Character vs. Nature Conflicts

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SWBAT describe how characters in a story respond to major events and challenges. SWBAT write opinion pieces in which they introduce topic, state opinion, and support their opinion.

Big Idea

Use texts to learn about self (e.g., in literature, conflicts dictate resolutions—connect to such conflicts and resolutions in own lives)

How does nature conflict with characters?

20 minutes

By the time students get to this fourth and final conflict lesson, I have tweaked my lessons to accommodate their attention span and interest level.  Judging by the student feedback I have gotten via my "Exit Slips", their reflection of my lessons indicate that they absolutely love and anticipate seeing the video clips.  "I have learned so much more in one week by watching short movies and learning in fun ways than I did my whole life!", exclaimed one of my students.  Needless to say, I was enlightened by his remark and pleased that he had the ability to articulate his feelings with such emotion.   So, the movies clips are great windows that allow students to see just enough of the story to make analysis of the literary structures used to tell the story.  It is learning by showing instead of just telling.  In my classroom, teaching to the level of rigor that Common Core means I need to integrate technology and digital sources, which are the crux of 21st Century learning.

For this next lesson, students are first introduced to the definition of this type of conflict.   I access their prior knowledge by asking them to make predictions of what they think this type of conflict can look like in a story.  Of course, students are going to integrate their personal experiences to this lesson too.  Following this natural progression, I ask them to share anecdotes about their personal experience with this external conflict.  I will give them the sentence stem:  "One time when..." So, they complete this sentence by sharing personal experiences about their past conflicts with nature in great detail. "My football game was cancelled because of the rain!" started one student.  "I really had a conflict about that because I practiced so hard for so long, and now the game is cancelled.  But, it gave me more time to practice. We finally got a chance to play a week later and won the game!"  The students are now starting to relate conflict with some type of resolution.  

I ask students to cite examples from the novel that pertains to character vs. nature conflict.  One of my students actually raised her hand excitedly and proclaimed, "Wilbur had waited all night for his day to play outside in the sun.  But it rained!  He was so sad.  But, he decided to have fun playing in the rain!"  Another student added, " You can't control nature.  You must as well find another solution and deal with it."

 I explain to students that Character vs. Nature is an external conflict, which the character battles a natural element (nature, animals, etc). Then, I return to my  flip chart. The example the student cited from the book regarding Wilbur's conflict against the rainy weather just happens to be the Charlotte's Web Video clip - Wilbur Plays in the Mud I showed.  This movie clip is embedded in my Conflict Flip Chart and serves as an example of the character vs. nature conflict. Sometimes, my lessons flow in that way. But I don't believe it is always coincidental.  I think that if you know your students, you gear the lessons to the direction they want to go to.  It becomes a "good fit lesson" for your particular class population. 

Representing Knowledge

20 minutes

     After students are introduced to the concept of character vs. nature, I ask them to show what they know.  I decided to ask students to work in pairs to create a mini book about character vs. nature conflicts.  The book has to show examples or evidence from text, movies, television shows, personal experiences, etc. that demonstrate this type of conflict.  I ask them to partner so that one person can be the author/writer and the other person can be the illustrator.  I show them a sample of what I expected and read my mini-book to them.  We have a short discussion about what students observed about the content and quality of my mini-book.  They noticed that the words are at the bottom of the page.  Also, one student observed that the pictures are detailed and colorful.  I added that the pictures have a setting and characters in them.

     Once students communicate that they understood my expectations of the book, we discuss what working in pairs look like.  Following the Daily 5 structure, we create an "I-Chart" aka Independence Chart.  "What does it look like when you are working independently in pairs?"Daily 5 is a literacy management model created by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser.   It is sudent-driven structure that promotes engagement. Below are students' answers to my question, as written on the I-Chart:            

  • Students whisper only to their partners.
  • Students work right away.
  • Students work with their partners the whole time.
  • Students take turns in pairs coloring/drawing and writing.
  • Students pick a quiet place to work with their partner.
  • Students take all their materials needed to their work area.
  • Students stay with their partners in one place.

     I tell students that the teacher (myself) will be walking around, observing and helping students when needed.  I will also be observing their "stamina" or how long they can stay focused on their tasks.  I will be documenting or recording my observations with my flip camera (filming and taking photos).  I tell them that we will observe ourselves after the lesson to see if we were following the I Chart suggestions.  We are going to reflect on our learning in this way later on.  

     Following the Daily 5 structure, my class has practiced building stamina since the first day of school.  This is a great model to foster independence and promote focus and sustained reading in the classroom.  Now that students know their expectations, they begin working in pairs.  

    As students are working in pairs,  I give them individual feedback as I walk around observing their interactions.  Using a flip camera, I videotape and take pictures of them working.  

Reviewing Content

20 minutes

     Students are asked to return to our "Gathering Place" or meeting circle with the books that they created with their partners.  I use a chime to signal this event and it becomes a daily ritual.  Students take turns showing and telling their "stapleless" mini-books that we created prior to this lesson (See resources).  The writer tells the story and the illustrator shares the drawings. Afterwards, the class gives feedback on how they thought the quality of the books were.

     We review the "I Chart".  Then, I show the videotape and photos of students I created during their activities.  Students reflect on what they saw on the video and photos.  We discuss what we accomplished and what we need to improve as a class.  We chart our discussion as our goal for our next "I Chart" activity.