Looking through the Lens of the the First Person Narrator: Refining Our Focus

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SWBAT refine their analysis of the first paragraphs of classic novels.

Big Idea

In opening paragraphs of first person novels and memoirs, authors reveal key details about the speaker, the setting and the conflict.

Latin Roots Warm Up

10 minutes

This is our daily warm up, wherein students work with two or three Latin roots per day.  The resource that I use to get my roots is Perfection Learning's Everyday Words from Classic Origins.
Every day, when the students arrive, I have two Latin roots on the SmartBoard.  Their job is to generate as many words as they can that contain the roots, and they try to guess what the root means.  After I give them about five minutes, we share words and I tell them what the root means.

The students compile these daily activities in their class journal.  After every twelve roots, they take a test on the roots themselves and a set of words that contains them.

Opening Question

10 minutes

On the SmartBoard:

Can you create a metaphor that relates the setting and the sensory details of a piece of writing?

This question was a "think about" question for students to consider.  I gave them a few minutes to think about it (with writing an option, as well,) before we started our discussion.

After the students had a few minutes to think, I talked to them about how metaphors make connections.  It went something like this: 

When we create a metaphor, we are looking to make connections.  Here's my simple example:

If setting is the grass(or ground), then trees and flowers are the sensory details.  The metaphor works because the ground is the foundation, but all of the other elements add richness and dimension to the ground.  Can you have a setting without sensory details?  Technically, yes.  But unless your narrative purpose is served by being completely generic,  why would you?

So, then we talked about some metaphors to tease out the role of author's purpose.  

Teacher Notes

Today's lesson takes the students a few steps further in their analysis of author's purpose and craft.  We start with the question about sensory details to sensitize the students to the "work behind the curtain" -- too often, a reader is lulled into thinking that the author's writing is not purposeful.  Students will often say things like "he wrote that because he likes it" or "she named that character { ______ } because she liked that name."  Of course, good writing should trick the reader into just "going along for the ride."  But, as students of literature, they have to be able to pull apart the pieces to see how the writing "works."

Working with the Ideas

30 minutes

In the first lesson in the series, "Famous First Paragraphs," students made their own observations and connections relating to the six short texts.

At this point, students need help refining their observations and using academic vocabulary in their analyses.

The chart that I developed helps them to look for information related to character, setting, and conflict.  The students comb through the passages and look for each element.  Not all of the pieces have all three -- this is a good time to talk about the implications of including and excluding information and why an author might choose to do either.

Looking Ahead

5 minutes

Students are getting ready to move from analyzing writing with sensory details to creating their own pieces of writing that use setting and sensory details (in tomorrow's lesson.)  

To wrap up class, I explained that we are getting ready for this transition, and I ask them to think about our discussion of metaphors and sensory details, in preparation for tomorrow's class.