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…
“Sheltering vocabulary while unsheltering grammar” refers to using ANY grammar necessary to express ideas while limiting words. This mantra has been instrumental in the design of our latest Latin novellas since it simultaneously reduces cognitive demand while casting a broad net of input, exposing students to different verb forms as they attend to fewer “big content word” meanings. Despite this unsheltering, sometimes we have to make a decision about when our story takes place! This establishes a focus—perhaps unwanted—on one tense or another.
If we, indeed, want to expose students to that broad net of input, we can respond appropriately without sacrificing any communicative value. Here are some very practical ways to conceptualize the use of different tenses in stories, and what to do in order to add variety to the verb forms used in stories and readings:
OK, so you’ve taken the first step of switching gears because NO ONE wants to suffer through a stale story retell between storyasking days or between brain breaks, but what if that story was pretty good? Should you scrap it and move on? Here’s one strategy to save a stale story retell…
We started a story towards the end of class on Friday because, well, because it was Friday and compelling diversions can often be better than anything we had planned. Monday arrived. Unsurprisingly, the class was a bit hazy on details over the weekend. N.B. no, it doesn’t matter that one or two kids remembered every little thing—teaching with CI is about including ALL students. After a retell that produced even better details (as well as a longer-than-usual brain break), we ran out of time to finish the story, which was nowhere close to being done. I don’t blame anything—it was only the second class story of the year so students have been in that phase of getting comfortable with what nearly complete control over co-creating a story feels like. In addition to being heavy on details, and light on plot with virtually no time left to class, 5 students were absent. Was I really going to start the next class by retelling, or having students retell what we had so far? Nope.
Class Story Intro/Background Info
I’ve written about the importance of parallel stories, but we can get some mileage out of reading the actual class story provided that we don’t beat it to death by reading the whole thing. Reports from the field suggest that stories start to wane, and a big reason is because things start to feel routine right down to reading the same story (which is where most of our power comes from).
Instead of asking/telling a story and then reading all of it verbatim, I pre-loaded my retell by typing up the beginning details and background information, but that’s it. We began class with a choral translation before finishing the story during the rest of class. You could bet that there were questions from the absent kids (which is great because that means they’re buying into DEA), and that meant even more input for the other students.
This was enough of a change up to not feel like the “same old same old” we had been doing for three days, and allowed me the opportunity to assist those absent students a little more directly while keeping the interest of the others who had been there all three days. Give it a try!
In my last post, I mentioned the importance of parallel stories. Recycled Readings (RR) is my new idea on improving textbook stories known for not providing enough repetitions of new vocabulary. To create a Recycled Reading (RR), just add a parallel character, and recycle the vocabulary from the original as you compare. In the example below, the bold text is my parallel character—Katy Perry.
Ecce Rōmānī – I (Two Roman Girls)
ecce! in pictūrā est puella, nōmine Cornēlia. in pictūrā nōn est puella, nōmine Katy. Katy est puella Americāna quae in L.A. habitat. Cornēlia est puella Rōmāna quae in Italiā habitat…etc.
This isn’t a panacea—the textbook still introduces TOO MUCH vocabulary TOO SOON, but at least now there are more repetitions and something to relate to—instant Personalized Question & Answer (PQA) material. In addition to Recycled Readings (RR), I’ll be creating Embedded Readings (ER) for each chapter using a parallel story. You can read about what I learned at NTPRS about ERs from Michele Whaley, (co-creator of Embedded Readings), here.
So, my plan is to ask a class story, read those parallel stories I shared in the last post, then read the Ecce Rōmānī parallel ERs, and finally look at the RR. From there, we might actually read the original Ecce Rōmānī text, or just move on. I’ll update the document with each chapter throughout the year:
Click here for Ecce Rōmānī Parallel Stories (ER & RR). Feel free to make a copy (under “file”), and change the details to suit the interests of your students.
Yesterday, the following events unfolded while riding my motorcycle:
- I notice a car rolling towards towards the road at a TD Bank exit driveway—the driver isn’t looking left (i.e. my direction).
- The driver doesn’t look my way, keeps rolling, then suddenly turns left into the road directly in front of me.
- I stop short. The momentum sends my motorcycle down on its right side, and me forward, also on my right side.
- I’m on the ground now and can’t move, but it’s for an OK reason—I realize that my helmet is stuck between the pavement and bumper of the driver’s car.
- The driver gets out of the car and tries to move me (idiot!).
- I take some time to watch horrified rubberneckers looking downward at a motorcycle on the ground and its rider partly under a car.
- After the disorientation dissipates, I get bored not doing anything under the car, extract myself, take off my gear, and take in the situation.
- Motorcycle doesn’t start (it won’t shift BELOW 3rd gear—the one it was in before going down).
- I wrap things up with the officer, get the moto towed, start calling insurance companies, and text Bob Patrick. No, Bob is not my emergency contact, but he just happened to have caught a typo in Discipulus Illustris, which led to a nice suggestion (i.e. Quō in annō es? for Quō in gradū es?)