Roberto e Isabella: StoryAsking!
First story-ask of the year was… a success! Phew.
The first time I story-asked, using Martina Bex’s La muchacha y la ardilla regular AR preterite Unit, I was terrified. No joke. And totally clueless when it came to circling. Let’s be honest, my circling still needs work, but it’s come a long, long way since that first story! Which ended up being about girl named Josefina who spares the life of a whale and goat because they are in love. Bambi isn’t so lucky…
(Is it just me, or are everyone’s middle schoolers strangely violent? I’m going to take Señor Wooly’s dark humor as confirmation that maybe it’s not just me…)
But what is story-asking? What is circling? According to Martina Bex, “Circling is the instructional practice of asking a series of prescribed questions in the target language about a statement in the target language.” Using this technique and a basic outline of plot, the teacher and class create a story together with the students suggesting details and the teacher repeating the crap out of certain chunks of new language.
Circling is hard because it’s so forced. No one talks like this. And it’s hard for me to remember the order in which to ask the different follow up questions. If you don’t get in enough repetitions before you jump to part where they parrot things back to you, well, you’re going to have a lot of very confused parrots.
I’ve been following Alison Wienhold’s Back to Spanish Class High Frequency Word Unit on the Super 7 to start the year in both Spanish 2 and Spanish 3/4. It’s been a really great way to get know my new students and begin to build classroom community in which our classmates are a source of Spanish input. (I’m trying to break the pattern of when students speak Spanish only with the teacher. Grrrr...So annoying.)
I looked at Martina’s circling chart about a thousand times before class and made a script for myself based on Allison’s story outline. And I introduced it this way to the students: with Sponge Bob. You know, Imaaaaaginaaaation? Once I established they understood this reference (you never know when that kind of things goes and all of a sudden you are OLD), I told them the following:
“We’re going to write a story together as a class. I’m going to ask you a lot of questions in Spanish. I don’t know the answers because the story doesn’t exist yet. I need three things from you: your attention, your Spanish, and your creativity.”
I repeated that last part, “your attention, your Spanish, and your creativity,” and pointed to my Interpersonal Communication Skills Posters, also from Mis Clases Locas, as I did so. And they did great! I mean, the protagonist ended up murdering all her cats because her crush was allergic, but whatever keeps ‘em interested! Spanish 3/4 more tamely ended with a love triangle. Excited to keep storyasking with this goofy group!