Projects to end the year

It’s getting to the end of the year! I know, you’re thinking, “But it’s only February!” And that is true, but at the same time, I will only have about 25 more class days with my students, which is a blink of an eye.

At the end of every year, I give my students a project. Usually, this is a story-writing activity. In practice, it is like a pumped-up free write: the students have a certain amount of time to write as much as they can in a TPRS story format. This year will be the same, but with some tweaks:

First, they will be doing 2 different projects!

The new project is based on an OWI character. After having FVR for 6:30 minutes every class day, I see that some of the most popular books are short story collections like El Ratón Pablito and La familia de Federico Rico, both by Craig Klein Dexemple. These readers are easy for the kids to pick up because they are not linear narratives, they are collections of stories about one character. Reflecting on their popularity, it occurred to me, why not make a whole bunch more? And why not have the kids write them themselves?

Each of my middle school classes worked together with me to create OWI characters (6-one for each of my middle school classes). Next, the students will write their own adventures for our characters to have.I am looking forward to seeing what they come up with and to seeing their faces when they realize their work will be available in the classroom library.

The second project is the same as I did last year: the students will write stories for the students at an orphanage in Mexico City that our school partners with. These stories (along with author autobiographies) will be sent to the school at the orphanage there as a gift. Last year, this project was really engaging for our students because it had a real purpose: to be a gift and a way to introduce ourselves to the kids we so often help with food and school supply drives.

How I Support Students During the Writing Process

I have found that just telling students, “Write a 100 word story in Spanish” can have very interesting results. It’s great for a free-write situation, but since we will be writing these stories for audiences, the kids will have to consider a few more things than they’re used to:

Audience – who is this for? Who will be reading it? The answer to both of those questions is: Students at our school (for the first) and students at a school in Mexico. As such, they will have to consider vocabulary. If their stories are filled with words that no one knows except for me, then it will not be successful for the students who will be reading in the future. That being said, they will have a maximum of 5 translation footnotes in their stories.

On top of the vocabulary considerations, their stories can’t be filled with the hyper-specific references to memes and youtube videos and other pop cultural media that won’t translate to students in another country (or to other students in this country who are in different peer-groups).

Format – the first project’s stories are going to be compiled into a larger book, so they will have to be set up to look similar so that the readers will know where the stories start and end.

In order to help them get started, I hand out this sheet:

Each TPRS-style story has a very concrete scaffold that the students can follow. We have already described the character. Next, they will have to choose locations for the character to travel to in order to find what they need/solve their problem. In each location, there will be another character to talk to and the students have to describe them as well.

Armed with this information (which I will check over for linguistic- and content-appropriateness before they write their rough drafts), they can write a story that hits all of the required beats and focus on writing the story language accurately. They have a structure that they can follow to let their sense of humor and creativity flow in a way that they will be able to manage without resorting to looking up every other word or using Google to translate.

For the second project, there is more wiggle room on format because the book will be set up slightly differently: The stories will all be about different characters/topics and there will be autobiographies of the authors after each story.

Making Our Way to the End

It’s always hard to get to the end of the year – there is so much paperwork and grading and there are so many events that take away from our class time. I am excited to get these projects started early so they can be finished early and added to the FVR library.

I hope that you can make use of the story map sheet. Please feel free to use it and make any changes you need to for your classes!

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