Creating student story drafts

With my German I classes today I decided to put a different twist on student-generated stories by working with multiple drafts.  In the past when I have put people directly in groups to bang out a story, I’ll get as much chit chat as work, so I tried a different approach.

Step one: I gave everybody an 1/8 sheet of paper, a beginning to the story (“Mrs. Black gets a present.”  It’s my wife’s birthday today), and three structures (“looks”, “shows”, “doesn’t know.” ) I put an online timer up on the screen and gave them five minutes to bang out a story.

Step two: I put everybody in groups of 3-4 (randomly generated) with the instructions to write a story that puts all of the group members’ stories together.  At the same time I gave the group a 4-picture sheet and instructed them to illustrate their stories over the course of four panels.  This time they got around 10 minutes to write the composite story and draw the pictures.

So when they turned everything in, I had them staple the original stories (1/8 sheets of paper), the composite story (half sheet of paper) and the drawings (full sheets of paper) together.  Tonight I simply type up the final versions, show the pictures to it on the overhead (or scan them if I get the time) and we’ve got plenty of reading to go around.

Observations: The writing process actually did go much smoother because everybody had something to say before they got into groups.  People stayed pretty well on task, and by collecting each stage of the process I have a better documentation to provide accountability (only one person out of 40 students didn’t do much, and that became pretty apparent in the process).  Overall I liked it because there was a lot more buy-in than normal.  I think if I did this with my intermediate to advanced classes I could ask them to write the drafts in German rather than English, so maybe I’ll see on that next week.


4 responses to “Creating student story drafts

  1. Hi Nathan,
    Happy New Year! Love your idea (like all ideas of yours)!! Do I understand you correctly – you have the kids do the whole process in English? I assume your German 1s are in their first year, otherwise I am sure that even 2nd year kids (my German 1s are in their second year, we call the first year German 7) could handle doing the writing in the TL.


  2. I like this twist a lot, Nathan, especially if it helps you get a bunch of stories for later. I would probably have kids do it in English at any level, just because they can’t yet really use the new structures, and I don’t always know what they’re saying if they’re trying to write fast, use new structures, AND write in Russian. So it would be interesting to try doing this in TL, giving them a longer time to do it.

    Happy birthday to your wife! I also really like that idea of a story starter with skeleton stories, no matter whether I try it with a short time frame or a longer one.


  3. Yes, my German I students are all true first year students, so English is pretty mandatory there. That said, I like MJ’s point about not having command of the structure yet out of the gates for intermediate and advanced levels. Reading through both of your commments, I think I might try having my upper level kids do the first draft (individual stories) in English and the second draft (group stories) in German, because that way I might filter out all of the explosions of thoughts that nobody knows how to say (or understand) except me. I’ll mess around with it next week. It’s sure nice to have a classroom laboratory at hand to try new stuff out on (which is what I miss the most during the summer).


  4. I really like this concept of individual thoughts put together in a group story. Will certainly try that soon. Here is how it happens in one of my classes so far.

    I am still a very beginner TPRS’er but I was lucky to have a dream class at my new school. They are in third year with some MS exposure; however, their language skills were not up to what I would expect them to be. It’s a great class mainly because they’ve all been together for a while, they all know each other well and there is this sense of community and good camaraderie. So I’ve been using this to make my life easier.

    When we get to new chunk of vocabulary, I hand them 1/4 piece of paper and they have to 3-5 min at the end of class to use all of the structures to create a story in English with a partner. I collect them and use them for storytelling, reading and million other activities. I don’t have to circle that much because I have many stories. Oh, almost forgot, they use each other in the stories and, of course, as I tell the stories or as we read them by paragraph form the Smart Board, they all are on the edge of their seats to find out what happens next. The best ones were love stories, I had to use them all: so funny, creative, and never negative. Love that class!


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