Cutting Down a Christmas Tree

wants to cut down a Christmas tree
nothing happens

(In this story, a student plays the tree.)

Mattie goes into the forest. She wants to cut down a big Christmas tree. She takes a little ax. She hits the tree 54 times but nothing happens.

She calls Lumberjacks R Us. Fonzie, a big bruising lumberjack, answers the phone. She explains her situation to him. He goes into the forest. He takes a big ax and hits the tree four times, grunting loudly each time, but nothing happens.

Mattie calls Lumberjack Suppliers. Ray, a little guy with a beard, answers the phone. She explains her problem to him. He goes into the forest. He takes a little ax and cuts down the tree by hitting it 1, 673,000 times.

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12 thoughts on “Cutting Down a Christmas Tree”

  1. Hi Ben,

    I used your suggestion of having the actors (and me) completely freeze and stare at the tree at the end of the first two paragraphs. As you predicted, the students were silent at first, and then they began mumbling and nervously laughing. When they and I could wait no longer, I loudly exclaimed, ¨Nothing happens!¨ The students got it! Thank you for the suggestions on how to make ¨nothing happens” come alive in this story!

  2. mb – I will paste here Ben’s answer to a question I had that was similar to your question:

    ¨On the “nothing happens” thing I would just have the actors freeze at that point at the end of the first two locations. At the end of the first location, the girl hits the tree 54 times with a little ax (the variable), or whatever your class suggests in its place, so they just have to stand there in silence for as long as you can get them to, and the class has to be silent. When one of the actors or students breaks because of immaturity on stage, to correct them, you just yell out, “Nothing happens!” It’s a good chance to get more reps on that target, and with strong emotion on it, and it helps them learn to more accept and embrace silence in a group.¨

  3. Thanks! This looks great for my Spanish 1b kids!
    And a big shout out to all you guys – I cannot tell you all how amazingly helpful this site is for a rookie Spanish teacher that is ovalling at best but trying to figure out how to circle and give good CI.

  4. I started this story in my level two classes today. All we got done was the basic meaning and then doing the gestures a few times. The difference between the two classes (first period and fifth period) was interesting. When we got to “nothing happens”, I said, “Show me ‘nothing happens’.” My first period class just sat and looked at me. After a few seconds I said, “That was great! Nothing happens!” I could see the dawning of true understanding. Fifth period I have a couple of talkers, so I again said, “Show me ‘nothing happens’.” Most students just sat there, but one student started to talk, and I repeated, “Show me ‘nothing happens’.” Then she said, “Oh!” and smiled. A guy started to talk, and I repeated, “Show me ‘nothing happens’.” It took him a couple of tries before he got it. This class couldn’t hold still as long as the first period did. I’m looking forward to doing this with the actors.

    1. Dang! How have I been completely forgetting about actors??? (And my supervisor wants me to to submit lesson plans?) I’m lucky I remember where my classroom is.

      Gotta get some actors up and acting tomorrow…

  5. With respect to Ben’s awesome script, I suggest the following alternatives that unexpectedly came up in my classes this week as I use this script to take me and my kids to winter break:

    In doing PQA with one class on “cut down a Christmas tree”, I also asked if anyone was going to “light a menorah” because a large percentage of my students celebrate Hanukkah. Then, to start the story, I’ve just been asking, “Someone wanted to cut down a Christmas tree, or someone wanted to light a menorah?” and letting them choose what happens. Either way, we still use the structure “nothing happened” as per the following possible script:

    X person WANTS TO LIGHT A MENORAH. S/he goes into [the bathroom]. S/h takes a [wet sponge]. S/he holds the [wet sponge] up to the candle for [3 months], but NOTHING HAPPENS. Etc., in different rooms, trying to light with a different lighting implement for different amounts of time.

    Also, after PQAing the above two options today and asking what X person wanted to do (cut tree vs. light menorah), one kid hilariously suggested that someone “wanted to light a Christmas tree [on fire]”. Which means it would be equally possible for another class to maybe choose “cut down a menorah”.

    I just started this story today. So far, our character went to the tree in NYC at Rockefeller Center and threw a box of matches at it. Nothing happened! I’m interested what’s going to happen with the next lighting attempt.

  6. I sense a whole lot of ridiculousness coming on in my classes. Thanks for the idea Robert!

    Either eight different lighting attempts this year, or next year I’m starting this story eight days before winter break. Either way, this will be happening.

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