". . .the word of God is not bound." II Tim. 2:9b

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Learning Through Writing: Choose Your Own Adventure

When I was a kid, I loved to read books from the Choose Your Own Adventure series. On each page was a choice, something like this. "If you decide to risk the mountain lions and explore the cave, turn to page 23. If you decide to look for a stream to replenish your water supply, turn to page 71." If you were killed by mountain lions on page twenty-three, you could always go back and see where the other choice led. In fact, you often died. No problem. Just go back to page one, or wherever you left a bookmark last.

Similarly, video games often include a story with many choices for the player to make. The decisions you make alter the course of the game. When your character dies, you play again.

I like to assign a choose-your-own story to my high school students. It's digital, with hyperlinks to different documents in a Google Drive folder for the pages. The first page sets up the scenario ("You are Sir Lancelot. The castle at Camelot is under attack") and the viewpoint character. Second person present works best for the point of view. At the bottom of the page is the first set of choices. Instead of using "turn to page 5," use "click here" or "click to page 5." Then, link to the new page. Be sure to put the page number at the top of each page, and save each document as the same number. Keep the story to twelve pages or so for beginners, and keep a running list of how each page turns out if you are concerned about the ratio of positive outcomes to negative outcomes.

There are several Web sites students can use to help them write choose-your-own stories, but I like the challenge of creating my own story, format and links. The students are up for the challenge, too.

What should they write about? This assignment works well for fiction or nonfiction. My daughter wrote one in which the reader is a trout. It required her to research the life cycle of a trout and what the trout's natural predators are. I'm researching Antoine Lavoisier, a chemist who was guillotined during the French Revolution. Turning Lavoisier's life into a choose-your-own story has been challenging, since I am working to understand the science part and then to make the concepts easy for my students or other young readers to understand.

To get a better feel for how it all works, see if your library has the classic Choose Your Own Adventure books, or pick up similar versions by R.L. Stein or other authors. Then, create your own story to share with your students. They'll be raring to write!

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