NOTE:   This is part #13 of an ongoing series of posts about a way to focus on difficult grammar with a story-based approach.  The examples are from a Spanish 3 class, but the principles apply to any language and any level.


This is an English translation of the story, Riley y las Chicas previously published in the series in Spanish.  This translation is included to give non-Spanish readers another example of what can be done with this method of teaching.  Since the focus is on the students, their personalities come out in every story.  They are free to express themselves, and so is the teacher.  The teacher can skillfully guide the story by inserting details and comments that will not only delight the students, but also meet some of their emotional needs and occasionally teach a life lesson.

Whatever the focus, we ALWAYS make our kids look good.  They may be weird and wacky, but they are are never the butt of a joke, hopeless incompetents or permanent losers in our class stories.  They may be down, but they are never out.  And they always, somehow, will make a comeback no matter how bad the situation.

Here is what has worked for me:  Sometimes the class story begins by talking about some real personal attributes of the student actors in front of the class.  The teacher says something positive about them, but it soon gets expanded with side comments into something more.   it can be something funny or it can be a life lesson; it depends on the mood of the class that day.   We can give kids something to live up to, which was obviously an outcome in the story below .  “Riley” may well be humble and a good listener in real life, but in the description of his listening ability in the story, the students get a model of what a good listener looks like and how he acts.  “Paige” may be creative and determined, but the story demonstrates how those qualities are applied. “Karin” may be a good-hearted and cheerful girl, but the story displays how a person like that acts in a bad situation.   Some of the positive attributes of the student actors are highlighted and expanded.  We showcase the best in these kids, give them something to live up to, and act out those qualities for other kids that may need help with those qualities in their own lives.  This does not happen in every story or it would get old, but it worked in this instance.

There is a boy in Spanish class that is named Riley.  Riley is super popular with all of the girls in our school.  All of the girls like Riley because he is so handsome and so intelligent.  But above all, they like Riley because he is so humble: Riley doesn’t talk about himself a lot like some boys who always say nothing more than “I am…”, or “I think that…”, or “I have…”  It seems like Riley listens very well.  Girls like it when it seems like a boy is listening to them, and when a girl talks to Riley, he never interrupts her.  He always looks in the girl’s eyes when the girl is talking to him.  He also moves his head a little bit and smiles when girls talk to him, so it seems to all of them that he really is listening to them.  For this reason, naturally, all of the girls just love Riley.  They all want to talk with him.  And all of them always want to go out on dates with Riley.  But for almost a year, they couldn’t.

One year ago, during last summer, Riley met a girl that lived in South Carolina.  Riley liked the girl and she became his girlfriend.  So almost all of last year Riley had a girlfriend but this was a problem because she did not live in our town or in our state.  She lived in South Carolina.  Riley always was talking with his friends about his girlfriend, but nobody here in our school had seen her.

Some people said that Riley really didn’t have a girlfriend.  They said that Riley just wanted the girls to quit bothering him.  Some said that his “girlfriend” was just an imaginary girlfriend, but not many.  The majority believed him.

Riley always told his friends that he had to spend a lot of time talking to his girlfriend on the phone and also writing to her via email and texts.  Once in a while, he went to visit her, but he didn’t do it much.  The poor girls in our school never had the opportunity to talk with Riley, or go out with him on a date.  They were so sad.

But it was hard for Riley to have a long distance girlfriend.  It was a lot of work having a girlfriend that lived in another state.  Riley’s girlfriend cost him a lot of money, a lot of time and about all, a lot of attention.  Although Riley liked listening to his girlfriend’s sweet southern accent while she talked and talked and talked on the phone, the distance was too long.  So during the summer, Riley let her go.

When they returned to school in the autumn, all of the girls in our school realized that Riley no longer had a girlfriend, because he wasn’t always talking about his girlfriend from South Carolina anymore.

Obviously, almost all of the girls I our school still like Riley.  Now they can see that they have the opportunity to go out with him.  There are two girls that particularly like Riley a lot.  Their names are Paige and Karin. 

Paige knows that Riley likes the Denver Broncos because he is a big football fan. She thinks that Riley would like to see a Broncos game, so she says to him, “Riley, I want you to go to a Broncos game with me.

Riley isn’t sure, because he still doesn’t have much money because of spending it all on his former girlfriend from South Carolina, and says to Paige that he can’t buy a ticket or pay for gasoline or food.  But Paige really wants to go out with Riley.  She wants him to go to the game with her.  She wants to talk with him.  So Paige says to him,“It’s OK, Riley.  I am going to buy the tickets for the two of us.”

