Are you interested in using stories and other comprehensible input methods in your language classroom? I’ve received a few questions on Instagram about how I do stories in my Spanish class. There is a LOT to this, but I’m going to go ahead and try my best! There are two main ways we do stories: storytelling and story asking. Let’s start off with my understanding of the differences. I’m also learning about CI methods, so I’m a little fuzzy on some of the subtle nuances, but here we go!
Story Asking in Spanish Class
Story Asking is simultaneously telling a story and asking for details from the students. If you have multiple classes, you’ll have multiple versions of the story because every class will come up with different details. You can do this pretty open-ended, or you can just choose a few specific details for them to decide. For example,
Teacher: Class, there was a boy. What was the boy’s name? (Class gives suggestions. You can pick and choose from the suggestions, or you can put it to a vote. Sometimes there’s no need for a vote, someone will come up with a suggestion that is amazing and everyone loves it.) Okay class, the boy’s name is Jim. What does Jim look like? Is he tall? Short? Old? Young? (This is a great way to practice adjectives, and you can really develop ownership of the character!) Okay, class, Jim is tall, shy, and funny.
You can easily spend a whole class period developing a character as they describe them, and that’s great practice, especially if you’re *supposed* to cover adjectives! Let them choose the setting and different aspects of the conflict. (Where is he? Why is he sad, class? He’s sad because he doesn’t have any beets? Jim wants beets? Why does Jim want beets? Oh, okay. Jim is in Pennsylvania and he’s sad because he wants beets to give to Dwight, but he doesn’t have any.)
Plus side to this is that the stories are 10,000x more hilarious than anything I come up with on my own. They also are a lot more connected and engaged with the story, because they’re creating it!
Don’t Sweat the Details
When I first heard of this I was really worried. Every class has a different story? How on EARTH will I keep them straight? Well, first off, you won’t. Just accept that right now. And you don’t need to! You have like.. 30 some students (25 if you’re lucky, yea?) to remember details for you. They’ll think you’re quizzing them when really the mental dialogue is more like, *What hour is this? Do we have a green one-eyed monster or a purple nineteen armed monster? Arianna Spears? What did the blue unicorn want?* That’s okay! Students get more input, and everyone gets a refresh on the story from yesterday. Another bonus to recycling stories like this from day to day is that students who were absent get caught up on what they missed.
Story Telling in Spanish Class
Story Telling is just what it sounds like. You tell the students a story! There’s no asking for details involved. You have written (or found) a story to use ahead of time and tell it to the students. This is a lot faster because there’s no deciding the details, but in my experience, there’s less buy-in and engagement due to less personalization and ownership. For me, the engagement really needs to come in during personalized questions and answers (PQA). Make comparisons with students in class and connect with them.
Teacher: (Character) doesn’t have a notebook. Do you have a notebook? Class, who has a notebook? What color is your notebook? Oh, Sue has a blue notebook. Do I have a notebook? Nope, I don’t, but Sue does. Who else has a blue notebook? Sue and Cindy have blue notebooks. Who doesn’t have a blue notebook? Do you need a blue notebook?
Seriously. You wouldn’t think chatting about school supplies would be interesting but chat about pencils, pens, and notebooks and pretty soon they’re dying to find their notebook to show everyone. (Friendly reminder that I teach high school students.) You can do this with anything! The character has a pet? Who else has a pet? What kind? Describe the pet. Okay, who doesn’t have a pet, but wants a pet? Who has a pet, but doesn’t want it? Make the story about them and they’ll love it.
Which Do You Use, and Why?
Just like anything, there’s a time and a place for each tool. Sometimes your classroom needs the engagement and “hook” from story asking. Some days, energy is really low and they would prefer to just have you tell the story. You can also try out Story Listening (they literally just listen to you tell the story!) and Story Drawing (I bet you can guess that one). Each of these strategies has subtle differences that are a nice way to change up the routine but don’t involve a ton of extra prep on your part. I really suggest you try each one out and see what you like the best!
Have you tried storytelling and story asking in your Spanish Class? Drop a comment below and let me know!