So I'm sitting here in my house, drinking White Zinfandel (what else) and watching SVU. It's like a blast from the past. Because this is what I love to do when I blog. Except today, I am not completely doing what I love to do. Because there is a mosquito in this house. I HATE MOSQUITOES. They eat me up. I just got up from the computer to spray myself with Off! And I'm INSIDE my house! Arrgh!
The last two weeks have been a little hectic. One of our kindergarten sections was too small and had to close, and one our fourth grade sections were too large and we had to open a new one. That means - have you guessed it yet? - that our kindergarten teacher had to move to fourth grade. Three weeks after school started. WHAT?! I know. In her shoes, I would've cried. Daily. Like, every day all the time. She's been a trooper and so lovely to work with!
Anyway, to help her with the transition, and the kids too, I spent reading and writing in her classroom for about two weeks. And I LOVED it! Oh, I can't tell you how much I miss having a class of my own.
So I had a blast. We were working on the idea of plot, which I connect very tightly to fiction structure. Fiction structure, as you've probably heard, can be very clearly represented with Freytag's Pyramid, which looks like this, basically:
The pyramid includes a few basic pieces.
Exposition: we are introduced to the main character, their trait, their motivation, and the setting.
At the end of the exposition, we find the problem. This is often the opposite of what the character wants.
Then there's rising action. During this time, the problem grows or the character tries to solve it.
At the point of the climax, the problem has reached a peak point. Either it will be solved (often by a decision the character makes), or it will be impossible to solve by the character. Either way, there is a resolution to the problem.
Then there's falling action - we often find evidence for the character's change here. They usually learn some sort of lesson from the way the problem was resolved, and the outcome of the resolution can also be found here, at the end of the story.
To help students understand what to focus on, that is, what is important for summarizing the plot's events, we focus on five main elements:
Outcome & Lesson Learned
We color code it, just like above. And we chant it, and we sing it, and we dance it, and we gesture it, and we write it over and over to make sure they know what to look for in fiction! I connect these elements to Freytag's Pyramid like this:
The story that we used last week to discuss the plot's main events was The Sweetest fig by Chris Van Allsburg. I personally love Chris Van Allsburg and most of his books. They are so very teachable!
And, best of all, it's available in English and Spanish!
Anyway, I started by making copies of the pictures from the story - not all the pictures; just some important ones I thought were necessary to retell the plot's main events. I showed students the cover of the book, and then I had students in groups sequence the events in the order they predicted they might happen in the book.
And then we read. Students re-sequenced the events based on the story. To help them connect to the pyramid, I took a set of the pictures that were sequenced and we discussed each one. I asked, "What purpose did this event serve in the story?" or "Why did the writer include this event in the story?" "Where does it belong on our fiction story map?" and we placed them on the map.
By the end of day one, students had identified which events represented the main events of the story's plot: who the main character was, what his traits were and what he wanted (motivation). They identified the problem and noticed how it grew. They explained the solution to the problem, and realized that it wasn't pleasing to the main character! Then they described the outcome.
Come back again in a few days to read about what we did to help students take these events and summarize their reading!