Lowering Anxiety & Priority #1: Every Kid Starring In Their Own Story

I had so much success with Slide Talk, the digital version of Card Talk, that I thought it would replace Card talk entirely. Well, some insight from Sr. Sedge has got me thinking that analog pencil—paper Card Talk still has it’s merits, especially at the start of the year.

Again, the digital Slide Talk is awesome for what kids bring to their slides (vs. stick figures), but I didn’t consider how I’d memorize names of students without a physical card right in front of me. After all, it will have been over two years since I began the school year in person, right?!

Starting Seating Plan & Starting Activity
In addition to learning names, there’s an idea Sr. Sedge brought up about a starting seating plan, and starting activity so kids just aren’t looking around. In fact, the First Day Anxieties is one of the more interesting pages I’ve seen on a CI site. The paper Sr. Sedge shares isn’t just Krashen this, and Krashen that. This is refreshing, not only because it’d be wise for many of us to expand our quote sources, but also because we know the affective filter is the least sciency part of the monitor model, and is an easy target for the haters. But lowering anxiety, in general, is a very good idea. I must admit that I never quite thought of how nervous it can be to walk in the room on the first day—a little late even—being told to choose a seat (“oh gods, just like the lunchroom!”), and then just sit there while we stall until it seems all students are there.

Class Photographer
This is an excellent class job for anyone doing some kind of collaborative storytelling with acting. To be honest, I don’t think it will work well in my context without actors. What would students take a picture of?!

Card Talk Stories & Everyone’s Awesome
This is it. This is the one. This is the one new take on something that makes the world of difference. Although we would scroll through student slides when fishing for details in a class story, Sr. Sedge uses Card Talk to write a story about each student! Now, I’ve had massive success at the start of the year by typing up details of students after the first day so we have a personalized class text right way. That’s a keeper, and that’s something I’ll spend prep time on, myself. However, it never occurred to me to turn student interests into mini story activity during class, even the type-up of the story. Amazing, right? N.B. unlike Write & Discuss/Type & talk, note-taking of the story is optional. I can understand that, especially if this ends up in a digital class library. This addition to the statements not only results in a lot more contextualized input, but it also begins to awaking creativity. All it takes is a few key words to make some comparisons because in these stories, everyone’s awesome at what they do in class. Sr. Sedge explicitly states that. So, you end up with a kid into soccer being better than a pro. You have a kid who likes to read end up reading more than everyone on Earth, etc. This is actually crucial when creating a nice little story. Watch Sr. Sedge explain.

Here’s an example story. The English translation follows below…

  • James plays a lot of video games (i.e., “Class, James plays a lot of video games. What kind?”).
  • James goes to a grocery store to the cereal section and plays Grand Theft Auto 5 (i.e., “Class, where is James? Where does James play video games?”).
  • Ellen DeGeneres comes in (i.e., “Class, who is James with?”).
  • Ellen asks what James is doing (i.e., “Class, what does Ellen say?”).
  • James says he’s playing Grand Theft Auto 5 (i.e., “Class, what does James say?”).
  • Ellen and James play (i.e., “Class, what does Ellen do?” or “Does Ellen play GTA5, too?”).
  • James wins (because every student is awesome).

Notice what few questions need to be asked in order to get at a simple story. I wouldn’t even say there’s a conflict in these short stories, and that’s fine. If the story is about sport, the kid wins. If the story is about food, the kid eats the food. Make sure to ask “where?,” and “with whom?,” and add a bit of dialogue. Just ask questions and use answers (AQUA). Also, don’t be afraid to add new details when typing up. That’s a classic way to keep interest going. Thanks Sr. Sedge!

Collaborative Storytelling: Whole-Class Writing

Back in June, I did this test of what collaborative storytelling could look like for asynchronous learning. However, the process can be used during class for even more interaction, and more story variations. This format also has the benefit of modeling writing, which can become new sources of input with timed writes typed up, edited, and read in class. This is not innovative. I’ve seen teachers do this live in the classroom. However, you might have stepped away from collaborative storytelling for a bit, or just forgotten how easy and enjoyable it can be. I’d recommend getting back into it, keeping it a regular activity throughout the year. Here are my current favorite collaborative storytelling formats for live remote learning:

Whole-Class Writing
Using the super simple story script sequence, write a story by providing either/or details for students to choose, or blank spaces for students to fill-in their own. Share out, step-by-step as teacher restates in target language, and/or submit so teacher can edit, type up, and share back to whole class. You get up to as many new stories as you have students, although I found success projecting just 2 stories; one from the class, and one from another class.

Slide Talk Stories
Screenshare/project the Slides, and scroll through to inspire story detail options. If you want students to compete over details a little more, choose two options from the Slides (e.g. “H.E.R. or Brent Faiyaz?”). Otherwise, choose one detail from the Slides, then whatever other shadow comes to mind. Use the script below for a home-run story.

WOWATS (Whole-class One Word At a Time Stories)
Generate a list of words (e.g. from most recent text, high frequency, all words students know, 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 and it takes the whole class.

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

Slide Talk Stories & Super Simple Story Script Sequence

After looking at all the collaborative storytelling options for our first class story, we decided Mike Peto’s simple structure of a 20min story—tops—was exactly what we were looking for. In preparation, I suggested that we script out some basic either/or detail options, one of which being a “shadow” (i.e. non-option), and the other what we think they’d likely choose. Student teacher Magister K suggested that we look to each class’ Slide Talk slides to find something they already liked…

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