Here is another collaborative story writing idea (see also Urban Tale and Early Mornings). I first used it with a class of teenagers. They responded well to the topic and the structure and the shyer students enjoyed the “mask” that writing to a role gave them.
Here’s the lesson plan.
Premise: The technique here is one of mixed narrative. It hinges on a key incident. The details of the action are decided before hand and then described from the point of view of three or four key actors.
1 tuning in
I use an image to kick off. I must confess that in the past I’ve used a copyrighted image of a mock-up of a shoplifting scenario. You can see it here. It’s quite difficult to find a creative commons image of someone actually in the act of stealing, as you’d imagine, but I’ve been looking through the flickr creative commons images and I think this one serves the purpose just as well.
I ask the students where the photo was taken, what shoplifting means and if there’s a specific term for it in their language. Then we discuss shpolifting and shoplifters in general: who does it? what do they steal? why do they do it? what kind of shops do they steal from? What should the punishment be? Would you ever consider shoplifting? This can be done in pairs, group, whole class, as you prefer. For me it depends on the size of the class and the mood and dynamic on the day. We often do it whole class with ideas bouncing and growing around the group. It also makes it easier for me to deal with emergent language and make a note of key vocab on the board as it comes up.
2 setting the scene
I explain that the class is going to tell the story of a shoplifting incident. I involve the whole class in deciding what kind of shop, what is stolen, who the shoplifter is, why s/he does it, whether or not s/he is caught and we collect the information on the board.
3 character profiles
In groups of 3 (or 4), students draw up a character profile for 2 (or 3) eye witnesses. One should be accompanying the shoplifter. One should be a customer in the shop. (The third could be the shop assistant, another customer or a security guard).
Each student chooses a character from the scene. One student should be the shoplifter, the others can choose which eye witness report they want to write.
4 eye witness accounts
The students work individually to write their accounts of the events in the first person. The groups then come back together and the students read each others’ texts and iron out any discrepancies.
5 bringing it together
This stage is optional but fun and encourages intensive reading, and quite a lot of useful redrafting. The students decide on how to patch together the mixed narrative. Who speaks first, when to cut in with a new voice, how to finish the account. If they’ve been working on pcs then this can be done by pasting the various accounts into one document and cutting and pasting (Google docs works well for this too). If they’ve been writing on paper, give them scissors to cut the texts up and rearrange them.
Groups read each other’s final products. If possible, ask another class to read and comment on the stories too.
If anybody tries this out in class I’d love to see the final stories – and if I could add a copy or a link here, that’d be really great as I haven’t kept any copies of mine.