Storytelling on the sly.

Ah, the conundrum: what to do the last day before break? You’re all kind of spent, the kids are hopped up on sugar, but you don’t want to do nothing.

At times like these, I break out my semi-secret weapon: exquisite corpse.

“All you need is a piece of paper and writing utensil,” I say. “We’re going to play a game.”


I don’t bother explaining that we’re all creating surrealist works of art — students are too busy spinning tales around my prompts like “Your story must include a student in this class, in a place outside of Philadelphia.” Or “An SLA teacher, in a fictional place.” Three minutes and then pass clockwise. Three minutes more, do it again. Fold your paper back so only what you wrote is visible. Make the story work as best you can. Or don’t even try — the weirder, the better.

I’m strict about unfolding the papers — we have to wait and have everybody do it at once. The laughter trickles in — snickers, hand-over-mouth giggles, oh-my-gawd-they-did-NOT-write that expressions, straight-up howls of delight.Image


After five minutes of reading and passing at tables, everybody wants to share. This year, we had students playing music for penguins, teachers wandering into their own imaginations, and I turned into a pony at least once.

We do a solid hour of storytelling, get hand cramps from all the writing, have a good laugh, and then throw the papers away. Happy holidays!


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