Every year one year-end tradition I like to do is to create a “Choose your own adventure” story with my upper level classes. These are the classic books that run something like:
“You walk into a darkened room and hear a faint hissing somewhere. As you look around you notice that there are only two exits: a sturdily built door with rusted hinges and a small cave entrance that seems to be source of the hissing.
If you try to open the door, turn to page 31
If you try to investigate the cave turn to page 18″
Being high school students, there is often a deadly end to various participants and various hijinks involving fellow class members along the way. More often than not, I end up being a murder, a victim, or a zombie. One year my students had various members of our staff being killed off by other members of the staff (Math teacher murdered through chemical poisoning; Assistant principal killed with a piece of the Berlin wall; English teacher murdered with a golf club, etc.). We take pictures of the students around the school, on the school grounds, and at home to illustrate the stories, and they end up looking fabulous.
I love having these books because they make for very compelling reading (I keep an electronic version with hyperlinks that jump us to the next episode. I give my classes classroom responders and have them vote on which ways we should go; I let them go until they die or the storyline they choose ends).
That said, actually planning out these stories is often a daunting process that eats up more time than I want to give it. This year, however, I’m finally doing it with some students who are very well versed in TPRS and I have been surprised at how smoothly and quickly things are progressing. Below I’ll briefly detail what I’ve done so far.
I tell everybody what we’re about to do (they’ve all seen past stories) and ask them if they’re up to the challenge. I let them know if they’re going to screw around, I’ll stop the project on a dime and just finish it myself. But if they will apply themselves, this will be one of the funnest projects they will do all year. Then we vote. And I hold them to it.
Then I hand everybody blank piece of paper and tell them to quickly write for three minutes (in English) any story thoughts that come to mind. They have to write for the full three minutes; if they can’t think of what to say they have to write “um. um. um.” until they do.
After this quick write is done, I let them get into groups of 3-4. At this point they share stories with each other. After about 5 minutes of reading, we decide as a class what they “story frame” will be where all the stories will start from. IN one class we are heading to the computer lab when we find a student dead on the stairway. In another we are taking a walk in the woods and sit down on a bench for a break. All of the various groups need to start their stories from this point.
Once we have that established (which usually takes 3-5 minutes), each group then needs to sit together and write up an outline of how their stories will branch off and come up with a story outline that branches out and incorporates their ideas. For example, one of my group’s outline looks like this:
(This outline continues further, but I cropped it so as to not take up too much space here.)
As you might note, I reserve the right to edit any storylines I deem as inappropriate. I also told them that no more than a third of their storylines can end in death; otherwise it’s just a bloodbath. I still don’t get high school humor completely.
Tomorrow: Day 2 and starting a write-up of the outline.