a project on Conditionals
Whenever I teach Conditionals, I’ll finish the lesson with an activity in which I present the class with a possible scenario, then state what results. That result is then the new scenario, and students have to come up with a subsequent result. We’ll carry on for a few more rounds. The result might look like this:
If the weather’s nice today, we’ll go to the beach. If we go to the beach, some of us will swim in the ocean. If some of us swim in the ocean, a shark might eat Katy’s legs. If a shark eats Katy’s legs, she’ll have to replace them with robot legs. If Katy gets robot legs, she’ll be able to run super fast. If Katy could run super fast, she’ll win an Olympic medal next year.
Therefore, if the weather’s nice today, Katy might win an Olympic medal next year.
You could do this with any type of Conditional, by the way. With students making the decisions, it often gets very silly. Sometimes we’ll go this all together, and other times I’ll have students write their own results, then pass them around so that different students carry on the chain of events at each stage. This tends to be one of my most popular activities.
Let’s take that activity and flesh it out into a full project! By offering multiple options following each scenario, your class can create their own choose-your-own-adventure story!
How it Works
Interactive books were popular in the 1980’s. While they’re less so now, many video games have continued a similar style of interaction. In an interactive story, the reader/viewer/player is presented with a situation, then two options on how to respond to it. The story then continues down different paths depending on what what choice was made. In the case of the books, readers have to turn to a specified page after making a decision to see the result.
Although the different paths sometimes intersect, there are generally multiple (anywhere from two to dozens of) endings. Thus, readers/players have different experiences and outcomes from their friends who go through the same interactive story, since they’ll make different decisions along the way.
The Scope of the Project
You can make this as complex and as long as you like it, but keep in mind that with diverging paths, the number of pages your students need to write grows exponentially with each decision point. Here’s what I recommend:
Keep the pages short. Write one paragraph (2-7 sentences) for the scenario, then another sentence for each of the choices.
Plan the paths to go 5 levels deep (which may require up to 31 pages) to 6 levels deep (which may require up to 63 pages). With the latter, readers will only read 6 pages, but they’ll choose 5 of those from out of another 62 possibilities (where the first page is already chosen for them). This may seem like a lot, but if you divide it up among your students, it might be only three pages for each student (and again, only one paragraph for each page).
Find opportunities for paths to intersect. Sometimes when you’re coming up with results, you may find that a result you developed for another choice is similar. If you can merge these into a single result, that will cut down on the number of pages, sometimes significantly.
The genre and synopsis is completely up to you and your class. You can go heavy into the fictional route with a story of dragons or aliens or pirates or wizards or detectives, or you could start with something a little closer to home such as basing the story on your school or a recent happenstance in your community. If you’re looking for some inspiration check out story prompts.
You’ll want to set up the first level, maybe the first two, either by yourself or together with your students. From there, have your students think of possible options following each scenario and consequences following each decision.
Choose Your Own Adventure stories are typically written in the present tense and from the 2nd-person perspective. I’d encourage you to do the same, but you may choose not to.
After each scenario – at the end of each page – readers are given two options on how to respond. Write them as conditionals (mostly type 1, but perhaps some of type 0) that includes not just what the reader could do, but what the expected result would be. It’s only on the page they turn to next that the result is explained in detail, and it may not play out as expected. For example:
As you enter the wood cabin, you find an ugly old lady in the kitchen, dropping some strange ingredients into a cauldron. “Oh good,” she says, “I’ve been expecting you.” You then realize that she is a witch. Behind you, the door locks itself. “Here, try some of this potion,” says the witch. “Go on, what are waiting for?”
If you drink the potion, it might turn you into something hideous. Or it might not. Go to Page 9.
If you don’t drink the potion, the witch will likely get very angry with you. Go to Page 14.
Planning & Writing
OPTION 1: ALL TOGETHER
Perhaps the easiest option would be to plot out the story as a class. I might create a diagram like the one in the image above, but you don’t have to; just keep asking, “if this happens, what happens next?” and make a note of each step along the way. Next, randomly give each scenario a page number (except that the very first scenario should be page 1). Once you’ve finished, assign each page to a student (or pair of students), who will then write out the details using complete sentences.
Finally, compile all the pages, and put them in order according to page number (which may not be the same as a chronological order).
The disadvantage of doing it this way is that everyone in the class knows the possible routes, so they can’t go through the story as a reader with a natural and honest progression. You can instead give the book to another class. If you have multiple classes do this same project, have them swap books.
OPTION 2: DIVIDE IN SECRECY
If you’d like the class that made the book to be able to go through it themselves, try this instead. Once a scenario and the possible choices that follow it are set, divide the class in two. One group plans out the results of first choice, and the other group carries out the second choice. When they finish the scenario and the new choices that follow, divide each group in two again. Continue like this until students are working on their own or in pairs. (depending on the size of your class, you might want to divide at some levels, but not every level.)
This option can be more exciting in the end, but it’ll be more work for the teacher as there’s more to keep track of.
Once the students have all gone through the story as readers (they’ve all chosen their own path and arrived at different endings), have them make comparisons using the 3rd Conditional. For example, “If you hadn’t pushed the button, you wouldn’t have been able to stop the zombies.”
Check out Insights’s Unreal Mood Series or Modifier Clauses Series to view our videos on Conditionals and related topics. In these videos, we share innovative teaching methods to make it easier for students to understand and remember grammar points.