Parallel stories

I am always telling people who have tough AP-type texts to make parallel stories, but I rarely follow my own advice, often choosing to make those texts into embedded readings.

Well, today I realized that I still hadn’t gotten around to typing my Moscow Metro reading into an embedded story form. I also hadn’t even made copies of the reading. So I looked at the reading and improvised, standing in front of the classroom.

“Class, we’re going to talk about an alternate form of transportation today.”
Students: the metro!
Flying cars!
“You’re right! Where are the flying cars?”
Much discussion…Hill Valley, California.
“When did they begin to build the flying car system?”
In 2035.
“Where are the flying car stations?”
Much discussion; ends up that they are in three places: underground, on the tops of buildings, and in the clouds.
“What letters on the signs mark the stations?”
Giant “M’s” with wings. (But the ones on the clouds are flags, not signs.)

One student was confounded because she missed the point that we were telling a story, and she thought that everyone was believing it. Then there was the issue that the kids were very noisy about this whole thing. They get into arguments. The science kids wanted to explain that if the stations were all underground, that would weaken the city’s foundation. Other kids were adamant that if the stations were on top of buildings, then there would be too many people in the buildings. A student who suggested that people already know how to fly and could thus just fly up and get into the flying cars was almost shouted out, because if people can fly, why would they need flying cars?

I felt the need, when the one student didn’t get that we were imagining things, to stop and explain that the nefarious teacher purpose was to teach the structures and the basic essay plan that students would need to be able to read the upcoming piece on the metro. The kids looked at me blankly, and finally said, “But that’s what we always do. Why do you need to explain it?” I hadn’t realized that they knew what was up and just completely suspended their disbelief for the sake of the class.

Getting agreement on those few pieces took more than an hour (including a ten-minute fast write). After that, we discussed our personae for the Moscow move. We’re almost half-way through the members of the class. It’s slower than I could ever have expected, but we have had three presentations on Moscow places from the class’ native speakers and a few readings and a song, as well as a virtual tour of the city. Slow going though!


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