Those who “get it” vs. those who don’t

(This is a map that I began to create for my own story example, showing the paths of the narrative.)

We started working on our Make Your Own Adventure Stories yesterday, using a wikispaces site. The students used a short story they started writing the other day and then began to plan out “story branches” that will become hyperlinked pages on the wiki.

Here is what I noticed: some kids “got it,” some just didn’t.

What I mean by that is that this idea of creating alternative paths for a story really taps into critical thinking skills. You have to envision possibilities and move beyond the linear telling of a story (lord knows how the authors of full-length Make Your Own Ending novels do it). Given our limited amount of time left in the year, I told my sixth graders they only had to create one branch, but that the ambitious of them should try multiple branches.

That concept clicked with some of them and they were off to the races with their ideas. The others, though, seemed very befuddled. They understood the concept of Make Your Own Adventure, but they could not envision it for their own stories. The had difficulty imagining any moment when the reader might be asked, should it go THIS way or THAT way. These are the same kids whose critical thinking skills have not yet developed on pace with peers, something we notice with them in other areas, but never so dramatically, I think. This project really delineated a critical thinking dividing line for me as the teacher.

In some ways, the fault is mine.

This project requires more time than I can give it, and more modeling (which Tony asked about in my other post), and more experimental time. I did show them my story map (see above) that I made in Google Docs (with the flow chart template) for my own story sample and pointed out the ways the story that I wrote unfolded. Still, I was hoping that by this point in the year, they would all be ready for this kind of story adventure. I guess not.

I can’t wait, though, to see what they complete on Friday, which is our last writing day of the school year and my last day with my young writers (I head off to a New Literacies Institute next week).

Peace (in the branches),

  1. I’m interested in the process here. Do you create the full map as part of the planning? Do students tell a story straight through and then add a branch earlier in the story after finishing one ending? That means do the first vertical line then backtrack to a point where you add a branch horizontally. You gotta love graphic organizers.

  2. This distinction you’re seeing among your students makes this activity even more intriguing to me. I’m thinking this would be a great (and fun, for most) introductory writing project for my regular/inclusion sophomores, many of whom are severely lacking the critical thinking skills necessary for genre-writing and research (to name two…) when they get to me. I think your chart is awesome! Are they planning there stories on paper before moving to the wiki?

  3. Gail
    I did not do the map with them, because of time constraints. But it is something I needed to have done (and have done with a Hyperlinked Poetry Project in the past). So, most students wrote the original story as straight through, and then went back and made branches at certain moments.

    Do give it a try! It was great fun and a great learning and writing experience.

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