As I shared in my last post, an improvisation activity with my classroom of third graders proved to be a highly engaging and productive tool. During this activity the students eagerly shared observations, ideas, and suggestions for additional character actions and dialog. These were then transcribed onto boards to be used for later reference. At the close of the improv activity, the students had also written or drawn scenes that would serve as the “middle” of their own stories.
Now the students were ready to craft complete stories with a beginning, middle and end. This connected directly to their English Language Arts (ELA) curriculum, and helped them practice sequencing skills in story writing.
First, I shared examples of beginnings, and then I instructed them to create a beginning. I continued to encourage individualized choices, making their stories unique. Then I challenged them to create original endings, other that “then the alien ate him” or “then she woke up”. To help with brainstorming, I had students discuss and share ideas for different endings. The teacher transcribed these onto the board, providing the students with options for comprehension as well as ideas for their stories.
The students were allowed to write or draw their stories, giving them options for expression. Most of them chose to do both. For the special needs students, we transcribed their story ideas onto the board so that that could copy them. The ESL students were given the option to write their stories in Portuguese or English. To the ESL teacher’s surprise, they all chose English.
A particular challenge that I had was to show the students ways to show a progression of time in their sequential drawings. For the written stories, we emphasized transition and time words such as one day, then, later, finally, etc. I needed to provide pictorial equivalents for these. So I showed them how to draw the sun, moon, and clocks, all indicators of specific times. These examples were left on the boards for the students’ comprehension and reference.
All of the students eagerly worked on their stories and shared their ideas with each other, while the teachers and I continued to do transcriptions for the students with special needs, as well as extra listening to help the oldest student select his “best choices” for the story.
With our journey nearing the end, we closed the residency with a sharing session in which students volunteered to read their stories to the class. We also “published” the students’ work in a photocopied booklet, which was kept in the classroom library for all students to read.
This teaching experience left an indelible impression on me. In my next and final installment, I will reflect on the students’, teachers’, and my own learning.