Monday, November 25, 2013

Incorporating Student Input into Scripted Stories

Got a question from my friend Dori V. last week:

I have a question for you that kind of relates to your blog post about scripted vs. spontaneous stories.  I have a couple of classes of 8th graders who had me last year for 1A, and when I start to tell a story, a few kids in each class make all sorts of suggestions about the plot line in French, which is fantastic, but which doesn't really follow where I would like the story to go, and that I feel keeps the story in the realm of what they already know (and often includes hitting, which can be funny but so are other things they haven't thought of.)

Do you have any advice about how to encourage those who are speaking French (which I'm thrilled about) but still keeping the story semi-scripted?  I can be pretty flexible about the storyline, but I don't want to be too flexible.

Hope all is well!!!


My response:
I think your problem is a happy one - they sound like they are really engaged and having fun.  I do try to take input when I possibly can without derailing the story completely.  I think you have to just be the judge-in-the-moment of when you have time for a quick side plot or comment or detail, and when you really have to stick to the target phrase list.  Sometimes I take their input even if they didn't already know the word in Spanish, and just say, “Ok, he takes off in a rocket would be ‘sale en un cohete.’  Ok, el chico sale en un cohete…” Then just pick back up where you were in the story:  “y llega a la casa de La Sra. Doubtfire.”  

If you feel like you're arguing with them a lot about this, tell them you need to make sure the target phrases get in the story so they can learn them, so please hold their ideas until later and they can make up their own version. Then maybe let them write their own version of the story the next day in groups and act it out or something (if you have time.)  If you have a bunch of loud, creative kids, give them an outlet for it if you can, and enjoy the fact that they are so enthusiastic about your class.  (Well, that’s how I choose to look at it when they start driving me nuts with suggestions for this or that, anyway!  “Ms. Waltman, we should do this.  Ms. Waltman, you should do that.  Why don’t we ever ____.”  I get a lot of that sometimes from certain students.  It’s actually a sign of affection…see my post on “Affectionate Whining.”)  

Another idea would be right after you tell the scripted version of the story, have them tell the story to their partner with whatever changes they want to make.  Of course, as you walk around, they are going to be asking "How do you say chainsaw?  How do you say duct tape?  How do you say man-eating aardvark?" so you have to either tell them (if you know off the top of your head,) say I don't know, tell them to just say aardvark for that part, and let them have their fun.

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