate to complete your assignment. One solution to keeping input comprehensible has been focusing more on providing texts and glossaries so our students can just…read. It’s the end of the year anyway, and the lack of interaction is disappointing, but won’t stop a student from receiving at least some input. However, that doesn’t solve interaction, and certainly doesn’t solve next year…

The Bigger Problem
Starting the school year remotely and asynchronously with first year language students that have ZERO target language will be an big issue. First day/week—maybe even month—students can’t read yet on their own. Therefore, we can’t rely on texts like we are now. So…what can we do? Well, I asked members of the iFLT/NTPRS/CI Teaching FB group for ideas on how to deal with this bigger problem, because that situation is not unreasonable to anticipate. I have a plan for that, but before I describe it, here are the big ideas that came out of some replies to that topic:

  • Focus on personalization!
  • Anything that would be asked in real time during class can be gathered via Google Forms, etc.
  • Ask either/or questions to learn preferences, or get story details.

Collaborative Storytelling
One benefit to asynchronous teaching is that there’s a lot of time from class to class. N.B. before you object, citing less time for content, realize that yes, our pacing expectations are going to have to drop significantly. That’s just reality, at least when you don’t think of “the work” as being entirely on students to arrive at establishing meaning. Don’t do that! Without live teaching, there’s no need for spontaneity, which is one of the hardest practices to get used to in comprehension-based and communicative language teaching (CCLT), anyway, so while we have the time, use it.

Google Forms can collect student responses (which doubles as accountability, by the way! No need for extra questions about the text!). This can be done for anything we would want a personalized response for. Card Talk, Weekend Chat, etc., can all be done asynchronously. Just choose a few student responses to write about and talk about next class, and you’re good. As for collaborative storytelling, once you get ideas from students, write a more involved version of a skeleton story, add some background info, elaborate, change into past tense, etc. The rest of your prep is just making Google Forms. Oh wait, I’ve made templates! Here are screenshots (because you can’t share Google Forms as “view only”):

This is pretty much every question on the form: Multiple Choice + Required, and you can add an “other” option in case a student has a really good idea you want to add in.
Just five either/or questions is enough to get you details to create a class story.

Here’s a Latin-specific example:

Type & Talk
One great follow up is to record your screen (I have Screencast-O-Matic) as you type up the story and discuss it (i.e. Write & Discuss) just like you would in class. Not only can students then read the story, but they can also copy it into a notebook at home as they go along. Again, we’re missing live interaction, although students should have a greater sense of ownership from a personalized class story. We’re also missing negotiation of meaning, but with judicious English while typing up the story, comprehensibility should be as high as we can make it. N.B. don’t *dare* try to go 100% target language immersion remotely! I swear, you will ruin most kids’ experience! Above all else—which doesn’t seem to be getting enough attention—none of this address issues with equity. Still, if there’s an expectation of students completing something online, this is one of the closest ways to interaction we can get easily, and definitely addresses personalization. Here’s a screenshot of one way to record a Type & Talk:

Open student responses on the left, and record only the right half of screen while talking through writing the class story.

The process pictured above saves time, but you could always write out the full story first, then have it open on the left side and just retype it into the right side (being recorded), explaining as you go.

5 thoughts on “Collaborative Storytelling: The COVID-19 Asynchronous Version

  1. Ohmygosh…..the Fall? Today a fellow teacher friend mentioned we may not go back in the Fall. Now you too? I hope I misunderstood you. NOW I’m panicking.

  2. I feel as if you are a dear friend…of course, the “you do not know me but I know you” thing is kind of weird but I thought you should know….I wait with great anticipation for your posts and fabulous guidance. You are a rare breed who shares information for teachers who are trying to provide more, equitable “stuff” for students. Thank you soooo much for all that you do. I won’t always post but you need to know that Magistra Gawtry reads EVERY post you provide and I have used nearly all the information and advice that you have generously given. I can only hope that some day, down the line, I will be able to pay if forward. Have a grand day!

  3. Thank you for the ideas. Summer school is going to be online and by brain has been….uhhhhhh, how the heck am I going to do CI online.

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