We’re still working on the holiday hero unit in the advanced class. I could not find the easy reading I thought I had about Baba Yaga. I asked an exchange student to simplify with repetitive language any interesting text that she could find about Baba Yaga. She turned a four-page story into a four-paragraph one. It was still complex, so I duplicated her text and took out a bunch of the extraneous details as a step-two text. Then I duplicated that and took out all but the most essential parts for the first reading.
In class, I asked a story that paralleled the first text: a one-legged salmon had a cousin and an uncle. The uncle died when a bear ran over him in the forest. Then the salmon had to swim to San Francisco, where people loved him. Meanwhile, his new uncle didn’t like his cousin and sent him off to the witch Baba Yaga, who wanted to eat the cousin. He escaped and ran home to tell his father (who had returned) the truth about the new uncle.
The first-step story was basically the same, except that of course it was when a man’s wife died that his new wife took the first opportunity to send her step-daughter off to the witch’s hut. The girl escaped, and she ran home to tell her father, who sent the new wife packing.
We did the readings after having told the salmon story. I could have easily spread them out over about four days, but instead we read all three levels immediately.
What always amazes me with embedded stories is that the kids are hooked by the story that relates to theirs (Darn! I just realized I forgot to ask parallel questions) and then as they read the following levels, they enjoy getting “more” of the story. In this case, there was extra cultural information in the story–the witch heated up the sauna in order to wash her meal before eating it–as well as fairy-tale details about a forest springing up from a comb and a river from a towel that protect the girl from the witch.
We ran out of time. First, we’re going to do group re-tells of either the salmon story or the Russian tale, after they answer some questions about them and put the sentences in order (we have our second day of the semester in the computer lab tomorrow, and I have been frantically trying to figure out how to make it CI). Then I’m going to type up our salmon story and let kids enlarge on it. Then students get to write their own simple stories that must include cultural information about the hero that they were studying.