Today’s class begins with a review of the information students shared on the exit tickets passed in yesterday. It contained the questions: 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?
In response to the first question, the majority of students were surprised by how easy it was to review the story by using the list of chapter titles. It was a pleasure to hear that a number of students remarked that they will use this strategy again in the future. Most students think that the exposition and resolution are pretty clear in most stories and that picking out the most important events and accurately determining the turning point can be really tough. I agree that this is true and hope to provide them with some useful insight and additional practice with this skill.
With the book and plot diagram of chapter titles (created in class yesterday) close at hand, we take on the task of filling in specific events on another, more detailed, plot diagram of Maroo of the Winter Caves. It is copied on 8.5” x 14” paper to give students more room to write. As part of the exposition, we identify the conflict or major problem in the story as “Maroo and her family live in a harsh environment and they may not make it back to the safety of the autumn camp and winter caves in time.” As mentioned in the exit ticket results, that students have not trouble with the exposition as they quickly come up with the events that introduce the characters and setting to the reader. The rising action poses more of a challenge because so many more things occur than can possibly be listed on the chart. This information becomes critical in determining the events to be listed on the diagram. When unsure of what to include and what to leave out, we continually come to back the question “how does that relate to the conflict?” when deciding what to add to the chart. The moment when it is revealed to the reader that the family will be rescued is both the turning point and the answer to the conflict problem – it is the moment when Maroo defeats the cave lion. From there the falling action and resolution neatly fall into place.
In considering the story’s theme, we discuss what message the author would like to stick with the reader long after the book is finished and many of the details are forgotten. In that way, it becomes clear that this is a story of survival against incredible odds and that a family that loves and cares for one another and that works together can overcome almost anything.
The last fifteen minutes of class the students write a response to the final journal prompt: What do you think would happen in the story if the author were to write a sequel? What characters would remain important to the story? As the present story continues, what are FOUR significant events that occur?
The students’ responses are both thoughtful and entertaining. Overwhelmingly, Maroo grows up and becomes the first female hunter of her time! Also, she gets married and has a family that she loves and cares for just like the one she grew up in. Another ‘first’ is that Rivo, the dog, and his offspring serve the tribe well as hunters, protectors and companions. Otak, Maroo’s younger brother, comes a leader of the tribe after learning humility from a series of foolish mistakes. All in all, the students see this courageous family as carrying on its yearly migrations and passing on their knowledge, traditions, and values to future generations.