Multi-path books in the classroom


Now that the first Atama-ii titles have been released, you may be wondering how to use them in your classroom. What you may not realize is that all of us on the Atama-ii author team are teachers ourselves, and that we actually use these stories in our own classrooms. In this blog post, the first of many, we’ll share some of our ideas with you.

Of course, these books are great for lower and intermediate level EFL/ESL students to read individually on their own, and we do this too, as part of an Extensive Reading (ER) program. In this context, multi-path adventure stories tend to be especially engaging for students who are reluctant or otherwise disengaged readers. In fact, the very first multi-path stories were developed with reluctant readers in mind. Being an active part of the story really seems to resonate with them in a way other books often don’t.

But besides ER, here are some other things you can try in the classroom:

Pre-reading Activities:

  • Elicit the topic of the story. Remember, the cover of the book is not just a decoration; it can be used as a tool to introduce the students to the story and get them interested in reading it. Without telling the students what the story is about, show the cover of the book and ask them to say aloud or discuss with a partner what they think the story is going to be about.
  • Expand on the topic. Ask the students what they already know about the topic of the story. If they are reading Journey to Mars, what do they know about space exploration, or the solar system? For Zombies in Tokyo, have they ever seen a movie or TV show about zombies? What do they know about Tokyo? For The Lost Cup, are they planning to follow the World Cup in Brazil this summer? Do they know anything about Rio de Janeiro, where the story is set?
  • Review the keywords. Each Atama-ii title includes a set of 15-20 keywords which are important to know in order to read the story smoothly. It’s a good idea to review them before reading the story. One way to do this is to play the memory game: 1. In small groups, have students write each vocabulary word on two small cards; 2. Mix up the cards and place them face-down on the desk; 3. Students take turns turning over the cards and saying the words until they get a match. If they get two matching cards, they have to read the definition aloud and get to keep the cards. The student with the most pairs of cards at the end of the game wins.

While-Reading Activities:

  • Group reading. Put the students into groups of three (or five, if you have a large class). Each group has a device they can use to read an ebook, such as an iPad, Kindle, or other tablet computer. Students in the group take turns reading one page each aloud. When they reach a choice, students in the group must discuss which choice they think is best. Then the students vote on which choice to make. They then continue, until they get to the end of the story. If different groups get different endings, they can tell the other groups how their story ended, and if they liked the ending or not.
  • Whole-class reading. If you teach large classes with few available electronic devices, you can try projecting the e-book on a screen at the front of the class. Then invite students to take turns reading the page aloud. When you get to a page with a choice, have the students discuss in small groups about the choices, then vote on which choice to make. Optionally, you can get two students to stand up and try to convince the class which choice they should all make; then all students vote (with the teacher as the tie-breaker if necessary). Continue reading the story in this manner until you get to one of the endings.

For the activities above, we all find that it usually takes 20–30 minutes for students to get to one ending. Therefore, it is possible to have the students start again and try another adventure in the same class.

Post-reading activities:

  • Write-up and rank the endings. Students read individually, and when they get to an ending, they write a few sentences about what happened to them. Repeat for at least two or three endings, and as many as all eight. This can be done in class or as homework. Then, in small groups, they talk about and rank all eight endings from best to worst. This can lead to some interesting discussions, as many of the endings are not entirely “good” or “bad”. (It’s also a sneaky way to practice changing 2nd person “you” to first person “I”, and the present tense to the past tense when they relate their stories.)
  • What’s your favorite ending? Have students write about which ending they liked best and why. They can then discuss this with a partner or as a class. To expand, they can imagine what happens after the story ending. Where are “you” and what are you doing a week later? A year later?
  • Research and report. We try to write Atama-ii stories to be interesting enough to raise real-life questions which can be followed up on. After reading the stories, students may wonder if it is possible for astronauts to travel to Mars, and whether it would really take 200 days to get there. Or where do stories about zombies come from. Or whether the World Cup trophy was really stolen (it was—twice!). A great way to extend the topic is to get students to research, alone or in groups, about something they wondered about while reading. After they do, they can write up or simply present any interesting fact they’ve discovered.

Whatever you do, we hope you enjoy using Atama-ii books in your classroom—and if you come up with some good ideas yourself, please share them with us!

ABOUT LESLEY ITO: As well as being an Atama-ii author, Lesley runs her own English school in Nagoya. This year she will be presenting, among other things, on “Using graded readers for communicative activities” as a Featured Speaker at JALT 2014.

“Multi-path books in the classroom” has 2 comments.

  1. I suggested someone use them for conditionals practice, and according to their comment seemed to go very well:

  2. Incoming link: JALT 2015 Highlights: Edison Bands, Tornado Hunters, and the Mick Jagger of Vocabulary - 英会話スクールなら名古屋市昭和区のBigBowEnglishLab

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