Stuffies, Students & Stories: a simple Monday opener.

My Spanish classes are fully “unsheltered” grammar, which means we use past tense, present, subjunctive, whatever right from Day 1.  We need a lot of varied input for this to work, so stories are asked in present tense but read in past, and Movietalk and Picturetalk are in present.

In addition to my daily intro routine, I have started playing around with student-generated stories.  Each weekend, a student takes Victor the black-and-white monkey home.  They have to take five photos of Victor that tell a story.  They email me them, I project them on Monday, and we ask a past-tense(s) story.

So, this week Zahra had Victor and his wife/girlfriend/partner bla bla Victoria.  Here are the photos she made, and what we did with them in class.  We are working on quiere impresionar (wants to impress), le da (gives him/her) and quiere ser (wants to be).


There was a monkey named Victor and another named Victoria.  Victor was [invent details] and Victoria was [ditto].  They lived in ____.  Victor liked ___ and Victoria liked ____.


Victor saw Victoria.  He liked her.  He wanted to impress her. He gave her a rose.
Victor said you are very beautiful.  I am rich, handsome and nice. Would you like this rose?
Victoria said your rose does not impress me.


Victor kissed Victoria.  Victoria was not impressed.
Victoria said your kisses do not impress me.
Victor said what impresses you?
Victoria said rings impress me.


Victor gave Victoria a ring.
Victor said does my ring impress you?
Victoria said yes your ring impresses me.
Victor said do you want to be my wife?
Victoria said yes I want to be your wife. 


Victor and Victoria had a son.  Their son was a cat.  Their son’s name was ____.

I will narrate, kids suggest details, and I ventriloquise voices for the monkeys.

ANYWAY this is easy.  Just send a character home with a student.  Get the student to take 4-6 photos that tell a story.  Kids can use just the character, or add themselves, or use their friends, etc.  They can digitally manipulate the photos if they want.  Then, they email them to you, you project, and you can either ask a story, or Picturetalk them.

BTW this is not my idea– it comes from The Internet.  This is just an example of how one can do it.

UPDATE: so when the photos came to me, we “picturetalked the story” and then there was a twist.  Kajal asked, if the two monkeys had a baby tiger, did the girl monkey Victoria cheat on Victor? Who is the real Dad?  The vocab introduced here was ¿es posible que _____ engañara a ____ (“is it possible that _____ cheated on ____?”).  Yes, it’s past subjunctive and these are Level 1s but some circling and comp checks and they get it.

So…Kajal is this weekend taking the stuffies home and is going to create a backstory that explains how Victoria had a baby tiger.  This is the cool stuff, when stories take twists the kids come up with.






    1. Have all students create a character in cardstock on day one. (Maybe provide a blank character that they have to add hair, facial features, clothing, etc?) They each name their character. Then have each student use his/her own character throughout the year. I’ll try this next year. I already do a lot to generate 1st and 2nd person usage and need more to make them think in 3rd.

  1. This looks like so much fun! I read this post a month ago and am now re-visiting it as I plan for next year. I could see making books out of these pictures and stories for FVR

    So how exactly does this work? Do you let the students see all the pictures before you ask the story? I’m just a bit confused as to how you could ask a story when the pictures have already been taken. You obviously don’t want students to go one direction with the story for one picture and then have the next picture not make sense.

    Thanks for sharing this great idea!

    1. I ask the photo taker to tell me the order and the story idea (one on one, in English). Then I show 1st pic and start asking questions. I can generally guide the story asking and make sure I repeat the vocab.

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