Today’s class begins with a review of the previous day’s homework assignment: the Conflict Connector worksheet. The students come prepared to discuss the four major types of conflict often found in stories, which are character vs character, character vs nature, character vs himself or herself, and character vs laws or customs of society. Evidence of all four can be found in the story and students are eager to compare their notes. We create a lengthy list and from it determine that the most dominant type of struggle in this novel is character vs nature, which most students correctly identified on the worksheet.
The next item on today’s agenda is a plot events sorting game. It is the first of two activities leading up to the creation of a plot diagram of the story’s main events. Students work with a partner to sort a random set of 12 events into the order that they appear in the story. The goal is to do it without looking at the book. Helpful hint: copy the sets on different colored paper to keep them from getting mixed up and save them for reuse year to year. Most groups quickly identify the first and last events and then work from those ends to the middle – with lots of rearranging until they are satisfied with the result. It is a great way to get everyone involved in summarizing the story.
Ann Turnbull, the author of Maroo of the Winter Caves, tends to name chapters in a way that hints at its contents. Therefore, reviewing the table of contents list is a great way to start thinking about how the main events fit onto a diagram of the plot’s elements: the exposition, rising action, turning point or climax, falling action, and resolution.
We start by defining the exposition as when the characters, setting and conflict are introduced. In this novel, that takes place in chapters 1-3. This is followed by the rising action in chapters 4-14 when the characters try to solve the problem but it gets much worse instead. Chapter 15 is when the turning point or climax occurs as the action reaches its most critical moment and it is finally revealed that the main character will successfully save the family from certain death. Chapter 16 provides the falling action and resolution. A completed worksheet appears here and some thoughts on this activity appear below using a helpful resource from Reader's Handbook for Grade 6 (Great Source, 2001):
A short time before the end of class, students complete an exit ticket related to the day’s lesson. The items on it are related to the fact that filling out a plot diagram can be tricky, so I want to gain some awareness of how the students rate their own ability with this skill before we get into it in more depth tomorrow. The questions are: What did you learn about plot diagrams today? What is something you do well when determining the elements of a plot? What is something that you find difficult when determining the elements of a plot?