The “Collecting Stories” activity is a great way to launch a workshop or new study group on a topic. The one I designed here was used with participants in a workshop for teachers who were new to working with young English language learners. You can download a copy of the two-page template by clicking here.
This activity works well anytime you want to get participants up and moving throughout the room, talking with each other beyond the pleasantries we always share in new situations. Often one or two stories are shared that are so moving or funny everyone wants to hear them, and they become the starting point for the workshop that follows.
The length of time you need for this activity depends upon the size of the group. It works best with at least eight participants, and no more than 30. You can revise the questions to suit any topic. For example, if you are leading a workshop on content-area reading, prompts might include:
1. Find someone who has had a positive experience teaching a reading strategy within a content area. Who is that person? What was their experience?
2. Find someone who can describe part of their curriculum that they believe integrates literacy and content instruction well. Who is the person? How do they integrate curriculum?
3. Find someone who has a dilemma related to teaching content area reading that they are struggling with. Who is the person? What is the dilemma?
4. Find someone here who has experienced a recent change in the population of his or her students. Who is the person? What is the change?
5. Find someone who has an excellent piece of advice about educating parents about content area literacy. Who is the person? What is the advice and why is it so helpful?
6. Find someone who has a story about a particular children’s literature book that connected with their students. Who is the person? What is the story? What is the book?
By beginning with our individual experiences as learners around a topic, we can connect with others and start to build a new, shared history around the topic. It’s also a warm, personal way to launch any new curriculum initiative.