Riley says to her that well, yes, he wants to go, but there is one condition: Paige must buy very good tickets.  Riley says that he wants to see the game well, and so he doesn’t want to sit in a bad seat.  He wants to watch the game from a Skybox.  If she can buy really good tickets, Riley tells her that he will go with her.

Paige doesn’t have much Money, but she decides to buy fantastic tickets for the two of them.  But there is a problem because the best tickets cost a whole lot.  When she looks for the tickets on her computer, Paige realizes that the good tickets are more expensive that she had thought.  The cost five hundred and thirty seven dollars each!  Poor Paige doesn’t have enough money to buy even one ticket.  But Paige is so intelligent and creative

Paige thinks that when Riley and her get to the stadium, she is going to ask him if she can sit on his lap, so they are just going to need one seat instead of two, and she will only need to buy one ticket.

What is Riley going to do?  Paige wants him to go the Bronco game and Karin wants him to go someplace else.

Karin wants him to go to a beach in Hawaii with her.  She wants him to go see a hula dance contest on the beach there.  She thinks that it will be fun to spend time with Riley there.

Karin’s uncle works in an airport in Texas and he always gives her airplane tickets free every time that she asks him for them.  So riley will not have to pay anything.  But Riley asks Karin how long the flight lasts, and she says to him that it will be a slight of more or less six hours.  Riley says that, yes, he wants to go, but he wants to have a seat in first class because it is such a long flight and he will need to sleep for a while.

This is a problem because Karin’s uncle tells her that he can’t give her two first class tickets.  He can only give her one, so one of them will have to sit in coach.  And besides that, the seat is not going to be very good.  It is in the back of the plane near the bathrooms.  This is a problem because Karin had planned on talking to Riley during the whole flight, but now she will not be able to do so.

Paige sees that Riley is going to go on the flight to Hawaii with Karin, and she decides to go there too.  But she doesn’t have enough money.  She still hopes that Riley that Riley will go to the Bronco game with her, and so she hasn’t sold the expensive ticket that she bought for them.

Paige doesn’t have any money, but she doesn’t give up easily.  She thinks that hiding herself in a suitcase would be a good idea.  So she calls her good friend Kat to help her hide herself in Riley’s suitcase.  Paige is not very big, but the suitcase is too small and she doesn’t fit.  Even though Kat pushes a lot and even jumps on the suitcase, she can’t shut it.  Paige will need another plan.

So Paige puts on dog ears and puts black makeup on her nose and gets into a dog cage.  Kat takes her to the airport, and sends the dog cage with the “dog” in the airplane headed for Hawaii.

When they get on the airplane, Riley and Karin go to their seats.  Riley is seated in first class.  He likes it a lot because it is quite comfortable, the food is fantastic and the service is excellent. Karin is seated in the back with the passengers in the cheap seats next to the bathrooms.  There is a baby crying on one side and a fat man on the other side.  She can’t talk to Riley or send him text messages, but she is so clever that she thinks of another way to communicate with him.  Karin writes a note in a little piece of paper and calls a handsome flight attendant.  She ask him to take it to Riley.  The handsome attendant smiles at her, and says that he will do it because Karin has such a beautiful smile.

The attendant takes Karin’s note to Riley.  Riley reads the note and writes another one to Karin and the attendant takes it to her.  They pass 302 notes this way, and the attendant takes them all to them.  With each notes, the attendant smile and talks to Karin a little bit more.

But when he writes so many notes, Riley begins to think about his ex girlfriend.  He decides that he really doesn’t want to go to Hawaii.  He wants to go to South Carolina to see her again.  So he decides to ask the pilot to take him to South Carolina.  He knocks on the cabin door.  When the pilot opens the door, Riley realizes that the pilot is his ex girlfriend’s father.  What a coincidence!  Riley asks him to take him to South Carolina see his daughter again.  The pilot says to him that when they arrive in Hawaii, of course he is going to do it.

After passing so many notes, Karin begins to get to know the attendant.  She likes him and Karin decides to go out with him.  They jump out of the airplane with parachutes and land on a beautiful tropical island.

Paige continues on her trip to Hawaii in the dog cage.  When she lands in Hawaii, a veterinarian opens the cage and realizes that it is not a dog but a girl in the cage.  He is a nice young veterinarian and he invites Paige to work with him in his office.  So both of the girls finds a good boyfriend and they are happy at the end.

El fin.