Saturday, December 01, 2007

Three Little Pigs

Next week, one of my classes will be presenting stories they have made according to my instructions. These stories are based on children's stories. I told them to decide on the story, add a policeman and change the ending, and then write up the result.

It is a long time since I used this activity, but it still works as well as it ever did, and the students are all excited about the stories they have come up with. They are allowed to change as much as they like, I tell them, or just stick to the basic story line. The only stipulation is that I have to be able to recognize the story it came from. Basically, this is a way to get them to write a story. Having somewhere to start from means that even the least imaginative can manage something. The more imaginative go to town. (One gorily memorable time Little Red Riding Hood had a grenade in her basket and Granny was a cleverly disguised terrorist mastermind.)

Yesterday these students were supposed to have their stories ready for me to check. I had given them plenty of time. In the last class – two weeks ago, since last Friday was a holiday – they were supposed to decide with their partner which story they would use, and start writing it. The plan, I told them, was for them to finish writing it for homework and then I'd check it in the next class, which was yesterday. Next week they are presenting the stories to the class.

I knew they would not have done the homework. In fact I was counting on it. I needed a break from that lot (they're not an easy bunch), and a class full of panicked students working away furiously was just what the doctor ordered. It meant that I could write on the board:

PLEASE BRING YOUR STORY TO ME FOR CHECKING.

And then, when they looked guiltily at each other and mumbled excuses, I told them off, then wrote,

IF YOU HAVE NOT FINISHED YOUR HOMEWORK, DO IT NOW!

ASK ME IF YOU NEED HELP.


As I'd predicted, none of the students had even started their 'homework,' and spent the entire class in a writing frenzy. Nobody wanted help, because they weren't far enough along to need any. I was able to sit peacefully at the front watching them and wondering whether anybody would notice if I had a little nap. Now and again, in an effort to stay awake, I did the rounds of the classroom and peered over shoulders, but nobody wanted my input.

Towards the end of the ninety minutes a couple of students came up to me and told me they wanted me to check what they'd done. They had chosen the story of the Three Little Pigs.

I read it through, correcting the mistakes. It was not one of the most imaginative stories I've seen with this activity (no grenades were involved), but it was pretty good. It wasn't long enough, though. I'd told them how long it needed to be, and they were hoping that if they read it slowly it would stretch out that long. I explained to them that they were more likely to get stage fright and gabble the story too fast, making it even shorter. I gave them some tips about dramatic pauses. Then I suggested some extra lines for them.

These lines included such classics as,

"I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll blow your house down!"

They liked that one. That made me remember another one that goes with the story, and I was about to write it when I had a sudden coughing fit. This coughing fit was brought on by my head imploding when I suddenly realized what I had almost done. The line I had just stopped myself from adding would have had the sort of dramatic effect the story could do without.

So I did not add,

"By the hair of my chinny-chin-chin, I will not let you come in!"

I suggested something else, instead.

3 comments:

Radioactive Jam said...

Ah. AH. Drama indeed.

I suppose the original storyteller had no awareness of the Japanese language.

Also you are an extremely devious I mean effective teacher, counting on them not doing their homework.

Keera Ann Fox said...

LOL! Nice *cough* save!

(In my re-write, the wolf is a corrupt cop and "straw" means the things you snort cocain with, the bricks are solid heroin, and the pigs are of course drug dealers. It still ends with the wolf falling into the pot, though. I have no imagination.)

Lia said...

Yeah, probably a good idea to leave that one out. Are fairy tales the same in Japan? I would have thought they'd have their own store of them.

I once had an English teacher make us write a fairy tale "as Shakespeare would have written it". I don't know if that's a good exercise for your students, though.