On a warm Thursday evening, after a miss-guided trek through Grossmont College, I arrived at a Chula Vista High Tech High literary event.
Here I got the exciting chance to experience the by product of an ingenious project based off the Ryan North book To Be or Not to Be, a choose-your-own-path version of Hamlet.Teacher Tim Briggs, from Tech High, set his students on a four-month journey that ended with a series of books and a skilled set of students who’ve begun to master the art of self-publishing. Each of the student’s books held three elements that they had to work with. The first two elements are the incorporation of an era in history and a character during that time period that the students had to build upon. The last element of the books consisted of multiple decisions in various directions that the readers, from the standpoint of the main character, were to choose from. The proceeding events of the story were then based off the reader’s decision. This elaborate assignment was the attempt at meshing three subjects; Humanities, History, and English into one project that could truly interact with the students.
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The event progressed like this…
Upon arrival, a group of students made a PowerPoint presentation that had background information on the creating process of the project. After which, we were read the beginning chapter of The Flapper Girl by Rebecca Lord. At the end of the chapter we were faced with two decisions to pick from as the persona of main character Rosie. Either “we”, Rosie, stayed in Alabama with “our” mother or “we” follow sub character Ricky to Chicago. Given this first decision we were relieved to stand and go to the respected corners of the room based upon the decision we made for Rosie. Each corner led Rosie down a different road and so I stood in order to hear where my decision to drive off with Ricky would take her.
In Chicago, Rosie meets another character named Jake. Here she was struck with another decision of where she should work. Either Rosie plays it safe and works for Jake or she can continue to follow Ricky to a bar where she will become a flapper and work with the much frowned upon substance of alcohol.
It seemed the Flapper life was for Rosie. As the story tells, Rosie was content with this life for six months when a mysterious man enters the bar and catches her eye. After sometime, the man gets up to leave and Rosie is struck with another decision. Should she follow the man or be good and keep working? At this point I had a pretty good idea of the kind of character I my decisions made Rosie out to be and so I went the first impulsive decision.
Unfortunately for Rosie, following the man wasn’t the smarter choice. Unbeknownst to Rosie, the man was actually a cop and he got her right where he wanted her.
Scared for her future Rosie faced her last decision; did she help the cop or make a run for it?
Rosie ended up spilling every little detail about the bar, giving the day-to-day schedule up to the cop. In return, Rosie was relocated and given a new identity where she continued on in life on the sunnier side.
Once the story was completed there was a small break for refreshments and the chance to buy any of the students books. As the break finished, one more
student went up with his story, Journey into World War I by Gustavo De Leon, where he recommenced the same decision process. When that was finished a Q&A session began and the students went into further detail with the mapping development that helped them keep track of where all the multiple decisions were taking the character.
It was amazing to know that each student ultimately made more than just one story because each decision led very different paths. The students were forced to research their project, decide on a historical event, and then from there, created the decisions the character was going to face. Each student took a different route on the way they wanted to take the decisions, some using historical main events during their time period while others had a little harder time “choice creating” because they wanted to keep the story as historically accurate as possible.
The overall production of the event and the remarkable effort that these Tech High students put into the progression of the project was outstanding. Congratulations to Tim Briggs on an innovative use of this project with the corporation of three subjects and to his students for pulling through with equal success