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"I don't understand how to ask a story."

August 31, 2018

You've got a new comprehension-based curriculum, and you'd be 100% sold if it weren't for that storyasking part. You've got a script, but what the heck do you do with it? Many teachers have asked the same question before. Storyasking is an invented word meant to differentiate creating a story from telling a story. If you've been to a TPRS training in the past, you have likely seen a demonstration.


Without a script, the teacher asks questions to choose a character, determine a problem, and try to solve it--adding in as many interesting details as possible along the way. Script-less storyasking could look something like this:

Teacher: Class, someone has a problem. Who has a problem?

Random student: Liza!

Teacher: Liza has a problem, yes. What problem does she have?

Random student: She is grounded!

Teacher: Yes, she is grounded. Why is she grounded?

Random student: She got a tattoo!

Teacher: Yes, she got a tattoo! What tattoo did she get?

Random student: A dog!

Teacher: Oh no, I don't think so, Liza doesn't like dogs.

Random student: The letters BLS!

Teacher: Yes, how strange! She got a tattoo of the letters BLS....

And so you see, now the class has created a story:

Liza is grounded because she got a tattoo. Her tattoo says, "BLS"...

Storyasking without a script is really wonderful and quite simple. Many teachers prefer to do TPRS without scripts, whether it be in the form of traditional TPRS stories in which there is a character trying to solve a problem or in the form of a One Word Image. Other teachers, however, prefer to ask a story based on a script. Click here to read a detailed tutorial that I wrote quite a few years ago. If you have already read it and are looking to clarify your understanding of the process and see concrete examples, read on!

Learn how to use a script to ask a TPRS story with your language classes!


With a script, the teacher asks questions to fill in missing details from a pre-determined plot frame. A script might look like this:

There is a _________. He walks to ________. He sees ________. He also sees ________. He feels _______ because ________. He decides to __________.

Another way that you might see the script is like this, with examples filled in so that you have an idea about the kinds of details you could possibly look for when asking the story with your class:

There is an alligator. It walks to McDonalds. It sees a person. It also sees a hamburger. He feels sad because he is a vegetarian and he is hungry. He decides to start his own restaurant.

Regardless of which format the script took, the storyasking in class would look the same:

Teacher: Class, someone is walking. Who is walking?

Random student: Emerson

Teacher: Yes, Emerson is walking. To where is Emerson walking?

Random student: To the pool!

Teacher: Yes, to the pool! He is walking to the pool. He is walking to the pool, and he sees someone. Who does he see?

Random student: Pikachu!

Teacher: Yes, he sees Pikachu! Wait, Pikachu is not real; how is it possible that he sees Pikachu?

Random student: Pokemon Go!

Teacher: Oh yes, he is walking and he is playing Pokemon Go. He sees Pikachu through his phone because he is playing Pokemon Go. He sees Pikachu, and he sees something else.

Random student: Jared!

Teacher: Yes, he sees Jared! First, he sees Pikachu; then, he sees Jared. How does he feel when he sees Pikachu?...

In this way, the class creates this story:

Emerson is walking to the pool. He is walking and playing Pokemon Go. He sees Pikachu and feels excited. He is excited because he wants to trap Pikachu! Then he sees Jared. When he sees Jared, he feels nervous! He feels nervous because Jared also plays Pokemon Go. Jared is going to see Pikachu. Jared is going to want to trap Pikachu....

Notice how this class-created story about Emerson and Pikachu has nothing to do with an alligator, as was the subject of the original story script. The plot frame is the same, but the class-created content as solicited by the teacher's questions makes it feel as though the two stories have nothing in common. Let me give you another example! This is from Unit 2 of the SOMOS Level 2 Curriculum, the class-favorite story La muchacha y la ardilla. 


Había una vez una muchacha que se llamaba Maya, y ella caminaba al parque para jugar antes de regresar a casa para comer con su familia.

Mientras caminaba, ella vio que había un animal en la distancia. Era una ardilla. Ella se acercó a la ardilla. Ella miró la ardilla y pensó, «Esta ardilla es preciosa. ¡Voy a llevármela!». Ella agarró la ardilla, la besó y se la llevó.

Entonces, Maya caminó un poquito más con la ardilla y vio que había otro animal en la distancia. Era una vaca. Ella se acercó a la vaca. Ella miró la vaca y pensó, «Quiero leche. ¡Voy a llevármela!» Ella agarró la vaca, la besó y se la llevó....

As you're asking the story, think of it like this:

Había una vez una muchacha que se llamaba _________ y ella caminaba a _________  antes de regresar a casa para _____________.

Mientras caminaba, ella vio que había un animal en la distancia. Era _________. Ella se acercó a _________. Ella miró_________ y pensó, «_________. ¡Voy a llevármela!» Ella agarró _________, _________ y se la llevó.

