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…
Language teachers usually ask this when something indicates that a student didn’t understand (e.g. verbal response “huh?” or non-verbal response deer-in-headlights expression on face, etc.). If this event has already happened, asking the question serves no purpose. In fact, it might even make the matter worse by putting the student on the spot. The student will likely answer “yes, I understand” just to get their teacher to move on to someone else. Here are some comprehension check alternatives:
1) Did I just say/ask X?
2) Did I just say/ask X or Y?
3) I just said/asked ____.
4) What did I just say/ask? -or- Who can tell me what I just said/asked?
The alternatives above are arranged by questioning level from low to high (i.e. yes/no, either/or, fill-in-blank, open-ended). The questions could certainly be asked in the target language, but one popular strategy is to ask, in English/native, “what did I just say/ask?” to a so-called barometer student, who would be one with the slowest processing speed. This popular strategy is interesting because that kind of question is technically harder to answer than “did I just say/ask X?” It’s probably a non-issue because we’re dealing with the native language, but for the sake of variety, or if you find that your barometer students are struggling, you could start asking those lower level comprehension checks in English/native as well the classic “what did I just say/ask?”