Working Without a Script

I have a question for the group. When you create a story without a script, what do you do? I want to hear the different responses. For me, I just:

1. Get any sentence like John was running, about some kid. It gives me a person to personalize and an action to create a problem from.
2. Bring up the actor unless I want to PQA the basic term/structure, which I don’t do much of anymore (Step 1)
3. Ask where and with whom, which gets me a setting.
4. Create a problem, any problem that occurs to me during the CI discussion.
5. Try to solve it twice in two different locations but failing.
6. Succeed in solving the problem.

I am trying to keep stories much shorter now. Too much other stuff to do than get involved with a three day story.

What do others do (what goes through your mind/what is the thought process you have) when doing a story when you are not working from a script? (Working from a script and working without a script are like apples and oranges – both are great but they are different animals.)

By the way, I asked Joe Neilson this very question in 2005 Kansas City NTPRS. he told me pretty much the above.




16 thoughts on “Working Without a Script”

  1. The key to unscripted is to stay in bounds – you can give kids more rights in the story creation process so long as you keep it comprehensible and limit the amount of unfamiliar.

    I usually start with setting up a character and a scene, regardless of the degree of scripted.

    Unscripted – I usually have an idea for a problem. E.g. in my current 7th grade story all I know is that the character is gonna go shopping and have trouble at the store (item is too expensive, no more items, can’t decide between items, etc.). In my current 8th grade story all I know is that someone traveling is going to have a problem getting through customs. I get my story problem ideas from Matava and Tripp scripts.

    I NEVER do 3-location stories. In one period (50 minutes) we usually only get to one location, maybe two. Next class, we may continue the story and add another location. Or maybe we go right into guided reading activities. The 3-locations is one way to get reps, not a hard-and-fast rule.

    1. I have definitely tried to force the three locations more than I should, and it leads to the stories being longer than they should be. Certainly the kids need more reps, but a break and variation would do them better.

  2. …the 3-locations is one way to get reps, not a hard-and-fast rule….

    I probably have gotten through the three locations five times in the fifteen years I’ve been doing this work. However, I feel that limiting the content details of the story so that we can indeed get through all three locations really makes sense. It is very user friendly for the kids.

    I guess we end up with however many locations we get that day. No rules. I love that rule.

  3. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    I usually get my unscripted story idea/sentence from something kids tell me right at the beginning of class, like ‘I got a giant Chewbacca toy for Christmas “… Or ‘I got this little transformer toy for my birthday- it turns into a car.’ These very concrete facts allow us to play with my props, which is always a big hit.
    As for the three locations, I must say I have been doing it, but you can also use three people that are asked a question, or other repetitive mistakes, like Carol Gaab’s story about the cat school, where the teacher keeps calling the cat by the wrong rhyming name.
    ‘The cat’s name is not Carla, the cat’s name is not Charla or Marla, the cat’s name is Farla.’
    These little beginning of class riffs don’t always make it to full story form.

  4. So I think we can say that it is better to not plan too much and work with the energy in the classroom. How could we personalize if we don’t do that? The old way (“I’m going to do a story on such and such”) is bound to fail. It harkens back to the mistaken idea that so many teachers have that they are there to deliver instructional services. Language can’t be taught, only enjoyed.

    1. The more unscripted, the more real. Just don’t let too much unfamiliar leak in.
      This is “organic.” This is what researchers would call “reactive” or “retrospective.”
      The syllabi is a record of what was done, after it’s been done!

  5. I totally agree with this. My most engaging experiences whether using a script or not, are always when we “get off track” or “go off on a tangent.” I have not done many stories with 3 locations. I am lucky to get to 2 places. Kids think that this is a problem. They think this because they are so used to being programmed. They need an outcome and a learning target and an objective. I probably do too, because I am so far off the chart I need to be reeled in. I can’t tell you how many times during “star of the day” we never “got through” the 4 questions bc there was a “tangent.” It is a huge learning curve for us all to seek the tangents and to follow them! That is where the compelling stuff is.

  6. Eduardo Galeano talked about something similar, I think:

    La utopía está en el horizonte. Camino dos pasos, ella se aleja dos pasos y el horizonte se corre diez pasos más allá. ¿Entonces para qué sirve la utopía? Para eso, sirve para caminar.

    I think quantitative approaches to everything are hurting many brains. Technical approaches to teaching are hurting the dignity of teachers-students.

    Some approaches are trying to be rational while surrounded by an irrational system.

  7. I think I do more Passive Mini Scenes (aka extended PQA) than unscripted “stories” per se. I just follow PQA in a Wink instructions. When I do pursue an unscripted story, I’ve usually prepared the setting/situation and pondered potential problems beforehand (which is kind of like working from a script too).

    What I especially like about using already-created scripts, the amount of comprehensible reading material that I can pull out for later. That doesn’t mean we don’t do tangents (I nearly always do) or that I get through all 3 locations (barely ever do), but rather as Nathaniel illustrated it a couple months ago, the script serves as an anchor that pulls me back within the radius I am tethered, so that when I go to read parallel stories from past years, they are not too terribly different in terms of the main events in the story and therefore use more or less the same key language. I describe the process here:!Triple-Wing-Ding-Reading-Blast/c1uxc/56020e060cf2f0ed7a1e52ce

  8. Auditory work is almost never scripted, and if I try a script it’s very general and created out of the Chinese phrases, not a script. I ask questions, and see where things go. Sometimes that works really nicely, and other times, so-so, but good enough!

    In reading, though, I often have a more structured story. Not usually 3 locations; more often 3 different attempts to accomplish some kind of goal, though.

  9. I must admit that I plan ahead of time. I still need those waterwings.

    After a very mild early winter in New Jersey, we’ve finally had some snow and Jim Tripp’s story “Brrr!” sounds just right for today. I’ve done that story before, and it’s always a homerun. I know what props/stuff to -bring- as I schlep my stuff around campus, and feel confident it will keep the little kids’ attention. I can relax, focus on the kids, and their needs.

    Alisa is right though. Anything kids share, or bring to class, trumps it all. I must remember that.

  10. Catharina, “Brrr!” has been published here so that means Jim gave permission (2012). I will publish it tomorrow for those interested, with some related video links.

  11. Love Jim’s stories. I’ve followed Jim’s advice to cut down on the out-of-bound words to better suit my very young learners. Most of my micro-mini stories come from Jim. Homeruns.

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