Progressive Stories are as easy as 1,2,3!

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Last month I asked the lower elementary school if they would be interested in writing a story together in a way that is known to be called a “progressive” story.

Setting it up was simple. My first grade class started the story, we sent it to a second grade class, they sent it to our kindergarten, then it went to the other second grade class and finished with the other first grade classes. For those good with numbers, that is a story with five sections 🙂 Altogether it took us one week to finish with each teacher taking one 45 minute block to write the story, and the using center time, free time, or another language arts block to draw the illustrations.

Each class drew three illustrations to go with their section of the story (next time we do it I may ask for 4 illustrations per section) I shared a few of them at the beginning of this post. The pictures were put together and a few students from each class narrated the story. This video is the final result:

As the classes work on their sections I heard from the teachers how excited their students were about this story. They were able to modify the activity based on each grade’s level and worked in what they were studying in language arts. From bold beginnings to adjectives to mighty middles and excellent endings, it is neat seeing the whole story put together.

Here it is in written form:

In a classic classroom on a cold day, there was a kind teacher named Miss White. Dress in white from head to toe, she also wore a magical pearl necklace. On this cold day it started to snow. At first the snow fell gently and then it fell faster and faster. Miss White looked out the window and saw the snow swirling. The wind began to whistle and blow. Suddenly, a snow monster appeared! (1W)

The massive snow monster looked around and saw Miss. White. He threw dirty snowballs to her class, and covered Miss White’s class window. Miss White’s students were so scared and hid under their desks. Miss White touched her magical pearl necklace and said, “White White Miss White, turn my students into superheroes.” All 20 students turned into strong superheroes. Then the superheroes opened the gigantic window and flew out quickly. (2H)

A good snow monster comes and  punches the bad snow monster! All the jungle animals come to help the kids fight the snow monster. There is a gorilla, a monkey, a giraffe, a T-Rex, a gecko, an alligator, a crocodile, a tiger, and a lion. The super hero kids see little eyes outside in the snow too.  They are angry, bad robbers! It is a trap! Then the snow monster eats all 20 of the superheroes! The jungle animals run and hide behind the mountain.  The bad snow monster kills the good snow monster! The bad snow monster and the robbers try to find the jungle animals. The jungle animals jump out and fight the bad snow monster and the robbers.  Oh no! How will the super kids get out of the bad monster’s tummy? (K)

One animal caught a robber and threw him and hit the snow monster, so it fell over. But the snow monster reappeared because it was indestructible.  The tiger and the lion rebuilt two new snow monsters from the body of the old good snow monster.  Then the two good snow monsters punched and kicked the bad monster and the robbers.  The super heroes punched the snow monster from inside his tummy.  The snow broke and the super heroes flew out.  Miss White had a book that told all the things that her magical necklace could do.  She looked up how to get rid of a snow monster. Miss White found that the only way to get rid of the monster was with fire.  The children said to the bad monster, “Miss White is going to put fire on you.”  The pearls shot fire at the monster, but it didn’t hurt anybody else.  The monster screamed because it was painful.  The fire police came and made a very humongous, humongous (the biggest in the world) campfire. (2F)

Ms. White touched her magical pearl necklace and said, “One of the jungle animals please trip the bad snow monster so he falls into the fire!”. Just then, two of the monkeys tied their tails together and ran in front of the snow monsters feet. They pulled their tails tight. The T-Rex stood near the fire and distracted the snow monster. The snow monster started to run towards the T-Rex. His feet tripped on the monkeys and he fell into the fire. He screamed as he melted away, “AHHHHHHHHHHH!!!”. The fire police caught the robbers and took them to jail. The superheros were turned back to students when Ms. White rubbed her necklace again. They went back to doing their work. The jungle animals came out from the mountain cheering, “GOOD JOB, THANK YOU, YAAAAAAY!”. Before they left to go back to the jungle the animals gave the students a fun ride on their backs. Everyone said thank you to each other for helping.  (1P)

The first question my students asked when the story was complete? “When can we write another one?”

What are learning engagements you do to get your students excited about writing? We would love to hear your ideas, and it just so happens that we have a comment section!

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Guest Blog Post: Competing to Learn

Carolyn has taught all over the world, including Hong Kong and Switzerland.  Currently, she is teaching at a large international school here in Seoul. In addition to teaching high school classes in publications, newspapers and communications, she is the head of their school newspaper. I’m so thankful to have met her at my church here where we both serve on the Hub, our church’s newsletter.

Korean kids love competition. This can be a bad thing when it leads to pressure and cheating, but it can be a good thing if you, say, have two classes with the same learning objectives and want them to compete to demonstrate an understanding of those objectives and win a contest.

I tried this a few weeks ago when I had my two Introduction to Publications classes compete to attend the events and “cover” our annual High School English Week. They interviewed teachers, students and administrators about their participation in the English week activities, such as Poetry with the Principal and performances by the Drama 1 & 2 classes. At the same time, by attending and writing the story or taking photos, they participated in English Week themselves! At the end of the week, the editors, copy editors and layout artists met and planned their two-page newsletter, and the following Monday, they stayed after school to finalize, print and submit their papers, with a little help from their advanced peers on the school newspaper, Tiger Times. The “A+ Report” ended up “beating” the “EW Herald.” While the EW (English Week) Herald was judged by the English Department Chair, the principal and me to have had better quality stories and photos, the A+ Report (Period A Intro to Pub.—they named their own publications too!) had better overall coverage with an optional info-graphic, two cartoons and an article that “covered” the whole week.

The prize was not an A+, something that most kids aspire to, but a pizza party. Since this was a first period class, I brought doughnuts and pastries instead, but they mostly just enjoyed the prestige of winning. Everyone deserved a congratulations, though, as they all participated, worked hard and finalized their own original publication, which is what I personally enjoyed the most. The croissants were pretty good, though, too.

Editor-in-chief helps to finish the layout of the A+ Herald with their copy editors and layout artist.

The editor-in-chief & copy writer work to finalize the EW Report.

Writing Across the School

Every year, our school has a tradition, where we write across the different elementary classrooms around common photos/drawings/paintings. It started off a few years ago, where during the first time, we used the famous illustrations from Chris Van Allsburg‘s, The Mysteries of Harris Burdick. Each of his drawing has a line that goes with it. The students from all of the elementary classes, each chose one of the photos to write about. They each wrote their own story, starting with the line from the photo. Then, we hung up all the stories for each photo on the walls of our school. It was so interesting to see the different stories that students came up with from Kindergarten to 5th grade.

Last year, we used photos from different Allen Say books. He has great photos in his picture books with Asian characters. This year, our theme is Norman Rockwell. We are using different paintings of his that the students are writing stories about. Our awesome literacy coach made color copies of the photos and laminated 2 sets so the elementary teachers can borrow them. Here are a few of the paintings the students can choose from.

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I’m excited to see what kind of stories the students will come up with this year!

P.S. Melody is going to the EARCOS 2012 conference next week in Bangkok, Thailand! Anyone else going to be there?!