Circling & Scripts: Back To Them Roots (+ 59 Simple Story Starters)

Imma take a break from playing Root and get back to my teaching roots. Several recent experiences have reminded me that the most effective teaching practices are the basics, hands down. Obviously, COVID messed with us big time, but I’m afraid some of us have done a little too much adjusting that might result in lingering bad habits. Let’s face it, we pulled out all the stops on that beastly concert organ that was remote learning, and not all of what we did to make it happen could be considered even OK practices. We want good practices, and best ones whenever possible. Oh, and it’s been a while. Consider this: it will have been over two years since starting the school year with tried and true practices you’ve known to be effective. Yeah, that’s right. No one really did that in 2020, so it was August or September of 2019 when you last began the school year how you wanted. Will you remember what all those practices were? I’m not confident I will, so I’m writing this post to remind myself about them roots. Feel free to follow along…

Continue reading

StoryGuessing

During collaborative storytelling, I’ve often told students that their job is to suggest and/or guess details in the story. That is, sometimes I know the story and they need to guess, and other times they get to influence it. StoryGuessing is a more structured version of this process.

StoryGuessing eliminates any voting, which means you can tell a short story quick, and I mean real quick, like in the first 5 minutes of class (e.g. Darvin is sad because he doesn’t have coffee. Darvin leaves class and gets coffee from Principal HD. Darvin is happy). When you get a particular detail—perhaps from something a student says as they enter the room, like what they want, or how they’re feeling (e.g. “Darvin is sad, but why?”)—ask students to guess on a piece of paper (Do Now/Weekly Sheet, notebook, etc.). Then, tell them what the detail is (e.g. “Darvin is sad because he doesn’t have coffee.“), ask who guessed correctly, then continue the story.

Here’s the rub…

Fish for a detail, asking a student or two what they guessed, and go with that (e.g. “yep, you got it!”). N.B. Be sure to limit the fishing to just once or twice! The point is for students to guess your story. If you keep asking students what their guesses were for each detail, that starts to become classic Storyasking, and will take much, much longer, and it will become obvious that you have absolutely no story in mind. StoryGuessing, then, could be one way to prepare students for Storyasking.

All you need is a simple 3-sentence script in mind, and go from there. End by typing story in a projected Google Doc as students copy (i.e. Write & Discuss). Here was my first script:

  • Mr P is sad because he has a bad tooth.
  • Mr P goes to Mr E (the Bio teacher), not the dentist.
  • Mr P doesn’t go to the dentist because he has bad insurance.
    (This was the one detail I fished for that a student provided.)
  • Mr E removes the tooth, but it’s the wrong tooth.

StoryGuessing. It’s just one more collaborative storytelling option. Try it!

Parallel Stories

The latest Tea with BVP episode was “Teaching Without Textbooks.” Whether you’ve already ditched the textbook, or still work alongside one, parallel stories are important. Parallel stories include the same language found in a narrative, but the details (maybe plot) change. This year, I’ll be using a mix of parallel stories that compliment a textbook’s narrative, and co-created stories via TPRS.

For years I used TPRS story scripts to ask a story and then type up and read the exact story as a class. I’m now sold on parallel readings that include all the language found in the class story during acting, but now in a new context with details unknown to the students. Following Michele Whaley’s current practices on Embedded Readings, each of our stories will have at least three versions—this builds interest along the way by withholding information (vs. knowing exactly how the class story ends).

There will be more on how I adapt a textbook’s narrative later, but for now, here’s a link to our Latin 1 parallel stories (updated throughout the year in this single document).