Before we got into today's assignment, which was plot mapping (in partners), I asked the students to tell me the story of the "Charge of the Light Brigade." To make this a little bit more fun, I have students tell a bit of the story and then pass to another student. This keeps my "alphas" from dominating the activity, and it also allow people to participate at different levels. A student has to contribute a true (non-repetitive) statement about the story, and then he or she can pass to someone else. Instead of a talking stick, I use a small, stuffed soccer ball. (And yes, I encourage underhanded tossing, as opposed to the full-speed pegging that the students might enjoy.)
The students did a good job. If they got something wrong -- for example, saying that the Cossacks and Russians were fighting each other, instead of realizing that they were the same people -- another student would say "pass the ball to me" and then they would clarify or correct.
We kept it very general by just reviewing the facts of the poem, so that this activity wouldn't be too redundant.
[Note: The ball-tossing recap is a great way to have your class help absent students catch up, too. For example, if a student misses the first day of a story, you can have the students fill in the missing information so that the absent student can pick up where everyone else is. The student can always go back and re-read in greater detail, but this strategy keeps the student in the room and on track.]
The purpose of today's activity was to clarify the elements of plot that are present in the narrative poem. This reinforces the aspect of "story" that we have been working on (along with structure and narrator), and it forces the students to evaluate the parts of the poem and organize them.
I gave the students white paper and had them draw the typical plot arc. Then, the labeled the parts Exposition, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution.
They had to use the poem and work together to decode any details of the poem that were still unclear. Then they had to paraphrase the poem and put the details in their correct spots.
As usual, the students didn't really struggle with climax or resolution, but the other parts are trickier (mostly because they really can blend together.) I like using the activity at this point in the unit, because eventually, the students will have to plan their own narrative poem (a parody of this one) using the same plot diagram.
Here is another way to approach the task.
When we were finished, we compared notes and put a diagram together on the board.