This school year I have told many stories (62 so far) from different genres, such as folk tales, fables, legends, sagas, myths, children's literature,... as part of my pure Story Listening program. I love the variety this adds to the class and it let's me find out which kinds of stories my class like the most. A couple of weeks ago, I started reading the book Sideways Stories from Wayside School to my daughter and I thought, "my class would love this book." Not only is it written for the target age group 8-10, but it also has great attributes for Story Listening: naturally repetitive, short stories that play in school (play on students' world knowledge) and some students are familiar with the book.
Now usually I don't think using a book is a great idea for Story Listening for the same reasons Beniko Mason does not recommend continuing a story from one lesson into the next; students that were absent miss the beginning or the end. Either way this really takes away from the story. You have to redraw key elements and remind the students of important details in order to continue. However, in this book every chapter is a story in itself. Every one of the 30 chapters is about another one of the 30 characters. So it isn't a big deal if a student misses one chapter, because the next story does not build on it. Sure there is some overlap, but nothing that is necessary to ensure comprehension of the context.
Stephen Krashen has recommended series reading to develop reading habits. He extended this idea into Narrow Listening, which involves listening to recordings of different native speakers on the same topic multiple times. I think that Story Listening can provide great opportunities for narrow listening. In fact that is what Beniko Mason already does using folk tales from the same collections (Grimm/Long). So the idea here is just an extension on that with materials suitable for younger students. Similarly to the Grimm tales, I already used books from the same author for my students (Robert Munsch books, etc.) However, in all of these books we follow different characters. Using the Wayside School books gets closer to the original idea of Narrow Reading by using stories with the same characters. Creating opportunities to getting to know the characters better and developing likes and dislikes as well as empathy for them. This I believe can strengthen the connections Krashen talks about (text to text, text to self and text to world connections) in just the same way through Story Listening as through Narrow Reading.
Armed with greater background knowledge, students can deepen their understanding of the contents of the book, make more elaborate and personally relevant connections between characters in the story and make more meaningful text to text, text to self and text to world connections. (Renandya, W., Krashen, S. and Jacobs, G., 2018)
A word of caution though, the book has to be picked well. My students ask me every class if we can continue this story (which we can't because I have to translate it as it does not exist in German). If they hadn't liked it, I would not have used it to try this out with them.
So far we have done two chapters. I am doing a low pressure assessment with this book by having the students prepare a smash doodle of one chapter which I can then use to review the chapter ("Previously on Wayside School....") before we start the next. I will also collect them to put together a book which the students will receive at the end of the school year. Let me clarify, every student only does this for ONE chapter! So in 14 weeks, they have one turn. The first chapter was done by me as an example. I am looking forward to receiving the first smash doodle next week and to continue this story that I enjoy telling very much, and my students clearly enjoy listening to.
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