Guest post by Meghan Loveless, Assistant Curriculum Developer for the Comprehensible Classroom
I’m always looking for new activities that I can use to get my students on their feet and moving around the room while still engaged with input. When Hayley Ross, who is an incredible English Teacher in my hallway, shared with me a ‘Question Trails’ idea that she tried out, I knew I could make it work for my context and instructional goals.
Hayley had learned the Question Trails activity from a blog post by Writing with Miss G, and you can find that blog post here (it’s the third idea that she shares). It is so important to meet students where they are, and the week that we tried out this activity, students were excited about break and their bodies were full of energy. We needed something to allow them to move while still engaged and reading the language.
What is a Story Path?
When Hayley shared the idea with me, my student teacher and I sat down to talk about how we could use it in class the next day. We had planned to do a CLOZE reading passage from Unit 8 of the Somos Curriculum – an activity in which students are reading a short story and filling in missing words based on context clues. In Miss G’s original blog post, she shows how she posts a multiple choice question on each poster, and students move around the room finding answers to the questions that were written on other posters. Read her post to learn more! However, we wanted to do things a little differently so that students would be actually reading the story as they moved through the activity, and here is what we came up with. It was the PERFECT way to give our students a chance to get up out of their seats and move around on the day before a break!
A Story Path allows students to interact with a text in a meaningful way. Although we are calling this adaptation a Story Path, it really could be used with any text– from a class story that was co-created using TPRS® to an informational text about a cultural topic or current event to a familiar fairy tale. The text is divided up between a certain number of posters, and each poster features a text-based question or task with multiple choice options.
On each poster, students read a portion of the text and identify the answer to the task. The correct answer will send them to a different poster in the room, and they will then read the text and complete the task on that poster. In this way, each answer option directs them to the next question, creating a trail/path. Here is an example:
Students can start anywhere on the path, because the path is a loop that will eventually bring them back to their starting point. Although students may find it easiest to understand the text if they begin with the poster that includes the start of the story or informational text, they will ultimately end up reading the whole thing. Consider assigning students or pairs of students to different posters from the get go to spread students out, and assign students that will benefit the most from comprehension aids to start at the poster that includes the beginning of the story or text.
Meghan and Sophie’s Unit 8 story can be found in our Subscriber Library. Look for it in the Whole Class Activities folder!
How to set up a Story Path
The hardest part of getting this activity was actually creating the posters and making sure that the order worked out. Write on with Miss G sells a template that you can use to simplify the process, and you can purchase it here. Once that was done, though, the actual setup was a breeze!
Before students arrived, I hung the question posters around the hallway right outside my door. The order of how they are hung up didn’t matter because students were going to be visiting them out of order anyway.
We also printed copies of a response sheet for students to be able to keep track of their responses throughout the activity, and we could collect this at the end as evidence of learning.
Profe Billington, my amazing student teacher, explained to our students that they were going to embark on an exciting adventure, a ‘Camino de Preguntas’ (Question Path, as we called it). She explained that they would read a portion of a passage that was missing words. They would have several choices for which set of words would best complete the passage, and each set would guide them to a different poster on their journey. Even though the questions are numbered, students needed to know that they would not be following the questions in sequence (1, 2, 3, etc.). Instead, they would find out the order based on the answer to each question.
In order for students to complete the full Camino, or Path, they would need to answer every question correctly. An incorrect response would lead them to eventually repeat some posters, or stops on the journey, and not make it to others. If they end up somewhere that they had already been, they would know that they had gotten off path at some point and would need to either retrace their steps or seek advice from their trail guide– one of their amazing teachers!
Formative assessment on the Story Path
This activity provided us with many opportunities for formative assessment of our students’ reading comprehension. We were able to see who could understand the text well enough to accurately complete the passages based on context clues, because those students moved through the path in the correct order and finished quickly. When students found themselves lost and confused at a repeat station, we were able to retrace their steps with them and figure out what choices had led them astray.
An additional layer of formative assessment that we built in was a quick comprehension check at the bottom of the answer sheet. Before handing it in, students had to write as much as they could remember about what they had read in our common language, which is English. A nice bonus was that students who finished quickly were able to work back through the path and re-read the story to jog their memories and write a lot, which kept them occupied for a bit longer.
Reflection on our first Story Path
Profe Billington and I found it really helpful to walk around to help our students and offer differentiated support. We read some of the question posters aloud to students and helped students get back on the correct path when they became misguided.
When we do this again, we will probably take some time to project or otherwise show students what a poster looks like and where to find information for how to continue on to the next poster BEFORE we begin the activity. We didn’t this time, and it took students a few minutes to figure out how to navigate through the path.
A different Story Path
by Martina Bex
When Meghan shared this idea with me, it came at just the right time! I was finishing up the instructional resources for Sobremesa Episode 2, and I was in need of a movement activity.
In Meghan and Sophie’s activity, students read a story as they moved through the path. I decided to try something a little different! Instead of reading the story through the path, I decided to have students do the bulk of their reading BEFORE they embarked on the path. The content in the Story Path was based on information shared in two different texts: a text about Jala corn and a text about the Taíno people. Students had the option to read both texts on their own or to do a Jigsaw reading, in which they worked with a partner and each read one text. Then, students worked through the path individually or with their partner.
Each poster or stop on the path contained a fact from one of the two texts that was missing a word. Students carry their texts with them on the path so that they can reference and re-read to find the information, and they also have an answer bank that looks like a map. Students read the fact and choose which word from the map/answer bank best completes the statement, then they go find the poster that is labeled with that word at the top. As they go, they trace their path on their map.
Just as with Meghan’s original activity, this adaptation of the Story Path will eventually bring students back to their starting point, and that is their indication that they completed the path successfully! You can check the path that they marked on their map as an extra layer of assessment.
As you have read this post, you may notice that it shares similarities with other activities that you may already be using in your classes. In particular, it works similarly to Chain Reaction or an “I have/Who Has” task card activity. It also shares the looping function with Srta. Spanish’s Corre en círculos activity!
If you LOVE Gallery Walk style activities like this, in which students are moving around the room interacting with text or questions on posters, be sure to check out these blog posts for more ideas:
- Gallery Walk for language classes
- Annotation Walk Reading activity
- Running Dictation Relay Race
- Who said it? Reading activity
- Get them talking!
Love this idea? Feel free to use and adapt it in your classes, and to create and share Story Paths/Caminos de preguntas that you create with other teachers. We request that you credit Meghan Loveless and link to this blog post. If you would like include a version of this activity in commercial products, including but not limited to detailed descriptions on blog posts and/or resources sold on Teachers Pay Teachers or used in Teacher Guides, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.