Collaborative Stories with Collaborative Corrections

I generally write about loading my Spanish Language Learning Little Darlings with Comprehensible Input, but for the past few years I’ve been entrusted with another group of Little Darlings: my precious ones who grew up hearing Spanish at home, or speaking Spanish with their abuelos or living in a speaking country before moving here. Ever since my first Spanish for Heritage Speakers class, I’ve been on a mission to figure out how to best serve these kiddos, who obviously have totally different needs from my language learners. There’s been a lot of trial and error (here’s a post from my early days of Heritage teaching), but poco a poco my What’s Working in Heritage toolbox is growing and I’d love to share a one of those tools today.

For the most part, my Heritage Little Darlings have already had loads of Spanish auditory input. They’re with me because they want to improve their reading and writing skills in Spanish. My dear friend and colleague Amy puts it perfectly, describing her Heritage Classes: “I’m not their Spanish teacher, I’m their literacy teacher, in Spanish”. The already know Spanish, they don’t need me to teach them Spanish! I’m here to help them find joy in reading and express themselves more clearly in their writing. This particular activity is one way we’re working towards that latter goal.

I love this activity in my Heritage classes because it’s easy, enjoyable, requires no prep from the teacher and we get a LOT of mileage out of it! AND…they always end up teaching me great cultural tidbits that I didn’t know. I love it when they are the experts and they’re tasked with teaching their clueless güera teacher! (A few weeks ago I learned about Takuachitas and Quebraditas…and I had to confirm with my Cuñada that they were school appropriate! Don’t worry, they are!)

Collaborative Stories:

So this part nothing new, teachers have been doing this for eons. Here are a few tricks to ensure it goes smoothly.

  • Divide class into small groups. I like 4 or 5 students per group.
  • Everyone should have a piece of paper and something to write with.
  • Everyone starts writing on their own paper. Everyone is creating a story, starting from the very beginning. So let’s pretend that Karla started writing “Había una princesa que se llamaba Carolina que vivía en un castillo con…” on her paper, while everyone else is working on their own story.
  • Everyone continues writing their own story until the teacher gives the signal. As soon as the teacher calls time, everyone finishes the word they were writing then stops.
  • Within each group, everyone passes their paper to the person on their left, and everyone gets a new paper. They read what was already written on the paper, then pick up the story where their classmate left off. So, in our example Karla passed her paper to Anthony who first reads what Karla wrote, then continues the story, “Había una princesa que se llamaba Carolina que vivía en un castillo con… tres patos que se enojaron con ella porque siempre…” After a minute or two, the teacher tells the class to pass the paper again, and this time the story gets passed to Alina, who adds onto Karla’s original story.
  • It’s important to remember that the whole class is writing the whole time, so in a group of 4 students, there are 4 different stories being developed. No one should be sitting around waiting for something to happen. Everyone is hard at work! This is why it’s important to tell them they need to write until the papers get passed…don’t tell them to write a sentence, because then you’ll have people sitting around, taking a quick vacation!
  • After a few “rounds” the teacher starts giving guidance to help the stories along. It sounds like this, “Pasen los papeles. Ahora, lean los cuentitos. Si no hay un personaje principal en tu papel, necesitas un personaje principal. Si ya hay un personaje, dale más detalles.” Or, on a subsequent round “¿Hay un conflicto en el cuento? Si no, escribe un conflicto ahora.” Or, a bit later, “Faltan tres rondas para terminar. Busca el problema o conflicto y empieza a resolverlo.”
  • I don’t have a set time for each round, because as their stories get longer, they’ll need more time to read what was already written before adding onto the story. Early rounds are pretty short, maybe just a minute, but as their stories get longer, lengthen the time before they pass the story. Keep an eye on them and ensure that everyone has had a chance to write a bit before you tell them to pass.
  • Pass the stories as many rounds as you want! Usually our stories get passed 8-12 times before we wrap it up.
  • Finally, as the last step, have each group look at all their stories, to pick the best one. Once they agree on the best story, they write their names on it and turn it in. The teacher only collects one story from each group.

Collaborative Corrections:

Here’s the part where we get tons of millage out of their stories, and we use them over the next 4 or 5 classes.

  • To prepare for a future class, cover up the names on the papers and make copies. I like to put 2 stories back to back and copy them so everyone will get a paper with two different stories on it.
  • Take a picture of each story (with the names hidden) and insert it into a slideshow, like below:
  • Together as a class “correct” the stories. Here’s where we talk about “el” vs “él“. Or “niño v nino” or “mama vs mamá” or “porque” and “por qué” You know what I’m talking about, we look at the spelling and the accents and clean up their writing. No one knows who wrote what, and we all work collaborative to make the corrections.
  • If your Little Darlings wrote something inappropriate (Can you imagine?!) or something mean (The nerve!), we “correct” those things too! The last time we did this, someone wrote, “Estaba tan borracho que…” that we “fixed” to “Estaba tan cansado que.…”
  • If you have a fancy Smart Board, where you can annotate on top of the slide, do that. (With a stylus pen, I write on top of the slide, making corrections, while students are making the same corrections on the paper in front of them.) If you don’t have a fancy board, just project the slide directly onto your whiteboard (not on the screen) then use your dry erase marker to make the changes on the board, while students make the changes on their papers. If you’ve got a Document Camera, use that! The important thing is that the teacher is leading the students through the editing process. It feels a lot like Write and Discuss, but rather than starting from scratch, we’re using their writing to “pop up” grammar, spelling, accent rules, etc.
  • A “pop up”, if you’re new to the term, is a super short and succinct in-the-moment explanation, and it’s best if it’s meaning based. So, in this case it might sound like, ” Juan Carlos hablo con su amiga…¿escuchan la diferencia entre “hablo” y “habló”? ¿Qué quiere decir “hablo”? , y ¿qué es “habló”?…entonces ¿es “Juan Carlos habló o Juan Carlos hablo con su amiga?” Fix it on the board, the students fix it on their papers and then move on to the next one.
  • Since you’ve got 4 or 5 stories to work with, we do one a class period. The nice thing is that we’ll see a lot of repetitive of the same corrections, so it really builds their confidence. “¿Dónde está el acento en ‘tambien’?” “Dile a tu compañero la diferencia entre ‘el’ y ‘él’” “¿Se escribe los días de la semana con mayúsculas o minúsculas?
  • Of course as they get more comfortable and have more exposure to written language-there are all sorts of ways to modify the “correction” piece.
    • They can first correct with a partner, then “check” their with with the teacher’s assistance.
    • They can work to a class to figure out all the corrections without the teacher’s assistance. If they catch every one, the whole class gets a prize.
  • And to make it a tiny bit more fun, after we correct all the stories, there’s always a prize for the group who wrote the “best” story. Sometimes I pick the one I like most. Sometimes I’ll type them up (without any mistakes) and give them to the other Heritage class ro read and decide on their favorite. This year, winners get to spin the Ruleta de premios.

Quick Disclaimer: While this activity has been a winner in my Heritage classes, I don’t think it’s great for Language Learners in my regular Spanish classes. While it’s not a “bad” idea to to correct language together, I don’t feel like it’s the best use of my very limited classroom time, especially not in the lower levels! Remember, Language Learners need lots and lots of input for language acquisition, so anytime spent other than input won’t provide them with any acquisition gains. When I’m planning my lessons for my Language Learners, that’s how I prioritize out time together. If you’re looking for some input based activities, poke around, this blogcito is jammed packed full of tricks, tools, games and activities for loading up the Little Darlings with Comprehensible Input!

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