Storytelling with Chairs

I learned this activity when I was studying playwriting at the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco.  I adapted it for use with ELL students. I think it's a great storytelling activity for all levels of students.  The basic idea is to divide the class into teams (3 is my favorite number for teams btw).  Each team gets 5 chairs.  They are to retell a story in 3 scenes, a beginning, middle and end, using the chairs as their actors.  In our playwriting class we didn't tell the story, but simply showed it and the audience's interpretation is what was interesting.  Different purpose there.  I found that with language learners it was best to scaffold the process and focus more on the connection between the chairs and the story.  Encouraging oral language.

Step one is for us to tell a shared story.  I showed (shameless self promotion) a guinness beer commercial I did a number of years ago that is a short story, told entirely without words (top video).  I showed the commercial and we, as a class, discuss the story that is being told.  Then in groups the students "retell" the story using the chairs (videos 2 and 3 are examples of this).  Ideally, each student narrates one scene, however as I have some students brand new and still in the receptive stage of language development (you'll notice that on the video) I don't insist.  Perhaps it would be a good assessment tool later on in the semester to see growth. 

The next step is for the students to tell another story using the same structure: 5 chairs, 3 scenes: beginning, middle and end.  The story can be from a movie (the first video is about The Titanic), a book, a folktale, or even a made up story.  I think this activity has endless possibilities.  I am at this writing (September 2018) using it with a newcomer class and we are spending a full week of class on this.  I'm using it as a "reading" activity for this group as I provided folk tales as well as audio books and short videos of stories as source material.  I probably am providing too many video samples but I want you to get a sense of possibilities.  I'd love to hear from you regarding any extensions of this.