Student Generated Stories, a.k.a. Skeleton Stories

Student Generated Stories, a.k.a. Skeleton Stories (first term is mine, second is Michele’s) have really been getting some practice by some of us these past few weeks. I have already stated how they seem to take the pressure off of regular stories (although I will always do those as well because they are just plain fun). Below, Laurie gives a report on how they worked for her this week. Laurie I am sure I am speaking for others in registering appreciation of the details of how the week unfolded, as it makes it easier for us to grasp:
What a week!
I’ve had so much fun.  You are right Michele…getting the seeds of a story from the kids is very powerful.  I feel like I have more material than I can squeeze into a week!! 
On Thursday I gave the phrases just about to start, without rest, and had the desire to my first period class.  Here is what they came up with:
Athletes have the desire to record a “We Are The World” song to raise money.  They are just about to start to sing when some of the athletes, who practice without rest, keep throwing a ball and won’t stop. (this is working out great…I’ll share the final version)
[ed. question: Laurie, could you expand on why you think the script above is working so well? The first thing I noticed in that one was how tight it was, with practically no extra words except the target words all neatly tied up in a bow. Did that help, do you think?]
Dora and Diego are practicing without rest to run in a race.  They have the desire to win the race.  They were so busy practicing that they didn’t notice that the race was about to start.
Sean has the desire to win the baseball game.  He practices without rest.  When it is his turn to bat he is so tired that he cannot hang on to the bat. His turn at bat is just about to start.  He swings and cannot hold on to the bat.  It flies out of his hands and….
Kora and Mike have the desire to get an A on their school project.  Mike wants to work without rest.  Every time they are just about to start working, Brittney wants to do something else.
Sam is a famous model.  All of the photographers have the desire to take her picture.  She is in Brazil.  They are just about to start a session, but there is a problem.  All of the photographers are staring at her beauty without rest.  They do not want to pick up their cameras.
So on Friday, I chose the one about the athletes to “story-ask” first period.  Without any inner pressure (theirs or mine!!) to “get somewhere” with the story….we were able to use the phrases all kinds of ways!!  I’m working on the embedded reading for this one based on what we put together in just 10 minutes!
Third period I found out that the story about Sean and the baseball bat turned out to be semi-true.  In 7th grade a student let go of his bat and nearly knocked out an umpire!!  This kid is not in this class, and because I have a strict rule about “gossip”, they knew that we would create a new character and just utilize this great piece of drama to get a fantastic, but different, story.
In the fifth period class, I handed over the race story…but told them “two characters” instead of Dora and Diego so that they could create their own spin on it.  It WAS OUTSTANDING!!!!  I blogged it.  I had to share it! Now we are on a serious Star Wars roll with that.  Amazing!!
I’ve also been taking on Ben’s challenge of upping the amount of Spanish in class.  It is really working.  It is pushing them through the “I can’t” barrier.  With love.  They trust that I have a good idea of what they can and can’t do…even when they don’t.  They trust that I will not embarrass them.  I am finding that trust more and more important.
It is the approach that makes the difference.  It is still, and even more, about them.  The story ideas?  From them.  The details?  From them.  The ability to communicate in Spanish.  Because I know THEY CAN DO IT.  Not because the curriculum/test says that we should.  That slight shift is inspiring.
Thank you thank you thank you!!!
with love,
[ed. note: I would also add here that all you have to do is click on Laurie’s link to the right here – “Other TPRS Blogs” – to keep up with Laurie’s and others’ thoughts that are not being blogged here. Actually, I would urge anyone following the skeleton story/embedded readings thread here to go to her blog right now and read the recent posts there. Gold Mine City.]



3 thoughts on “Student Generated Stories, a.k.a. Skeleton Stories”

  1. I love this post. As Laurie said about one of my class descriptions a while ago, this is exactly what happens in my classes! (Maybe all TPRS classes are more similar than they are different.) The kids come up with stories a teacher would never have thought of, and they are intently focused on hearing those stories develop, even more so than formerly.
    And Ben, you’re right. Anne coined the term “skeleton stories,” and I am still able to pull her printed ones out of the bag at the last minute, knowing they’ll work because she is a master of kids’ minds. But when I tried to demo one of her stories a little while ago for a visitor, my kids were so used to running their own stories that they took off on that one. We have these great arguments…”it’s my story. No! It’s OUR story!” — at which point I’m cheering inside, because “our/nasha” comes out automatically, whereas in pre-TPRS years, I had to explain what “nasha” meant every time we came to it.
    With apologies to Blaine, I have to think that “It’s my story” from the teacher is much less compelling a reason for kids to listen than when they get to say, “It’s our story,” knowing that they are right.
    So . . . if we’re naming things here, more or less “officially” (it’s our story, after all!) I have to agree that calling it “student-generated story” works better.
    An ironic note: I found that I had posted a note on about student-generated stories back in September 2008. I called them “stories on the spot” at that point and even then couldn’t remember who’d suggested them. It was only my second month of using TPRS, so I was so overwhelmed with the pressure of figuring all this out that I lost that idea for over a year. Luckily Ben has this blog thing going–or I’d never have mentioned it and been able to see that it could be tweaked even more by our group–so glad to be here!

  2. And so much of what we do comes from Susan Gross anyway. I rarely read anything that any of us come up with here in these discussions that in some way or another doesn’t come from her. I personally don’t care where it comes from, nor do any of us, nor does Susie because she has told me that on many occasions. We just need to move this CI stuff, the new furniture, into our classrooms. Who cares where it comes from? It’s more comfortable than the old furniture.

  3. I’ve been thinking about Blaine’s “It’s my story” too Michele. The reason he utilizes that so well is that it is his way of saying that he makes the final choices. For Blaine, TPRS is all about the game that kids play to compete to give the best answers to his questions. Blaine tells them up front that it is his job to choose from these ideas in order to get the best stories. And it works. :o) They love to compete for him.
    I have a different relationship somehow with my students and can’t seem to pull that off with the right tone. This week I gave myself the title of “Directora del Cuento”. So, when choosing which ideas would be added and which ones would not, I could say, “Tengo el deber (a line from the Somos El Mundo song we’ve been doing!!! I have the responsiblilty.) Soy la Directora del Cuento. (I’m the Story Director)
    That seemed to work. :o) They DO want us to be in charge.
    I also love how the word “our” is now a natural part of our day to day lexicon. It escapes kids in Spanish too.
    This reminds me…have to go order Anne’s stories…
    with love,

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • Search

Get The Latest Updates

Subscribe to Our Mailing List

No spam, notifications only about new products, updates.

Related Posts

CI and the Research (cont.)

Admins don’t actually read the research. They don’t have time. If or when they do read it, they do not really grasp it. How could

Research Question

I got a question: “Hi Ben, I am preparing some documents that support CI teaching to show my administrators. I looked through the blog and

We Have the Research

A teacher contacted me awhile back. She had been attacked about using CI from a team leader. I told her to get some research from

The Research

We don’t need any more research. In academia that would be a frivolous comment, but as a classroom teacher in languages I support it. Yes,



Subscribe to be a patron and get additional posts by Ben, along with live-streams, and monthly patron meetings!

Also each month, you will get a special coupon code to save 20% on any product once a month.

  • 20% coupon to anything in the store once a month
  • Access to monthly meetings with Ben
  • Access to exclusive Patreon posts by Ben
  • Access to livestreams by Ben