Sunday’s For Teachers: A Lesson In Disjointed Storytelling

Please check out my previous Storytelling posts here.  And my 365 Reviews here.

Hey, peeps!  So you know how Sundays are for teachers here on my blog, right?  Well, if you didn’t…they are.  I try to bring some cool teacher-y stuff to you each Sunday.  It might be a cool new book, a lesson idea, or just a rant.  Today, it’s the middle one.

I did what I consider to be a fairly crazy lesson this week in my Creative Writing class.  I’m going to walk you through it, but let me start by saying that while I took three short lessons and had them culminate in the Friday assignment, you can use any of these as a stand-alone lesson, and those of you that do not teach English might even be able to shape some of the parts to your discipline.

Day 1:

Students were placed into random groups of 3-4, using playing cards, making sure each member had a different suit.  I have a ton of poetry magnets on my board, and I spread them out quite a bit.  If you do not know what I’m talking about, they look like this:

I have a couple of different sets, so I have a bunch.  If you bargain shop, you can find them cheap.

I told the students that in two minutes, they would be going to the board in waves based on what card suit they had in their group to select two magnets each, then the next suit would go up, etc.  I did not tell them what specifically they were making, and they were not allowed to speak or show their words once they started going to the board to select.  But for the two minutes before they started going up to the board, they could chat about the types of words each group member would try to snag in hopes of making something that sounded like English.  The students went up to the board until each group had about 16-20 words.  If a group had three members, when the missing suit came up, the group rotated which member went up an extra time.

When they finished taking words, the groups had about ten minutes to assemble the words “into something and take a picture of it.”  Those were my exact instructions.  Some groups made a single sentence; some made a poem; some went more random.

We left for the day.

Day 2:

To teach the students how to formulate dialogue, I handed out a short example of dialogue from a YA novel that had two characters speaking two lines of dialogue each, with one narration line between dialogue lines three and four.  The passage had five indents…if that makes sense.

The students had to select two random trope character cards from me (I have a stack of random character cards) and create a short typed dialogue between the two trope characters that mimicked the style of the sample.  They had to start a Google Doc with their name at the top, space under, their magnet words typed out, space under, then their dialogue activity.

We left for the day.

Day 3-4:

We went down to the library and each student grabbed a fiction book that they thought looked interesting.  We did this quickly because as I said, we were not reading them, we were going to use them for an exercise.  Then we came back to the classroom, and the students, in Google Docs, under their dialogue exercise, had to copy 20 sentences in a row (verbatim) from the book that they chose.

Once the sentences were typed (and here’s the tricky part) they had to ADD an extra sentence after every sentence that they copied, while trying to maintain a sort of understanding with the original text.  This is very difficult.

Then they copied and pasted their 40 sentences under the 40 sentences, removed the sentences copied from the text, and had to smooth out their original 20 sentences to make a collection of text that somewhat made sense.  This part of the week I stole from a creative writing book that I had in my classroom called The 3 A.M. Epiphany which contains a TON of great writing prompts:

Day 5:

So coming into Day 5, each student should have had a Google Doc that had the following:


-Magnet Words

-Dialogue Activity

-Block of 40 Sentences

-Block of 20 Sentences (original)

Friday is the day it all came together.  The students, under their Block of 20 in the Doc had to write the word “New,” and under it, take their Magnet Words, Dialogue, and Block of 20…and combine them with other narration and dialogue to bring it all together in a short 1-2 page short story.  I had them color-code highlight the three parts so I could easily see how and where they incorporated them.

They will be doing a reflection on the activity this week, so I’ll report back on that, but as I was walking around reading some of the stories, they are unique, they read as nothing the kids would have come up with on their own, and they learned about character/dialogue/dealing with complication/and assembling story.

My biggest challenge this week was instructing all of this craziness, and I hope I did a good job explaining it here.  If not, please read it again…and let me know if you have any questions.  This was fun.  The product is looking to be genuinely unique, and it should be interesting to grade.  I will post a couple next week for you to check out!

Happy Storytelling!


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