Analyzing One of Three Views of Storytelling – O’Brien’s, Day 1 of 2

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SWBAT examine what of the most powerful aspects of The Things They Carried, O’Brien’s view of storytelling. They will do this by focusing on one particular chapter, discussing it and writing notes about it.

Big Idea

O’Brien’s take on storytelling helps us understand the lasting power of this novel.


10 minutes

Today we look at The Things They Carried from a different perspective. In this video, I explain what I am hoping students will be able to understand. I tell students that we are revisiting something we studied last semester, but don’t tell them that I am talking about storytelling. They are going to, hopefully, realize it on their own. I ask them to reread the chapter in The Things They Carried titled “Good Form.” I give them a few minutes to read it in silence on their own and instruct them to make an effort to figure out how this chapter relates to something we studied last semester. They have already read this chapter at home so this is the second time they read it and that should allow them to just focus on figuring out that this chapter is addressing storytelling, which we studied last semester. Before they begin reading, I give them a preview of the task that will follow to give this rereading more purpose: I say, “I am going to ask you what central point O’Brien is making in this chapter and how he makes it.”


Whole Class Discussion

15 minutes

Once students finish rereading the chapter I ask them to share what point they believe O’Brien is making in this chapter. The first comments mainly summarize a part of the chapter so I have to begin to ask probing questions such as, “Ok, so what topic of study from last semester is this chapter addressing?” Soon someone will be able to say, “Stories” or “storytelling.” At this point, it may be necessary to give students a couple of minutes to go back to the chapter and figure out exactly what O’Brien is saying about storytelling, especially if most students were not able to identify this as a chapter that provides a perspective of storytelling. If students are able to, I begin to invite them to verbalize what is that O’Brien is saying about storytelling in this chapter. I’m specifically probing for the following points:

            O’Brien believes that story truth is more significant that happening truth.

            O’Brien is more interested in telling stories to express emotions rather than to retell events.

My students need guidance to arrive at these points. Specifically, I have to suggest that they look at the second page of this chapter and search for a very important quote. The quote I am referring to is the one that differentiates between “story truth” and “happening truth.” As students grapple to arrive at a better understanding of what O’Brien believes of storytelling, it helps to remind them of the self-professed statement they all realized last semester, that storytelling is a powerful human act and that it serves a variety of functions. 

Students Write Notes To Reflect On Discussion

15 minutes

I want students to digest the information we discussed together. For this, I ask them to take a piece of paper and spend several minutes in silence writing notes on their own. Their notes are to summarize O’Brien’s perspective of storytelling. I only give them a few minutes for this so I expect them to have very limited notes. This is fine at this point because they about to get an opportunity to discuss with peers and fill in the empty holes in their notes. 

I now give students about 10 minutes to discuss and share points with each other so that they can add anything they missed to their own notes. In this manner, students collaborated by formulating some points on their own and sharing them with peers so that they can all have fuller notes on O’Brien’s perspective of storytelling. These are the notes one student wrote.

Independent Writing Time

10 minutes

We have a bit of time left over at the end of the period and it is a good time to allow students to look over the essay that is due on Monday and ask last minute questions. This essay was assigned in a previous lesson and students have been working on it for the last few days.