Exploring Subject-Verb Agreement, Learning about Magical Realism, and Writing Narratives

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SWBAT write standard, grammatically-correct prose by exploring subject verb agreement and by writing narratives.

Big Idea

"One of my friends is crazy"... is grammatically correct an a good premise for a Marquez short story, as we will find out!

One of my Friends is Crazy! Indefinite Articles and Subject-Verb Agreement

15 minutes

Introduction. As we continue through this short unit on writing about art, the students are not only writing three short pieces of writing (one of which will undergo full revision and become a focal piece for a summative grade), but we are exploring indef article handout in polishing our prose (L.9-10.1). 

Today, we tackle a monster-ACT builder, subject-verb agreement featuring indefinite pronouns. I will write the following example on the board:


I ask them: is this sentence grammatically correct?  Or should it say "are crazy"?  Most of the students will opt for the plural verb because the noun "friends" is right next door, and that opens up the point for this lesson: you need to find the subject first, ignore the prepositional phrase that intervenes, and make sure that the verb agrees with it.

Handout. I then pass out the attached handout and construct a few examples from it, making sure that some of the indefinite pronouns are plural and some are singular.  As in:




Chalktalk. We will launch into what makes an indefinite pronoun singular or plural.  For example, "any" is single because it stands for anyone, and the same goes for the word each.  Conversely, several, many or all will carry plural verbs.  I ask the students to identify the subject and the verb before they make agreement happen, as knowing the architecture of the sentence is really vital to getting the agreement of subject and verb correct. 

I ask a couple of students to ascend to the whiteboard to do some sample sentences that start with an indefinite pronoun, and I also check with class members to see if the example is correctly done.

Pairs.  Then, I ask the students to work in pairs to come up with a handful of their own sentences indef article handout.   Pretty simple, and I use the worksheet as a formative assessment to see how many of my students may need extra help, and I am sure to jot these names down in my teacher notebook. 

Magical Realism Reading Jigsaw

20 minutes

Why this Story?  We will segue from grammar back to writing about surrealistic art.  I have assigned the students to read a short story by Gabriel Garcia Marquez called "A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings," a sort of wry short story about an angel who comes to earth, is sort of shunned by the people in the Latin American village, asked to live in a chicken  coop, and then upstaged by a spider-woman whose presence in the village excites everyone's attention. The angel finally leaves and goes back to heaven.  It's a sort of sad, let-down type of story, but an important one, as we often shun prophets and reject their wisdom.  

Magical realism can be very interesting to read, but students don't have much experience with it and can be thrown off completely by having to read it.  For example, one of the excerpts on last year's ACT test carried a bit of magical realism in it, and several students complained that it was "too hard," and what that seems to me to amount to is that reading this type of literature makes it difficult to discern the author's thematic development (RL.9-10.2), so our discussion will focus on the style in which Marquez writes as well as on discerning his thematic message.  In addition, I feel that this story will help stoke the imaginative fires of each of the students as they write their art-based narratives (W.9-10.3).

The  students have read the story for homework, so I  will begin with a question/discussion:

Activating the Story/Quick Discussion--I will ask:

1.) What is the story about, give a quick summary (RL.9-10.2).

2.) What details about the angel seem to clash with the reverent way that religious ideas or beings are normally treated with (RL.9-10.3)?

3.) How is this story an example of "magical realism," a story in which a bit of fantasy is integrated into everyday life and treated as commonplace?  What word choices make this work for Marquez's style? (RL.9-10.4)  Why do you think that this type of fiction is popular?  In Latin America?  

sidenote: Just a few days ago, Marquez died after a Nobel-Prize winning career, made famous by his work with magical realism.

4.) How is magical realism similar to  your surrealistic story draft in terms of tone, mood, plot?


Groups Jigsaw:

To further explore magical realism, a type of writing which is most likely new to my students, I will give each group a short excerpt from the story short story jigsaw, and they will complete the following directions:

1.) Read a sentence aloud, and pass it to the next person.

2.) Underline examples as you go that seem to capture the feel of magical realism (RL.9-10.4).

3.) Be ready to discuss and share examples.

As groups report out the the class on their sections, I will circle back to the macro discussion questions and elicit student thinking and responses on key issues. 



Narrative Kush Writing

15 minutes

Narrative based on Kush's painting.  Please see yesterday's lesson, as this is a continuation. Here, the students are writing a "stepping in" narrative, in which they create an imagined narrative to accompany a painting and to draw the viewer into the "world" of the painting. They have picked art work from the Art Institute of Chicago's collection, pieces that we viewed both in person and on the website prior to going--ideally, that is.  A couple of students may ask for carte blanche to pick a different piece of art work, and I am inclined to allow this.

Students will have a few minutes to work on their chromebooks to add to their narratives (W.9-10.3), as we will next write informative and then argument pieces.  Again, these three writings are meant to be mid-range in length, about a page or two.  One of them will be expanded to full length, 3+ pages. The purpose of using class time is to inform the writing process (W.9-10.5) by allowing students to get help from me, each other, or simply puzzle through their narratives in real time in a supportive classroom environment. 

As students write their narratives, I will be circulating to see how well they are incorporating dialogue (W.9-10.3b), sensory description (W.9-10.3d), an interesting plot (W.9-10.3a), and some elements of magical realism, if  possible (W.9-10.3).

For homework, they have their ongoing assignment, the  first of which is to finish this narrative before moving on to do the informative writing, which will be an artist's statement.