Do you have trouble remembering the details of your class stories? I know I do!

I used to write all the details down on sticky notes and paste them all over my desk until...

one day, I come into my classroom and they were all gone! I panicked!

How to Add Details to Your Story

Details are the key to getting meaningful repetitions without changing the basic sentence.

As we add the details the basic elements of the sentence remain the same and the only new information is the details. This helps slower processors understand because the basic sentence stays the same, but it also helps faster processors because it allows them to hear examples of longer, more detailed sentences.

Another reason details are important is that it keeps the repetitions novel. If we merely just repeat the same sentence over and over, the brain will eventually tune out as there's nothing new to process. But if we add details with each repetition, the brain quickly processes what is the same and listens for what is new.

It is important that when we add details, we add them slowly, one at a time, with a lot of scaffolded, differentiated questions in between.

It's not a race. We're not rushing to get to the end of the story. That's not the point.

What is the point is that students hear enough language to be able to process the patterns of the language as they subconsciously map the language in their brains.

If we rush through this process, the mapping doesn't happen.

So, by adding, details one at a time with lots of questions in between details, we are allowing the brain to process the patterns and map the language.

And, by adding details slowly, we are able to spend more time on one sentence which is extremely helpful for slower processors.

I like to add at least THREE details to a sentence before I move on to another sentence of the story.

If the sentence is difficult or I see students struggling with the sentence, I'll add even more details, always one at a time, to give students more time to process the sentence.

Remember the key to adding details is the questioning that comes after the sentence.

Be sure to ask yes/no, either/or and question-word questions about every part of the sentence, including the subject, object, AND verb.

The verb is often the most awkward part to ask questions about, but it's a great way to teach opposite verbs or the differences between verb tenses.

"Does Johnny drink the cereal or does he eat the cereal?"

"Does Sarah run to school or did she run to school?"

But to get the most out of those sentences, you'll also ask questions about Johnny and Sarah (subjects) and cereal and to school (object/predicate).

By multiple questions about each part of the sentence, you can easily get dozens of questions with each detail added and these dozens of repetitions allow for the language patterns to be subconsciously processed.

Now, if kids give you a very detailed sentence to start with, back it up to its essential elements and then add the details back slowly one at a time.

If you keep that very detailed sentence as is, you've lost the opportunity for a ton of repetitions. So you'll want to back it up and add one detail at a time.

For example, if a student says they like "large, pepperoni and pineapple pizzas from Pizza Hut," you would say, "Class, Michael likes pizza." And ask your scaffolded, differentiated questions about that basic sentence.

You'll then follow up with, "Does Michael like large or small pizzas?" (detail 1) Then ask your questions all about the new sentence.

You'll next ask, "Does Michael like Domino's pizza?" Of course, the answer is no, so you'll follow up with what kind of pizza does Michael like? (detail 2)

Once you get the answer Pizza Hut, you'll ask more questions about that new sentence.

Finally, you'll ask what kind of large, Pizza Hut pizza does Michael like. (detail 3). You'll ask even more questions about this final version of the sentence.

What's great about this technique is that the slow processors still hear the most basic version of the sentence with every new detail, but you are also building up longer and longer sentences for all of your students to aspire to.

If you always stick to short choppy sentences, that's all that your students will be able to produce and they will have nowhere to grow.

But, by using small, medium, and large sentences, each type of student (low, mid, and high), has examples of bigger sentences than they currently comprehend and that gives them room to grow.

So How Did My Story End?

I began to review the story in my first period and I got it all wrong.

I didn't know the character or the name or anything and the students had to correct me every step of the way. And you know what? It worked!

I just played the game that I'm old and forgetful and the students ate it up. Plus, it was an even better review because they had to come up with all the details that I had forgotten!

So don't worry about forgetting the details. That's what your students are for!

Do you have a similar story? I'd love for you to share it in the comments below!!