I have received a lot of questions, from Latin teachers in particular, about the use of silly stories in class. As a huge a proponent of using all kinds of stories in my classes, I feel compelled to explain my reasoning. I am hoping that this post will empower others, who wish to embrace silly stories in their own classes, to give it a try! So without further ado, here are 10 reasons why I use silly stories in my classes:
- They are compelling! It is no secret that not all input is created equal. In addition to being comprehensible, it is EQUALLY important that the input be compelling. Stephen Krashen himself often says that input should be compelling enough that the students forget that it’s in another language. Stories that involve students as characters and/or their own creative ideas are instantly compelling to most, if not all.
- Repetition without being repetitive. Silly stories are one way of providing lots of repetition of high-frequency vocabulary without having to re-read the same story ad nauseam. For example, instead of re-reading the myth of Narcissus in five different ways, why not read five different stories about characters falling in love with themselves? I have found that students are way more attentive to new stories than they are to new ways of reading the same story over again, even if they love the story.
- Low prep, high value. I do not have the executive functioning skills to be a high prep teacher in general, so I am always looking for activities that require minimal preparation and provide high-quality input. Silly stories are incredibly easy to make and kids really enjoy them. I’ll walk you through my process: 1) Pick something I want them to be able to read. 2) Copy and paste the text into a document. 3) Press Command + F and replace all of the character names, locations, and non-essential objects. 4) Repeat the process as many times as I want. That’s literally all I do.
- They lower the affective filter. Another essential Krashen theory is that of the affective filter. The idea is that a stressed human acquires less language than a relaxed one. Laughter and silliness are our most potent remedies for the stress and tension that our students bring with them to our classes. These silly stories can help keep the language acquisition process light and pleasurable for everyone involved.
- The cultural comparisons strand of our national standards. ACTFL describes cultural comparisons as, “Learners use the language to investigate, explain, and reflect on the concept of culture through comparisons of the cultures studied and their own.” Seemingly silly stories are a great way to tackle this, at times, difficult standard. Take the Narcissus story again. It is easy to make an alternate version of the story where a student falls in love with their own image on their phone. Students can then compare the ancient and modern American version of the myth.
Obviously, there are other great reasons to use silly stories, but these are my top five. Hopefully, this list will help you justify your practices to yourself and other. Ideally, this list will empower you to let loose and embrace the use of ridiculous stories in your classes.