“You walk into your classroom to see your students lethargically slumped over their desks. Do you: 1. Take a risk and try something new? 2. Continue on with your prepared lesson?”
Do you remember “Choose Your Own Adventure Stories” from your childhood, or have you seen “Bandersnatch” on Netflix? - Whether or not your are already familiar, creating and participating in these branched stories are a ton of fun, and can easily be adapted to fit your classroom curriculum.
One of the PD trainings I’ve been delivering most frequently is an introduction to Google’s Applied Digital Skills, a free, online, video-based curriculum for teachers to use with their students. The lessons are well designed with creativity, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration at their core as well as designed to teach practical life and tech skills to students.
My favorite Applied Digital Skills Lesson is the If-Then Adventure Stories lesson, which guides students through a series of instructional videos, taking them from the brainstorming phase to creating and sharing their stories.
I won’t say anymore about how it works, because you can see for yourself! It’s free and super easy to use.
What I will talk about is implementing a lesson like this into your classroom. By itself, the lesson already has a ton of value, however, I also know how precious class time is, and it’s rare to feel like we have a spare day to spend venturing away from our curriculum (unless you need an emergency sub plan, in which case these are perfect!) The key is to figure out how to make the lesson fit into whichever book, unit, or topic your are studying at the moment.
Here are a couple of examples:
The Hero’s Journey
My 7th graders had just finished reading The Hobbit and we were starting a unit on writing narratives based on “The Hero’s Journey” (a common path that hero’s take in stories including staring in a normal word, being invited to adventure, crossing a threshold into the unknown etc.) Then, I had to take a sub day to present at a conference and decided “If-Then Adventure Stories” would be a perfect activity for the day.
I posted the link to the Applied Digital Skills lesson on Google Classroom, with the instructions that their stories much follow the path of the traditional hero’s journey. The students had a ton of fun with the lesson while I was away, plus I received some amazing stories (with trolls, and wizards, and selkies - oh my!) that reinforced the subject we were working on in class.
Science Lab Safety
I heard about a science teacher who used “If-Then” stories to review lab safety with her students. Tired of the yearly discussion and posters she made with her students about how to be safe in the lab, she gave the students the task of creating scenarios through the Google Slide stories about what would happen if you made positive and negative choices in the lab.
“You walk up to your lab table. Do you put on your lab safety goggles? Yes? Or No?”
At the end of the lesson her students presented their slides to the class, and they had a lot of fun seeing the creative consequences her students devised for unsafe choices in the lab.
If-Then Choice Board
As I’ve delivered this PD Session to teachers, one of the common themes I see when teachers go through the lesson, is they turn the stories into interactive choice boards, with some choices leading to external links and asking students to complete task elsewhere before they return to the story.
For example, one Spanish teacher create slides for Dia de Los Muertos, and had her story link to videos, songs, and even recipes that she challenged her students to try and create as a part of her story.
This technique has all the benefits of HyperDocs and choice boards with the power of narrative. I imagine the teacher could create one for her class to complete, and then ask students to create their own on that same topic of study.
Social & Emotional Well-Being
One other highly creative teacher I met made her slides into a social-emotional choice board for students who are easily upset or angered.
The slides lead the students through a series of questions, intended to help the student de-escalate and remind them of their options. I found the idea so inspiring, I made a version of my own (see below), which you can view and make a copy for yourself if you’d like.
This Adventure Story was designed for the student to use, but I am sure after enough time using the story, you could challenge your student to create one (or more) for themselves to empower them to take ownership of, not only their learning, but their well-being too.
The great thing about a lesson like this (and pretty much all of Applied Digital Skills’ lessons) is that they leave room for the teacher to fit them into whatever curriculum they are teaching at the moment. All it takes in a little bit of “out-of-the-box” thinking and the courage to try something new.
"You chose option 1!
You decide to use the “If-Then Adventure Story” lesson and your students perk right up. They laugh, have fun, and create some seriously cool stories."