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1) Large classes
2) Off task students
3) Maintaining student attention throughout a ten or fifteen minute story-asking session
4) Keeping it simple and not deviating from the target structures
As a result I’ve been especially eager to find activities designed to keep students engaged and participating in story-asking sessions. Years ago, at the iFTL conference in San Diego, I attended a workshop by Ben Slavic and he had a variety of jobs that he assigned to students during Story-asking activities. (Some especially popular jobs with my students are the “human dictionary,” “artist,” and the “English police.” You can read more about them here.) Unfortunately, I’ve found that with classes of 25+ students of varying degrees of ability, there are simply not enough jobs to go around! In a recent search, I came across Cynthia Hitz’s post on Guided Story-asking and I think I may have found a solution (absolutely one of my favorite blogs and I had the great pleasure of meeting her and attending one of her awesome sessions at ACTFL 2014)!
Yesterday in class, I started out the story-asking session by reminding students what the purpose of the activity was. I explained that we were working towards “acquiring” new vocabulary and that in order to be successful we needed to hear these new structures at least 250 (a completely made up number but it gave the students a goal!) times in a meaningful context. I asked all students to be mindful of the number of times we used each structure (another one of Ben Slavic’s strategies). I then began by handing out the guided story-asking grid and asking for “sugerencias.”
I pulled out a huge roll of raffle tickets as an incentive for active participation. I proceeded by taking three suggestions from the class and then voting on the best answer. My target structures were "Debe avisar," "se le acercó," and "le dolía." The grid I used is below:
Unfortunately, I think my story was a little long and taking three suggestions and voting on each one took way too much time. I teach 50 minute periods and getting through two rows of the grid took two class periods. I ended by having the students finish the third row as homework. (We will vote on who has the best story next week in class.) I think the trick for next time will be to simplify (maybe even shorten) the grid and take fewer student suggestions.