Imaginary Life Stories

For my Spanish IV class today I printed out a number of pictures of somewhat obscure personages, both historical and contemporary. These ranged from Bjorn Borg to Joe Strummer to Zelda Fitzgerald (F. Scott’s wife.)

Each student got to pick one picture (without knowing who the person actually was) and create life story for that person. I told the students that they were going to have a press conference (in character as that person) to announce their retirement. As part of the press conference they had to explain what they had done during their illustrious career and, basically, communicate what was leading them to retire.

The students (and I as well) had a lot of fun creating outlandish stories for the different pictures.

  • Joe Strummer, renamed John Michael Costner, is the tallest man in the world. He’s retiring from his career of speaking engagements because he, godzilla-like, wreaks havoc on whatever city he visits so he’s been asked not to return to every major city in the country and, thus, can no longer tour.
  • Zelda Fitzgerald, renamed Rachel Havner, is a Jane Goodall type but instead of working with African chimps she is an advocate for Peruvian house cats. In her ardor for conservation she took  to poisoning dogs to protect the cats and, once the Peruvian government arrested her for the serial canine murders, she’s been forced to retire.
  • Maya Angelou is the world’s most famous blind woman. She traveled across the United States by llama. Unfortunately, while traversing an Indian reservation in New Mexico she bathed in a hot springs without being able to read the sign alerting visitors to the hot spring’s curative powers. Her sight was restored and so, sadly, she’s being forced to abandon her career of professional blindness.
  • Slavoj Zizek is a scientist who discovered a way to travel across dimensions using mirrors. Unfortunately, the burden of explaining how this works and guiding people through mirror travel has really taken a toll on Slavoj and he’s retiring to spend time at home.
  • Bjorn Borg, renamed Eduardo Enrique, is a professional hair model who has won the Luscious Locks competition 15 years running. He’s retiring because male pattern baldness has ruined his golden mane, costing him his livelihood.
  • Debbie Harry is a woman  who discovered a serum for immortality. But, instead of putting her infinite time to good use, she’s decided to live life as the eternal party girl. She’s run up astronomical bar tabs in every European capital, pushed innumerable attractive party girl rivals into pools and drunk gallons of tequila. A drug-fueled vision has led her to have a change of heart and she will renounce immortality, stop drinking the serum and use the rest of her mortal life for good.

This was a rewarding activity for two reasons.

First, it’s so easy to create! All I had to do was find some interesting pictures on the internet and print them out.

Second, it gives the students a compelling reason to speak and write in Spanish. They were all totally engaged by the project and put a lot of thought into their character’s personalities, life stories and reasons for retirement. They enjoyed the opportunity to be creative but also got a lot of practice with the present perfect (“I have traveled,” “I have won,” etc.). Tomorrow we will have the press conferences in class which will give them speaking practice and give other students listening practice.

Who knew Buster Keaton,  JD Salinger & Bjorn Borg could contribute so much to a Spanish class?



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