Entonces,_________ caminó un poquito más con_________ y vio que había otro animal en la distancia. Era_________. Ella se acercó a _________. Ella miró_________ y pensó, «_________. ¡Voy a llevármela!» Ella agarró _________, _________ y se la llevó....

To get your class to create their own version of the story, ask these questions:

  1. Alguien caminaba. ¿Quién caminaba?
  2. ¿Adónde caminaba?
  3. ¿Por qué caminaba a [x]?
  4. ¿Por qué tenía que regresar a casa después de caminar a [x]?
  5. ¿Qué animal vio?
  6. ¿Qué pensó cuando vio el animal?
  7. ¿Qué hizo después de agarrar el animal?
  8. [Repeat 5-7]...

Asking this series of questions will result in an original story that mirrors the one from the story script, but that has its own details and flair. Here are some examples of stories that real classes have created through this process:


To see just how different a class story might end up, here is a class story that Tree Yorque, a teacher that uses this unit, created through a storyasking session with her class:

“Santiago y la araña”

Había un muchacho que se llamaba Santiago. Él caminaba en los pasadizos. Él quería escapar porque su familia lo estaba buscando.   Él vio que había una cosa interesante en los pasadizos. Había un cuarto con muchos perritos de maíz en el suelo. Para llegar a una puerta, él tenía que comer los perritos, pero había un problema: diez perritos eran venenosos. Él tenía que bailar con los perritos para saber si tenían veneno o no. Santiago pensó, “quizás tengo hambre más tarde. Voy a llevármelos.” Él se acercó a los perritos, los comió y con unos, se los llevó. Después, él vio que había otro objeto interesante en la distancia. Era una tabla ouija. Él se acercó a la tabla. Usó un perrito con la tabla, y la tabla le dijo, “Vete a la derecha.” Santiago pensó, “ésta tabla es especial. Voy a llevármela.” Él agarró la tabla y la puso en su bolso de hombres y se la llevó. Él vio que había otra cosa en la distancia. Había una araña azul y era necesario cantar para moverla. Él se acercó a la araña y dijo, “Quiero montarla.” Él se la llevó. Él miró a su reloj y pensó, “tengo hambre y tengo frío.” Él usó la seda de la araña para hacer una chaqueta. Después, él llamó a los espíritus de la tabla ouija para que ellos sacaran el veneno de los perritos, menos uno venenoso. Santiago comió los perritos y cantó “la canción de béisbol” (de Anabella). Por eso, la araña se lo llevó fuera de los pasadizos. Santiago vio a su familia, pero de repente, la araña la comió a todos, incluso a Santiago. La araña buscó el último perrito caliente, lo comió, y murió del veneno. FIN


Another teacher that has used this story for a few years now is Carrie Toth. You may know Carrie as the author of some of my favorite novels from Wayside Publishing, as the face behind the Somewhere to Share blog and TpT store, or as the 2015 ACTFL Teacher of the Year Finalist. Carrie just shared some photos on Twitter from her class storyasking session with La muchacha y la ardilla, and I asked her if I could share her experience here! Carrie has been doing TPRS style stories with and without scripts for many years now, and so she has found a balance of control that works for her. Here is how Carrie described the planning and execution of the storyasking session:

So when I use the scripts, I want to stay true to the vocabulary but I feel like I can let go of the script and let the class lead. I knew that to get reps of the structures, she'd still have to go different places and find different animals. I wanted her to end up eating one, wearing one, and getting home with the GPS on the last one's phone. That's all I had planned.

First class, I chose a girl who I knew was a great actress. They named her Chica bc her mom was not creative. :) She went to places that were inside jokes in that class and found a fox, a whale, and finally a magical unicorn.

Second class, the girl was named Carrie Toth. She was famous, smart, and really talented (all them, honestly). They went to the moon, to Alaska, and Panamá, Panamá ;-). They had a chick from los pollitos dicen, a whale and a Koala bear who constantly hugged things.

Final class went to places that were inside jokes as well. Theirs was a boy named Donut. He found a chupacabra, a cucuy (can you tell Somos 1 is really popping up lol) and a Pikachu. (I made a super fast pokeball and we caught the Pikachu after a demo by me of how to approach in secret) (reps of se acerca/acercó).

In fact, Carrie is so hard core that she gave herself rug burn demonstrating the Pikachu catch!


The SOMOS Curriculum Collaboration group is a great place to get answers to your questions. In particular, look for a recent LIVE video by SOMOS Mentor Elicia Cárdenas (of The Deskless Classroom) to help you find your storyasking personae! You will also find other examples of class created stories based on the story scripts from the SOMOS Curriculum located in the Collaboration Drive, which is connected to that group.  

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