This is probably the most effective no-prep activity you should become familiar with:
1) Say or ask for one(1) word.
2) Draw it on the board (or have the Class Artist draw it).
3) Ask about it, and add details to the image.
I’m never at a loss for what to add because I rely on my Question Word Posters as reference to drive the image. Looking at the posters around my board, I usually just ask questions in order and get corresponding supporting details without planning a single thing. Here’s an example that began with a single word, fūr (thief)…
Where? = The thief is in Starbucks
From Where? = Lived in Spain
To Where? = Wants to go to Peet’s Coffee in Berkeley, not Cambridge
What? = Has a gladius (Roman sword)
Who? = The thief’s name is Tom
Whose? = The gladius is actually the Starbucks barista’s gladius
When? = It’s night time
Whom? = The thief sees someone with a better, bigger gladius
With Whom? = Donald Trump (obviously!)
To Whom? = The Starbucks barista gives a coffee to Donald Trump
How? = The thief has the gladius because he stole it from the Starbucks barista
How many? = Actually, the Tom the Thief has 7 gladiī—one from each Starbucks in Starbucksville
What sort of? = Tom is actually a bad thief…the Starbucks barista saw him steal the gladius
Why? = Donald Trump is there because he wants to buy all the Starbucks’
Note how some of the details don’t connect (e.g. there is another person with a sword but doesn’t get mentioned again), but realize that they don’t have to. We’re just creating an image, not any kind of plot. Also note, however, how easily this COULD turn into a prompt for a Timed Write, or a Storyasking session, especially given the image we’ve established as a class.
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!
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).
It’s good that my goal wasn’t to summarize and respond to every point made on each Tea with BVP show. Why? Of all the shows, the recent Season 1 Finale had treasure troves of gold to respond to. Several of those nuggets stand out for me…
VERBA is an Apples to Apples clone game for language learners designed by the great folks who brought us the Picturae database. Aside from playing the game as-is following original rules (during which I monitor groups and deliver CI by asking students about their choices, etc.), I now use the white noun cards during storyasking/storytelling (e.g. “Once upon a time, there was a ______<reveal card>”).
What makes this different from TPRS? Vocabulary is limited to what’s on the cards, which is already in the target language along with a super clear image. You’re less likely to go out of bounds with infrequent target language vocabulary, or have to accept English details from students. On the other hand, you might WANT to accept English details from students (especially if they’re compelling). In that case, use the VERBA cards as non-examples for your students to reject, and then take their cute/hilarious/dark suggestion, etc.
What makes this different from using Rory’s Story Cubes? Story cubes contain images ONLY, no target language, so using VERBA might help keep your story more “on rails.” For an interesting storyasking/storytelling hybrid, use the white VERBA noun cards for details AND Rory’s Story Cubes: Actions set for verbs.
I have an upcoming workshop at CANE’s 2016 Annual Meeting on how to continue Teaching with CI. My abstract reads:
[…] Despite the success and enjoyment of experimenting with CI, many Latin teachers tend to abandon CI methods and strategies after a brief yet blissful period of refreshing change in favor of familiar ways. This workshop addresses how to continue using CI after the honeymoon phase ends by establishing routines, maintaining engaging activities, and having assessment systems in place to support you and your students.
These next 13 blog posts form a CI Program Checklist (emphasis on “a“), which serves as the basis for my workshop. The checklist is organized by words that begin with the letter C…they’re all the rage right now.
Let’s get right to it: