Summer English club got a lot more interesting when, halfway through July, I found my classroom without desks or chairs. Luckily, this has happened before (like when the school has been mysteriously locked) and we have a backup space to meet: the будинок школяра (literally “schoolchildren’s building”), to which Oleh can get a key because his band rehearses there. But so much for multimedia clubs and film night…it was back to planning technology-less clubs like I did for the first few months at site.
It turns out that technology-less English clubs are much easier and more fun with a big group, so it’s a good thing that more people have been showing up for the past couple of weeks. About 15 people came yesterday, a great mix of pupils and adults. After a few warm-up activities I had them count off in fives to make groups of three or four people. To loosen up and start speaking, each group had to come up with three non-visible things they had in common, then share them with everyone else. Some examples: “we have all been to the sea”; “we all like Ukraine”; “each of us has one brother but no sister.”
After the groups shared their things in common, I decided to challenge them and test an activity I’d never used before: a collaborative story. Every group had to begin their story with the same sentence. I gave them “Once upon a time, there lived an old man…” Each group had to choose one person to write and then work together to compose a story based on the first sentence.
I was so impressed with the results that I asked to collect their stories (I got all but one) because I wanted to post them here. A year ago, even six to eight months ago, they would not have written such creative stories. I am amazed at how much my club attendees have grown and improved in their creative and critical thinking skills, teamwork skills, and English (of course).
Read the stories below. I’ve not changed anything except for some corrections for clarity in brackets. I have listed the authors and their rough ages to show the distribution; the person who physically wrote the story is listed first. The groups wrote these in about 20 minutes.
- Once upon a time there lived an old man. And he lived in a magic forest. One day he went fishing. Suddenly he felt [fell] in the lake. He though[t] he will die. But a terrible mermaid saved his life. She said him: “I saved youre life and you must do my 3 wishes: a) you must marry with me…” The old man didn’t listen last 2 wishes and start to run. When he ran he saw a young hot girl it was a red ridding hood [Little Red Riding Hood]. And she said him: “Marry me”. The old man said “Yes”. And then he wake [woke] up and said “I’ll never eat a strange mushrooms”. The end. Written by Oleh (23 years old, history teacher); Ira (~18 y/0, university student); and Lilia (16 y/o, just starting university).
- Once upon a time there lived an old man, who was lonely. 50 years ago he met his love of all the life. Unfortunately, he lost his sweetheart, because the war had begun. During his life he hasn’t [hadn’t] forgotten his love. And when he was 70 he has already found this woman. She’s as beautiful as 50 years ago and she’s still lonely too! So, he decided to visit their favourite restaurant, where they have [had] met. An [The] old man was surprised when he realized that she work there! It was the amazing meeting! They were speaking all the night and met the sunrise together. Their happiness was so short. An [The] old woman was ill and she knew that she will die in a few days. She must say goodby. And their love was so short like 50 years ago. Written by Yulia (17 y/o, just starting university); Oksana (22 y/o, medical college student); and Marta (~13 y/o, 8th grader).
- Once upon a time there lived an old man. Who was a spaceman. He saw an alien when he was in his space trip. He fall [fell] off the space ship of an alien flied [flew] in black hole. He found an alien city and met friendly alient [aliens]. The alients showed him their home, city, culture, customs. In the evening he tried enlient [alien] dishes, drive their car, thanked them and invite[d them to] visit our planet. When he came back he began to tell this story [to] his friend, and then this an old man visited a mad house. We jealous of him because he visited alients. We are so sorry that people didn’t believe him. Written by Nastia (~13 y/0, 8th grader); Katya (15 y/o; 10th grader); and Ivan (~20 y/0, university student).
- Once upon a time there lived an old man. His name was Petro. It was a crazy man, who like to drunk alcohol and then he liked to smells flowers every day. He had a lot of friends and he liked to dance, to sing songs and to say funny stories about his flowers. Their friends were very funny, too and all of them liked flying pigs and vegetables, which could talk to them and there [those] were the most exciting days of their lifes. Also, this boy Petro had a dog and a cat. He hadn’t a good imagination, so he named his pets like Belka and Strelka. His pets were very friendly with him, so every time, when he was very drunk they saved him and pulled him to his home, put him to his bed and sang a lullaby. Also they cooked a meal for him and also they have a friendly mouse that gived [gave] a piece of cheese to cat Strelka and the cat gaved this cheese to the dog, which gaved this cheese to Petro. Petro lived happy all his life. He road [rode] into the rainbow and catch [caught] a squirell that pursued him all his wonderful life. All. Written by Tanya (16 y/o, 11th grader); Ira (15 y/0, just starting college); and Serhiy (~45 y/o, doctor).
- I wasn’t able to collect the last story, but it was about a man who worked on a community farm and then sold everything and spent all his money on lottery tickets but did not win anything. There was one great sentence that went something like, he held the envelope with shaking hands. Written by Andriy (26 y/o, dentist); Natalia (31 y/o, businesswoman); and Ira (? 18 y/o, university student).
Which story is your favorite? Let me know in the comments below!