Analyzing Conflict and Climax in a Fishbowl Discussion

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Students will be able to analyze the development of plot by determining what the climax is and how it solves the conflict by participating in a fishbowl discussion and writing responding in writing.

Big Idea

The collision of conflict and climax.

Daily Grammar

15 minutes

My students sometimes have a hard time knowing when to use quotation marks and when to underline (or italicize) a title.  That was very evident in today's competition.  More than one group punctuated the title of the song, "The Star-Spangled Banner" by underlining and using quotation marks.

If it's a big thing that can stand on its own (a novel, movie, book) then you underline or italicize.  If it's a small thing that's within a larger thing (short story, TV episode, song) then you use italics.

Consider a music album.  The name of the actual album is underlined or italicized. The name of the individual songs within that album are put in quotation marks.


Vocabulary Inquiry: Word Sort

25 minutes

The last time I did a word sort with my students, most groups defaulted to sorting the words into the following categories:

  • Words I Know, Words I Kind of Know, Words I Don't Know
  • Nouns, Verbs, Adjectives

The first set doesn't require any rigor, so for this round, I actually forbid that category. The second set was perfectly decent, but students struggled with determining if a word was a noun, verb, or adjective.  For today's round, then, I gave them a reference sheet that has common suffixes for nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs.  I told them that if they were going to use those categories, they'd need to consult that reference sheet.

As I wandered the room and checked in on groups, then, I was able to refer them to that reference sheet and provide additional help as needed.  One group thought that legitimate was a verb.  I asked them how they could legitimate.  Another group thought that assented was a noun, which is true, but it an also function as a verb.  I gave a murmur of assent.  I assented to the locker check.

In this picture, you can see the categories that students chose and the words they put in those categories.



















Here's a picture of another group's categories. 

Analyzing Plot: Conflict and Climax

30 minutes

Every story has a conflict.  If there isn't a conflict, it isn't a story. Students often think it's the most exciting part. The most suspenseful part.  The point of highest action.  That may be true, but it's a wee bit more complicated than that.    The point where there's a solution to that conflict is the climax.  Or, the point where the reader realizes that there isn't a solution to the conflict is the climax. Sometimes it's a physical solution and sometimes it's emotional.

The day before, I'd asked students to write down what they thought the climax was.  I compiled those exit tickets onto a slide to display, because the big question for today is what the climax of "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street." 

I divided students up into three groups for a fishbowl discussion.  One group was responsible for discussing the climax today, and the other two groups will be responsible for discussing protagonist and antagonist and falling action on Friday.  We had our hotseat, of course, for students in the outer circle to jump into if they had something they wanted to say.

At first, they thought that the climax occurs when Pete van Horn is killed.  That's the most exciting point, right?  I reminded them (I need to do less talking when they're having fishbowl discussions.  It's just so hard.)  that if that was the climax, then there would be a solution the problem and that the story would start wrapping up loose ends.  They concluded that that wasn't the climax. 

There was a bit of discussion, completely unprompted by me, about what type of conflict it was.  Granted, that was included on the plot diagram I gave them, but I didn't tell them to consider that!  They considered that all on their own! They went back and forth between the conflict being person vs. person and person vs. self before I whispered that it could be both.

Then they thought that climax was when they turn against Charlie and start accusing him.  They were reminded again that if it's the climax, then there's a solution the problem.  Things are still escalating after they verbally attack Charlie.

Towards the end, one student suggested that the climax was at the very end of Act 2 Scene 1.  He pointed to a specific passage (What's your eeeevideeeeeeeence?) and read it aloud.  There was a quiet moment of "Oh."  "Ah!" "Huh?" That's the climax.  There certainly isn't a solution to the problem, however, that's the point of the story where the reader realizes that there isn't a solution.

You can see the students grappling with the concepts in this video.  It is a long one, but it's worth it.  You can also see them being distracted by the camera, which is always funny. The best part is realizing that the students went from thinking the climax was when Pete was shot to realizing that it was way more complicated than that.

Responding in Writing

10 minutes

The last thing students did was respond in writing with a short paragraph, a quickwrite.  For this quickwrite, I asked them to consider the climax. 

Lesson Resources

The snazzy lesson picture today is of my own creation using PowerPoint.  Did you know that you can rotate text boxes?  Text boxes are the best thing ever already, but when you rotate them?  Dude.