Before discussing the different parts of the plot, I asked students to review the entire story. I gave them large pieces of paper and they made flow maps of the entire plot. Some students used 10 boxes and some were able to do it in three. This story has a really extensive exposition, and many of the kids wanted to know what to do with all of that background information. I let them to decide if it was relevant and necessary to the flow map. This whole process took them quite awhile because they had to go back through the entire story to get the information. Here are some student examples:
I paired students with their shoulder partners for this activity, and in some cases, I used groups of 3. Any larger group size, would not be productive. I think 2 is ideal because both partners contributed that way.
I like this activity because it requires students to really sift through information and figure out what is important to the story. It supports that careful reading and evidence seeking so critical in Common Core.
I noticed that my students were working under a misconception that the climax of the story was in the middle. I quickly realized that this was due to the darn plot map I showed them because it does look exactly that way. I had to think fast, and I came up with some climax criteria. These points included: It's close to the end, Nothing major happens after it, The story wraps up soon after, It is an exciting part of the story, and It is what we've all been waiting for.
I want the students to think about this criteria, look at their flow maps and decide where the climax happened. Even with the criteria, I still expect to receive a variety of answers from the students ranging from: When the challenge was made between Spit and Leslie to When Spit dies.
I will list all given answers on the board next to the criteria. We will look at each potential climax and measure it against the criteria. If the criteria fits, we will check it off. I am hoping that this visual will give students a clear way to identify the climax.
Next I will erase the choices that didn't stack up, and leave the other two. I will ask the students to determine what they thought the climax of the story was and why. They will use the criteria to support their answer.
It turned out that in each of my classes 2 of the student given climaxes met 4 out of the criteria. The others met 2/5, or 3/5 usually. This was a great visual because the sixth graders are deep into fractions in math, so they could see quickly which ones were the closest to being the climax.
Most of the students were able to make a good case for their choice which made me very happy!
I created a revised plot map where the falling action was a much shorter part in an attempt to show my students that the climax was at the end where there wasn't room to write much.
First, I'll have everyone copy this funky looking map onto their papers. First we will discuss the exposition of the story and fill this part out together.
Next, I will ask them to put their chosen climax on the point of the map.
They will fill in the rising action, falling action, and resolution with the help their shoulder partners.
We do have two different schools of thought running through the classroom. One group thinks that Spit's death is the climax while others agree it is the crash. I am going to let students figure this out on their own while partnering with shoulder partners today. I like to leave opportunities for discussion and debate where students must justify their opinions. This causes them to refer back to the text and cite it which is a great push in CCSS.
In the end, I will explain that the story is complex, and that everyone has valid and well supported reasons as to why his or her answer is correct. I will leave this case open ended and keep my mouth shut!
In the end...
We agreed to disagree, and I never told them my opinion. They seemed satisfied with this, and I was overjoyed that they were able to discuss their reasons for choosing the climax they did.