Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Middle School 1001 Flat Tales

Last year, I tried the Middle School 1001 Flat Tales wiki with my seventh grade students and the help of our English teacher. I received a message from Jeff Whipple asking if I'd be interested in helping out with the project again this year. This post is intended to give you some background. Perhaps you'd be interested in joining us this year.

1001 Flat Tales
The project was originally envisioned by Clay Burrell. There is an elementary, middle school, and high school version of the project. On the wiki, the background frame for the story is as follows:
Tell the aliens a good tale from earth, or face your country's annihilation.... (excerpt from the 1001 Flat World Tales): "Look at them..the human race is so uninteresting. They are stupid, they are ignorant, and most of all, they are hopelessly boring. They are not worthy of this planet called Earth. Let's destroy them, so we can take their land and use the humans for 'human-testing'," Chief Zen suggested.
"No, Chief Zen, give them a chance. The human race is famous for storytelling. Let them entertain us before we act too harshly," Zero replied.
"Fine, Zero. But if the story doesn't please me--we destroy the storyteller and his/her country," Chief Zen said.

"Great idea, Chief. Bring forth your storytellers, humans...."
2008 Flat Tales
The project was interesting. My seventh grade English teacher had the students write their stories in class.
My students worked in groups of two and three to write the stories. They came to my lab to paste it into the wiki. They were asked to tell an interesting tale and they had some problems coming up with story ideas.

We were partnered up with one school in Canada and another in Australia. The students first made some word choice suggestions in their partner's stories. Next they helped fix the partner student's grammar. At the end of the project, they were asked:
1. Think of plot—is it original? (If an adaptation, is it creative or interesting to you?)
2. Think about problems that the characters face. Are there complications that add enough suspense, tension, or interest? Is there a climax that satisfies you? Is the resolution satisfying? What could be added or changed?
3. Think of characterization—are the characters life-like? Are characters likable and enjoyable? Do we get a good sense of character from many of these: description, dialogue, narrator's opinion, discussion from other characters, the character’s own actions?
4. Think of imagery and details. Do they help you see and hear and experience the story?
5. What areas of the story need the most improvement?
We did not end up weaving the stories together in the manner of 1001 Arabian Nights. I would like to see that happen this year.

2009 Flat Tales
I spoke with Jeff today and we discussed methods to make the project work more smoothly. One change is the addition of writing prompts. Hopefully, this will give the students an idea.

During the writing phase, the students will have the opportunity to make word choice and grammar suggestions for their partner. As the students write, they will be be required to think about plot, character, images, details, and share their observations in the discussion tab.

At the end of the writing phase, the students will read their partner's finished story to determine if it was worthy of the alien's attention.

Teacher Tab on the Wiki
We have writing prompt tab for the teachers. I added one prompt today, hopefully this will grow. Once the participating schools are finalized, we will create a partner table and begin work.

If you are interested in giving the project a try, go to the appropriate grade level wiki from the links above and click on the Add Your School link.

The project should take about six weeks from start to finish. We anticipate matching the participants with partners towards the third week of March. The writing and partner commentary will proceed over the course of approximately four weeks. The fifth and sixth week will be dedicated to choosing the stories that the alien King finds worthy and a reflective piece by the students on the writing process.

I'm looking forward to some interesting stories in 2009.

Image Citation:
Rhode, Katiya. "Arabian night." Katiya Rhode-Singh's photostream. 2007 Dec 8. 2009 Feb 24.

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