Maroo of the Winter Caves: Genre & Setting

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SWBAT determine a story’s genre and cite text evidence of how setting affects plot.

Big Idea

What are the defining characteristics that make this novel historical fiction?


10 minutes

The purpose of today’s lesson is to determine the genre of Maroo of the Winter Caves by Ann Turnbull. Once that is done we will take the next step and identify text evidence for where and when the story takes place. To get things started, students turn and talk with others at their table group to answer these questions: What is genre? What are some types of genre? How can you tell a story’s genre? What are some examples?

 See video notes on class discussion about genre.

The students enjoy the attached Genre Word Sort Activity as a way of reviewing or as a check-in for understanding of the types of literature. 

Note Taking Activity

35 minutes

In a notebook, on a prepared worksheet, or using a word processing program or app, students start a new document with the title: Maroo Genre and Setting Evidence. Now that they have read through chapter 4, students are prepared to take part in a deeper discussion of these topics that includes specific text evidence. Drawing on information shared during the activator, it does not take long to determine that this novel is a work of historical fiction. The most common hang up comes when a student suggests that it is a work of realistic fiction. This quickly clears up though as a peer notes that realistic fiction has a modern day setting.

 Each class I see develops a slightly different set of notes, but overall they demonstrate understating of these elements of literature. In this story, evidence that it is historical fiction includes that it is a blend of fact (details based on careful research) and fiction (made up characters). More specifically, students note that the author tries to demonstrate how people lived in the Ice Age and how that time period shaped their lives.

 To further stretch their thinking, students respond to the following prompt, “The Ice Age setting affects how the family lives and their survival. Evidence that they are hunter-gatherers includes…” To accomplish this, I ask students to back up their responses with specific text evidence. We start by looking back to the opening lines of the story and then work forward from there, rather than jumping back and forth through the chapters. They identify that the availability of food, shelter and clothing are basic to survival and point these out in the story. For example, the family lives in caves in the winter and builds huts on the open plain in the spring as they migrate following the deer. Also, the women and children gather plants to eat while the men hunt for bigger game. We also talk about the role of religion in explaining the unknown and how history is passed on orally from one generation to the next because they do not have a system of writing.

 A copy of the note taking worksheet and a sample of the students’ notes are attached.

Wrap Up

15 minutes

To prepare students for an upcoming assessment on setting evidence, they apply their knowledge of setting and genre in an activity that came to me from a fellow ELA teacher. I am grateful to her for the time and effort it took to prepare and for her collegiality in sharing it with me. The activity packet includes a number of passages from the text related to setting. The first is used to model how to highlight setting evidence and answer the questions: What does it look like? Why is it important? Then the students work with a partner to respond to one of the eight passages that are also part of the packet.

 If you do not finish and get to the point where partners are ready to present their work to the class (as happened to me), have them hold on to it and let that be the starting of the next day’s class.