Madlib Writing Activity, With A Twist

Starting With A Class Created Story

I have talked about using this activity in the past. It is in Blaine Ray’s book, Fluency Through TPR Storytelling. In the activity, I ask the details to a story and the students come up with all the particulars (where, when, how old, names, locations, anything you can think of). I used this activity with the fourth grade to great effect. The kids loved it and created some really silly stories. We got in lots of repetitions and lots of input in a highly engaging way.

In the comments for the activity, another teacher (Bu Cathy, who teaches Indonesian) asked me about where to go from there. I made some suggestions like drawing the story, students write comprehension questions, students answer comprehension questions, or students extend the story.

This week, with the fifth grade, I did something a little different…

In each 5th Grade classroom, we came up with original stories as a group and then the kids wrote their own endings.

Story 1:


Story 2


The kids voted on each answer–the bold sections of the stories.

(The kids in one class were dominated by a group of boys who wanted the characters to be Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles).

Writing Activity

After voting on the story together and asking lots of comprehension questions, the kids took the story and continued it on their own. They had the beginning and the statement of what the problem was that the main character had. How they solved it was up to them. Before starting, we looked at some of the other stories that we have read so far this year that have the same or similar structures (someone wants something but doesn’t have it and goes on a search to find it). This was to help to give them some ideas on how to resolve the story.

They came up with some great endings: some silly, some subdued, some simple, and some detailed. All of them, though, were great in that they gave the kids something to write about that they cared about more than re-telling me a story I told them. Additionally, they felt more attachment to the activity because I told them what would happen next…

Extending the Writing Activity: The Twist

Before starting with each class, I encouraged them to make interesting story decisions. I told them that their story would be the basis for a story to tell the other class. I did this before, but last time I did it, I just had the other class listen to the story. It was interesting and engaging, but I thought it was a little flat; it didn’t feel that different from what we always do. If there’s anything that I have learned through doing TPRS over half a year, the kids start to get sick of stories if that’s all you do. They crave something different and novel. That’s why I tried to throw a twist into the TPRS routine that I have fallen into.

After finishing the Madlib and extended writing activities with each class, I typed up the stories in PowerPoint. I then projected them for the other group and we compared and contrasted the 2 stories. I built up suspense by making the story visible one line at a time. This had the double effect of allowing them to try to remember the story they came up with without being distracted and it built suspense and interest in the new story.

The students were really interested to hear what the other class came up with. Then, after asking the story and circling between both stories (the one that they heard and the one that they created), they wrote an ending to the new story.

Beyond the Writing Activity

Next, I plan to make some copies of the stories that the kids wrote and use them as reading activities for the classes. Then, we can discuss the new stories.


Lesson Plan:


  • Students listen to and show comprehension of stories in Spanish through questioning in target language
  • Students extend story using common vocabulary learned up to this point in the course


  1. Intro story idea by telling students they will be creating a story for another grade level group
  2. Students take 4-6 minutes to review/reread stories we have read in class up to this point (using Blaine Ray’s Look, I Can Talk Extended Readings Text)
    1. Possible discussion activity – students list things all the stories have in common
  3. Teacher writes the beginning of the sentence up on the board and students vote on answer
    1. Teacher circles questions for each sentence
    2. Example questions (the questions that I used in order to get the story starters above):
      1. ¿Había un chico o una chica?
      2. ¿Cómo se llamaba ___?
      3. ¿Cuántos años tenía ___?
      4. ¿Dónde vivía __?
      5. ¿Cómo era ___?
      6. ¿__ tenía un problema?
      7. ¿Qué problema tenía __?
  4. Students extend the story by writing their own extensions to the stories
    1. Requirements:
      1. The character must meet at least 2 people
      2. The character must go to at least 2 different places

Try it in your classes and let me know how it works in the comments!


  1. Looks good. I have only just started. I will include this activity when we have included a few more verbs. Thanks for the detail


  2. I love that you asked questions to get the answers that you needed instead of doing the traditional “gender” or “noun” etc., which is quite incomprehensible to most students, young or old!


  3. Thanks for following up on my question about suggestions!! I have really appreciated all the support and encouragement from the wonderful TCI/TPRS community. Great post about a really great idea which I will add to my ‘tool belt’.
    Thanks too for the link to my class blog! Here too is the link to my professional blog: which may be of some help to other Indonesian teachers interested in exploring TCI pedagogy.


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