Archive for the ‘past vs. present’ Category


November 10, 2007

My friend and colleage Mark Oleynick in Philadelphia, an AP Spanish teacher, told me he had tons of wardrobe items in the closet of his classroom. 

When he said that, I thought, “Oh, I am not a costume person!” Well, that was true only up until this past Holloween! 

One of my students, unbelievably, looked more like Marie Antoinette on Holloween than possibly Marie herself ever did. 

We decided to try to make a story up with the characters in the room.  We did pretty well, and at the end of the story, a student dressed up like Death came to get Marie and the rest of the royal family. Here is a small part of the circled dialogue:

Class, Death raises his hands! 

The kid raised his hand like a student because he didn’t hear the plural article “les” in French. Once we got that straight, amidst a lot of humor:

Class, Death walks toward Marie Antoinette!

To lend interest, I sang those words and the rest of the class to the melody of “Le Coeur au Bonheur” in Les Miserables. It is a very dramatic, fantastic, love song, and helped create suspense. 

Class, Death takes a plate (district required vocabulary)! Death holds the plate over the Queen!  


Class, Zero the Hero (a very athletic girl dressed up like a super hero) attacks Death!  The Queen has been saved!  

I wish kids would wear costumes to class everyday!  I learned a big lesson on Halloween, that besides questionnaires and cool names, clothing props can really help drive a story. Anything that makes the stories the KIDS’ OWN is valuable.

Note that this scene was in the present tense because it was really happening in our classroom RIGHT NOW. The story was unfolding in real time.

But most stories should be in the past (use the thumb over the shoulder thing), with dialogues in the present.



November 6, 2007

I know that, to indicate the past tense, Joe often uses a thumb pointing back over the shoulder to show the students that the verb is in the past.  I have been doing this lately and it really works. Gesturing things in general during stories really works.