Last week, we began studying plot and conflict. A few days ago, I shared the Jot Thoughts activity we used to build our anchor chart. Here’s one more idea for conflict and one for plot.
Conflict Magazine Sort
I’ve shamelessly stolen this idea from an amazing teacher I’ve had the pleasure to observe. She works in another school in my district, and she’s full of creativity and enthusiasm. So, my interpretation of her idea … I cut out lots of pictures from magazines and gave them to students. They discussed the type of conflicts they saw in the pictures and classified them as internal or external and character vs. ____. Then, we made collages to hang on the wall around our anchor charts. They’ll help us remember what we’ve learned.
And one humorous response … I had intended students to use the other side of this picture, but they trimmed it down to show their true thoughts about Justin Bieber.
Even though they were introduced to the idea in 7th grade, stages of plot is always a struggle for my 8th graders. Identifying the climax of a story just takes a lot of practice to get good at. So, I teach the concept as follows:
1. Define the term plot – the series of events in a story.
2. Picture Book! I read a picture book aloud for the class, and we pause for teams to note plot events … simple, the things that happen in the story. We cut out little squares and write one event per square. I like to use the book Elbert’s Bad Word by Audrey Wood. Elbert’s internal conflict is his struggle to control himself and not say a bad word, but the author personifies the word, so it’s quite easy to track the rising action … as the conflict grows more complicated. It’s also pretty simple to find the climax because all of the characters literally stop and stare at Elbert in anticipation of how the conflict will be resolved. Plus, it’s a fun book for older kids. They love that it’s about a bad word and are so angry that the book never tells what exactly that bad word is that Elbert uttered.
3. Introduce the stages of plot. We draw a large plot diagram into our journals and begin labeling and defining the stages. As we define each stage, we classify the plot events we listed on our sequence squares. As they do this, I post a plot diagram on the wall that will stay up all year. We’ll use it with all the stories we read.
4. Then, the students work as a team to arrange their squares onto their own plot diagrams. Even though we have already discussed each event and even labelled them by plot stage, I still find this activity brings up great conversations. They don’t all take it in the first time we talk about it as a whole class, and the small group discussions are great!
The result . . .
Next week, I’ll place out a literacy center students can choose. They will have several picture books to choose from, and they’ll create their own plot diagrams. We’ll also repeat the activity a few times as a class with shorter stories and with The Tell Tale Heart, our study for the week.