Back Pocket Teaching Strategy: The Story Circle

A "back pocket" strategy is a tool a teacher can use in any classroom, with any group of students, with very minimal prep.  Whether a lesson went south, you had a pop-in observation, or you have 6 minutes left in the period, having back pocket strategies means you'll never be without a quick teaching solution.  Add these back pocket strategies to your teaching bag of tricks for this school year!


Besides the 10 Finger Sentence, my next favorite strategy is the story circle.  It's a great way to practice content area vocabulary, use collaborative skills, and can work for speaking or writing. 


Model a story circle by choosing a topic.  You can use content area vocabulary that you're working on, or have students suggest topics of interest.  Seasonal vocabulary is always a fun idea, too, and you can have a student choose a card to start the game.  Next, start the story with a one-sentence opener.  You can choose to do the story orally (good for a large group!), or write it on an easel (easier with a smaller group).  The next person in the circle must say the next line in the story, keeping with the theme or topic.  The story continues until the last person, who must end the story with some sort of conclusion.  It's really a lot of fun!

I've used the story circle with everyone from kinders to adult learners, and as long as you use appropriate scaffolds, anyone can do it.  For example, in the picture below, my ELL students brainstormed words they knew about hot air balloons, and had to choose at least one word from the chart to include in their story sentence.  


If you use story cubes, like the ones below, you can have each member of the group add to the story using their own picture prompt.  Be prepared for wild and wacky turns! 

Image result for story cubes

A story circle offers learners a fun and engaging opportunity to use vocabulary and grammar structures, as well as build community by collaborating with their peers. A story circle can be used in any content area, and takes little to no preparation at all.  If you use the story circle as a segue into the Language Experience Approach, as I did with this pumpkin activity, then you've created an entirely student-centered activity tailored to each student's proficiency level. 

Check back soon for more back pocket teaching ideas! 




Back Pocket Teaching Strategy: The 10 Finger Sentence

A "back pocket" strategy is a tool a teacher can use in any classroom, with any group of students, with very minimal prep.  Whether a lesson went south, you had a pop-in observation, or you have 6 minutes left in the period, having back pocket strategies means you'll never be without a quick teaching solution.  Add these back pocket strategies to your teaching bag of tricks for this school year!


My number one strategy is the 10 Finger Sentence.  It's a great tool for practicing speaking and writing skills, and I've used it with everyone from kinders to adult learners.


Model a 10 finger sentence for your students by first choosing a topic.  Then, hold up your hands, and put down a finger for each word in your sentence.  You'll notice that you automatically have to make revisions and edits to your sentence to get your message across.  Your students will enjoy watching your brain work as you attempt the strategy.  Then, encourage sub-vocalization and finger tapping as they work to create their own 10 Finger Sentence. What a great way to demonstrate the power of word choice! 


A 10 finger sentence helps reluctant speakers use the vocabulary they know, gives kids practice using grammar accurately, and offers a fun, stress-free way to demonstrate fluent speaking.  It's an excellent choice for emerging readers and writers as well! Use the 10 Finger Sentences as a segue into the Language Experience Approach, and you've created an entirely student-centered activity tailored to the student's proficiency level. 

Get ready for more Back Pocket Teaching Strategies coming soon! 
  




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