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Over to you! Maze adventure readers for the English classroom

February 25, 2020 by Nora Nagy

Interactive storytelling is a secret weapon language teachers can turn to when they want their students to experience one of the many wonders of narrative. Storytelling in the classroom can take several shapes such as oral storytelling, reading the classics, reading graphic novels, writing stories, and interactive storytelling. Each branch of narration has many benefits from helping to develop language to activating thinking skills, to contributing  to the students’ emotional development.

In a previous post we focused on different aspects of interactive storytelling. Here we’ll look at our new series of Maze readers, written by Gavin Biggs. In this new adventure series for young teenagers, readers can influence what the characters do and what happens to them by making decisions for them in the story. 

All of the readers have the following structure:

  • Meet the author
  • Introduction to the series
  • Character spreads 
  • Before and After Reading activities to help and check understanding
  • The After Reading section have Cambridge English Exam style activities
  • After Reading projects provide further topics to explore

The stories are recorded in British English, and e-zone activities are available for each of them.

Interactive reading

There are two important interactive aspects of each book that make students use their imagination and engage with their creative and problem-solving skills.

Guess

Starting with the introductory character spread, students are asked to guess what relations might be between characters, what they are like, what they might do. These questions are placed in Guess! boxes, and they can be found at the beginning of many chapters. By asking students to guess what might happen next, we inspire them to really pay attention and read with expectation, checking the story against their assumptions. This activity is a great preparation for critical literacy skills when we have to reflect on our predictions and prejudices or simply check a text for facts. Other than such practical benefits, it is simply exciting to be involved in the story they are reading.

A chapter title page with a Guess! box in The Black Owl by Gavin Biggs. Illustration by Francesco Cattani. © Helbling Languages

Decide

The Over to you! boxes hand over the control to the readers and ask them to choose a reading path. These decisions allow the students to become co-authors in the story. Plus they can decide to go back and read what could have happened, a luxury that they can only experience in fiction. Feeling this sort of creative power might even inspire students to start writing their own stories.

A sample page with an 'Over to you' box in The Cat's Paw by Gavin Biggs. Illustration by Elisa Bellotti. © Helbling Languages

The Maze Readers

The Cat's Paw

  • written by Gavin Biggs, illustrated by Elisa Bellotti
  • Helbling Readers Level 2; Language Level: CEFR A1/A2
  • Recording in British English

Plot summary

One day a cat with purple eyes touches Philip with its paw. Philip becomes a cat and the cat becomes a girl. Philip has to find the girl. She has to make him a boy again, but who is she? How did she change him into a cat? And who is trying to steal a cat statue from the museum? 

The Cat’s Paw is part of The Secret Statues mini-series. Levels 1 and 3 coming soon.

The Black Owl

  • written by Gavin Biggs, illustrated by Francesco Cattani
  • Helbling Readers Level 3; Language Level: CEFR A2
  • Recording in British English

Plot summary

When Ana, Kim and Leon walk into the fog, they find themselves in a strange shop that they have never seen before. The strange owner and his white owl tell them that this is The House of Heroes. The House has chosen them to fight against The Black Owl. They can take one object each from the shop to use in the fight. Will the three friends accept the challenge? And who is the Black Owl?

The Black Owl is part of The House of Heroes mini-series. Levels 1 and 2 coming soon.

Summer School

  • written by Gavin Biggs, illustrated by Giovanni Abeille
  • Helbling Readers Level 3; Language Level: CEFR A2
  • Recording in British English

Plot summary

It’s the first day of a very special summer school. Nina and Rafael have no idea what challenges they are going to have to face at the School of Labyrinth. Can they work together to complete the challenges and win a prize? Or will they fail the tests and never leave the school? And what isn’t Rafael telling Nina?

Summer School is part of The School of Labyrinth mini-series. Levels 1 and 2 coming soon.

Reading beyond the book

Hypertextual reading is another type of interactive reading. When we become really interested in what we are reading, we want to find out about the details and references in the stories, looking for the answers beyond the book. The After Reading Project pages tap into this curiosity, encouraging students to read beyond the book.

The three stories raise questions such as ‘What are Faberge eggs?’ and ‘How much are they worth?’, ‘Who are the most famous figures of Greek mythology?’, ‘What are their special traits?’, ‘Are there any famous animals that work with people?’, ‘What are they famous for?’

Visit this post to read more about interactive reading:

And check out the Maze readers here:

Helbling Readers Red Series Maze Stories

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