Down at the Crossroad a Story Waits for You: Writing Contemporary Adaptations of Old Stories

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SWBAT use precise language to convey a vivid picture of events, setting, and characters by repurposing an old story, folk tale, or urban legend for a modern audience.

Big Idea

New is old and old is new. Students repurpose classic stories for a 21st century audience.

Let's Get Started: Assignment Review

5 minutes

It is time to share ideas, talk about writing, and write.  I gave students a copy of today's assignment at the end of the last class, which I have included in italics below. So today, they should come to class ready to share their stories and begin writing. 

™Chose a story, folk talk, or urban legend from your culture or a culture that interests you. 
™For example:  Bloody Mary, zombie apocalypse, Dracula, Frankenstein, devil at the crossroads, Llorona, lady in white, bigfoot/sasquatch/yeti, El Chupacabra, etc. 
Write a short summary of the original story based on how you know it. Someone else may know a different version of the story.  

Then brainstorm ideas for their repurposed story and write a short summary of the story they want to repurpose for a 21st audience.

I know close to a third of my class will be absent because it is a holiday weekend.  So, today's class time will focus on writing the stories (W.9-10.3).  

I really want my students to consider how to make the story relevant to a 21st century audience by examining setting and the characters. We talk about using imagery and the concepts of characterization.  I ask them to list the three elements of characterization:

1.  What the character says/does

2. What the narrator says about him/her/self

3. What other characters say about him/her

Each student should focus on building at least one interesting character in his/her narrative (W.9-10.3a). By writing a round and complex character, I hope it will help them improve their character analysis as we move into non-western literature. 

Next I ask them to explain setting, what are the elements that create a setting. I am looking for them to list: 

1. time--it may be a fantasy time

2. location 

3. season

4. urban, rural, pastoral, space/fantasy location

5. night/day

I go on to tell them that setting can also be a socioeconomic/social status indicator for the character.  I want students to see how the setting can help shape how a character view him/herself, other characters and the world.

I give them the example: Luke Skywalker lives on moisture farmer on Tatooine, a planet of little importance to the Empire until two droids...Tatooine is a dry desert planet much like Tucson. How would Luke be different if he grew up on Hoth? Hoth, the planet at the beginning of The Empire Strikes Back,  also is a remote planet but it is freezing and covered in snow. Would Luke be a moisture farmer on Hoth?  I hope this superficial discussion of Star Wars will make them consider how they use the setting to shape their characters in the stories they will write in class.  

Next, I ask them to define imagery. The use of descriptive language to bring the sight, smell, taste, touch, and sound of a story to the audience.  I tell them I am looking for descriptive stories with engaging characters (W.9-10.3d).

I don't provide them with a specific rubric for this narrative.  I will read the narrative and provide them with feedback, but I am actually looking to assess their ability to self assess and give their peers feedback. Up to this point, my students, while well-intentioned, mostly provide superficial feedback for peer revision. I want them to practice a more in depth evaluation of their own work and how to give and receive constructive criticism with a peer (W. 9-10. 5).

Applying Knowledge: Writing a Repurposed Story

15 minutes

I will step back and watch them write. At this point the students are ready to write--well talk about writing. I expect most of them to bring summaries and a million ideas on how to repurpose the story.  Instead of a silent room of writers, I will begin by fostering a room full of conversations about writing. Before they can put pen to paper or fingers to keyboards, they need to grapple with their own creativity and clarify ideas to repurpose the story.

Several of the students will choose the same story. However, they probably learned slightly different versions of the story especially if it is a folk tale. By sharing their versions of the stories with their peers, the students are engaging in speaking and listening skills (SL.9-10.1), and are also examining the variations in cultural scary stories like La Llorona. 

Talking through their summaries and ideas for repurposing the story, helps them to improve their character development and clarify what their potential audience already knows about the setting and the overall history of the story.  Brainstorming and sharing ideas are part of the writing process and will led to more complex and engaging repurposed stories (W 9-10. 5).


Applying Knowledge: Moving from Talking to Writing

25 minutes

Most of the student will find their focus after about 15 minutes of discussion.  Boom, it will happen. Silence except for pens on paper and fingers on keyboards.  It is always beautiful to see students excited about writing. 

The students are writing a narrative. From our opening discussion on characterization and setting to their group discussions of their story choices, I have tried to focus them on developing strong and well-rounded characters (W 9-10 3a).  I also want them to use imagery to create a setting that really creates a movie in their audiences' head by using vivid language that is appropriate to the setting and characters (W 9-10 3d).

I don't want to hover. So, I occasionally walk around to let them know I am paying attention.  I will answer questions if asked.  Mostly I want to get out of their way so they can be amazing. 

Wrap Up: What's Next

5 minutes

Five minute warning! I ask my students to mark where they are in their stories.  Write down in bullet points the rest of the story so they can finish at home.  I also remind them to create a visual to accompany their story. I am excited for Monday's class.