Our lesson today is on the literature element of style in the novel. This is a tricky element-describing the way the author chooses words, uses sentence structure, and describes the events and/or people in his book. I introduce it by relating to the kids directly...a brief discussion about their own personal style.
Style is how we show the world what we're all about. Between hair, fashion, favorite foods and free time interests, your personal style comes through whether you want it to or not. Ask volunteers to offer up some of the things they think are their "style."
Next, mention that when they write, they also have a certain style.
Ask the students to write a paragraph of three to five sentences that details something that happened to them this morning. It doesn't have to be significant, just a chain of events that are easy to write. Ask a volunteer to put it on the SmartBoard, then improve it as a group.
Now that they're warmed up, they'll be ready to share. When a student volunteers to read their paragraph description, they must be aware the class will be commenting on it. After reading it out loud, the class uses adjectives to describe the author's writing style.
Examples: It took me forever to get out of bed and when I was eating breakfast my brother slipped on his dinosaur and fell. He hurt his leg. (Class generated adjectives: simple, short, not thrilling, informative.) Together, rework the paragraph into a different style. Below are two of the styles to share with them as examples and they provide the "style."
Reworked Style: It took me such a long time to wake up today. I was eating Frosted Flakes but couldn't concentrate because after my brother slipped on his dinosaur, the room was too loud. He hurt himself and wouldn't stop crying. (Adj: detailed, interesting, informative, improved.)
Reworked Style: Minutes felt like hours as I fought with my body to get out of the bed. I slumped downstairs to get breakfast only to discover my brother crying because he slipped on his dinosaur, and injured himself. (Serious, great word choice, sorrowful, moody.)
Back to their own writing, get ready for the kids to REALLY enjoy this. They had such a great time writing in different styles. Some kids only got through two, but others finished three. I also had a girl do a rewrite in the style of a celebrity.
Have the kids use adjectives to describe this reworked author's style. What they will discover is that the writer's choice of words and sentences really matter when it comes to drawing the reader into their story.
A great quote to share with the kids, "STYLE ISN'T JUST WHAT IS SAID, BUT HOW IT'S SAID".
Writing styles vary from author to author. Start a discussion by asking kids to give you the names of some of their favorite authors. Generate a list on the board with author names lined up on the left and one word that defines their style on the right. There are many different ways to classify writing styles. An easy way to explain to kids is have them use a word or two to describe the author's voice.
Examples from my class discussion:
Margaret Peterson Haddix suspenseful, descriptive
Scott O'Dell descriptive
J.R.R. Tolkien adventurous
Roald Dahl imaginative, creative
Deborah Ellis thoughtful, creative
Gary Paulsen exciting
Avi- he's written too many varied books to limit to one style (I had to agree with the kids on this.)
All of these author's use their style to convey a certain mood or effect in their story. Aspects of style include their sentence length, sensory devices, sound devices, figurative language, use of dialogue, character development, and word choice.
Focusing on our book, Island of the Blue Dolphins, I ask the students to think of the Aspects of Style and determine which they are familiar with in the chapters we've read so far. Scott O'Dell uses beautiful imagery throughout, and they immediately recall the figurative language we discussed at the beginning of the novel. Once that's mentioned. they have a focus.
The next step is to complete a Style Analysis Chart which will include finding appropriate quotes or passages, writing the Figurative Language technique used, and then explaining how that style adds to the meaning of the text. I want the kids to discover as many examples of figurative language as they can, so I allow them to work in their groups to quadruple the efforts. The unsaid competition is a great motivator and many more examples are uncovered.
The students are familiar with figurative language, and although there is more to Style than that, it's a great jumping off point. They have been exposed to many types, and can easily find them in the story and determine why the author thought them useful as he crafted the novel. I'd venture a guess that this is their first exposure to the literature element of Style and they begin with a good foundation. CCS in 6th grade will take them further with the element.
The kids have worked really hard locating all of the Figurative Language examples, and now it's time for a fun activity that will bring it all together.
They will select a favorite Figurative Language Quote/Sentence from the completed Style Analysis Chart, illustrate, label the technique, and determine the meaning behind it. (They have already figured out the meaning on their chart, so it's just an exercise in copying it onto the illustration.)
This may be something the kids finish at home depending on the amount of time that's been spent on the lesson. Regardless, they'll be eager to share their illustrations the following day in groups or with the entire class.
My final question is, "What kind of writing style did Scott O'Dell use in Island of the Blue Dolphins? Discuss with your group and come up with a phrase befitting Mr. O'Dell.
There will be numerous correct responses, but I loved this particular one, "Storytelling with a Narrative Flow."
I end the lesson with the kids using one of the examples of style they wrote on their Style Analysis Chart as a good way to solidify what they've learned. Although there are many types of style, they will certainly remember that the author of their current novel chooses a lot of figurative language to give meaning to his text.