When we target structures in order to teach them, we break down language into pieces as opposed to teaching language as an organic, unified and naturally emerging whole. The pieces become more important than the whole, and the result is a deterioration in interest. When the story necessarily become secondary to those targeted structures, it then comes as no surprise that the story is often not that interesting.
A slave to targets for fifteen years, I am finally convinced that the natural emergence of unfettered language is the only way to really get a story truly off the ground. This has been happening since I started experimenting with untargeted stories in January. The stories did not fail and the classes knew it and commented on it often. It was like a light bulb had been turned on in the room after a first semester of yet another year of ho-hum stories with the occasional home run story to keep us coming back for more every class.
Even in those rare cases when an untargeted story is weak, it is not due to any lack of creativity in the kids. They are creative geniuses. Rather, it is usually due to my own insistance on stubbornly trying to continue to develop a lame character in spite of the obvious protestations of the kids. [Note to Ben: When kids say, in all the different ways they have of saying it, that a story sucks, it is because the story sucks and you need to grab a new character and start again.]
The only exception to this is the Tripp/Matava scripts. They target structures and yet bring magic. Why? It is because scripts written by a genius script writer with genius intentional hooks grab the attention of teens in a way that even the kid in the back row who hates school cannot help but get involved in, as long as the process of working from a story script is done properly.
There is a lot more creativity and leeway in scripted stories than one may think, but this is a topic for a much larger discussion. Suffice to say here that many scripts fail because they are followed too mechanically. On that topic, Anne Matava has said, “Teachers are encouraged to change aspects of each story, including point of view, one of the key phrases, or anything else about a script to make it better suit their purpose.”