Stories Without End in the Classroom

I was recently uploading more individual stories without end (from Taylor’s wonderful book) to Teachers Pay Teachers. One of the pieces of information you need to fill out there is how long the material will take to use. Well, the stories are designed to be adaptable so they can be used in one class period, or stretched out over several periods. There are a lot of ways to use Stories Without End in the classroom.

Obviously timing depends on the length of the story as well as the level of your learners, and how fast they read. In addition, there are a number of extension activities that you can choose to use or not. How you approach the vocabulary preview and the before you read question will also affect timing.

However, we’ve found teachers do fall into some standard patterns. There seem to be three ways to use Stories Without End in the classroom. But there are a few things every teacher should be doing:

  • Have students keep a vocabulary notebook so they retain the new vocab they are exposed to.
  • Give students all the time and support they need to read and comprehend the story.
  • Align the time you given them writing with your expectations. If you’re using this as a filler activity, students can write a story in class, then revise for homework. On the other hand, if you want students to produce a polished story that will weigh into their grade significantly, they will need more time, the opportunity to write multiple drafts, and chances to get class and teacher feedback.

One Session

1. Some teachers do them in one 45-60 minute class period. This works best with the Short Takes (all of which are now up on our Teachers Pay Teachers Store). Students can go through the preview questions and the vocabulary as a class or in small groups.

Then have them move on to the story itself. Let them read individually and go around the room, as you provide support to anyone who needs it.
Let them thinking about the After you Read discussion questions, then go over them in groups or pairs. Finally, have them draft their ending with remaining class time to finish for homework.

This way is quick and doesn’t allow for much reflecting or editing, and it may be hard to fit in the extension activities. However, students get the benefits of reading and the practice in creative writing. You may want to use this quick method to generate a few drafts, then have students pick their best work to go back and revise for a final submission.

2-3 Sessions

2. If you want to do the stories in 2-3 days, here’s a great way to do it!
Assign the Before you Read questions and the vocabulary for homework the night before. That way, students come in prepared to read.

In class, discuss the Before you Read questions. You can have students share their prepared answers in pairs or groups, go over them as a full-class, or have them interview each other and analyze the answers. Some questions even lend themselves to a short debate!

Ensure students are set on the vocabulary, and then have students read the stories in reading groups. That way, they can support each other’s comprehension. As class time permits, tackle the After You Read questions. For homework at the end of day one, have them draft an ending.

For day two, plan a writer’s workshop where students continue to work on their endings, revise them, provide peer feedback (and perhaps get feedback from you as well). You may want to continue working with the After You Read questions or tackle one of the other projects as well, depending on your time constraints.

Longer Term

3. Finally, it’s possible to stretch the book out and make it part of a longer lesson plan. To start with, for homework have students interview friends, family, host-families, or even the public about the Before You Read questions.

On the first day of class, students can discuss or debate the various opinions and ideas they’ve been exposed to. This can lead to a very deep reflection on the themes of the story and help students write a deeper ending when the time comes.

Another advantage of stretching out the activity is that you can spend some time doing vocabulary work. One of my favorite ways to teach new vocabulary is to have students work on the words in pairs, then use context sentences to guess the meanings, before going over them as a class. I then go on to give them a few activities in word-recognition. (You can purchase a whole vocabulary lesson plan framework here). You can then have students read the story in reading groups, as time permits. For homework, let them re-read the story individually.

On day 2, take time to address any questions or problems students have with comprehension. This might be a good time to cover any common mistakes with vocabulary or general misunderstandings about the story that you’ve been hearing.

Then have then look at the After You Read questions in pairs. Go over them as a class, or have students form new pairs/groups or two pairs, to discuss the questions. Students should be more than ready to come up with their own endings at this point. However, if you have the time, I love to introduce students to collective writing techniques.
In groups, students can do any or all of the following:

  • brainstorm ideas together
  • workshop each other’s ideas, giving advice and constructive criticism
  • plot a group story, with everyone adding in their own ideas (a variation of Yes, And)
  • Actually create a story as a group, orally or in written form.
  • Do a story-writing game such as Exquisite Corpse.

Then for homework, students can pursue their own individual ideas, taking the best of the ideas they came up with in a group. Have students outline or write a draft to bring in on day three.

On day three, students can continue to work on their drafts, workshopping what they have written with a peer group and in a writing conference with you, the teacher. By the end of the day, students should have an excellent first draft which you can then take and provide detailed critiques of.

When students get their draft back (we’ll call this day four although it may not be consecutive), students can revise and produce a draft for homework. During class time, take on one of the extension projects such as dramatizing the story or writing a detailed summary. These make for excellent group projects that can fill a class session and be finalized for homework.

If you really want to extend the lesson out, when students have gotten their final drafts of their endings back, let them dramatize or videotape their completed stories. You may want to have students do this in groups, in which case they will have to choose whose ending to work with. So think about grouping students who wrote similar conclusions. To do a good job, dramatizing a script will take

  • a planning period where students outline their drama (supplements provided in the back of the book)
  • A script-writing period (or enough rehearsal time to be able to memorize their lines)
  • A rehearsal period
  • A performance period, where students perform for each other and/or videotape their creations.
  • Evaluation, where they get feedback on their performances.

How do You Use Stories Without End in the classroom? Leave a comment or contact us and let us know!

For more posts about using Stories Without End in the classroom, check out:

And check out Stories Without End, as well as Taylor’s other innovative book, What Would You Do?

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