We've already touched on plot a little bit, when applying it to our first Read Aloud, Ninth Ward. Because the Short Stories they create at the end of this Unit as their Embedded Assessments are going to be assessed by the existence of a conflict and plot, it's important that this concept is translating to their own writing.
The Guiding Question asks them to choose one of their Story Starters so far, and to diagram the plot.
This student example shows what the outcome looked like.
For our mini-lesson we finished our book, Ninth Ward. It took us a long time to get through, but I really drew out the Read-Alouds by paying attention to things such as details to characters, diagraming the plot, dialogue, setting, voice, and on and on. A great Read-Aloud book can do all kinds of things and can apply to various lessons, In my case, Ninth Ward supported my teaching through the Short Story unit, but also my Narrative Unit, Independent Reading Unit, and even some of my Exposition unit.
We will work to choose another Read-Aloud. When this happens, I try to find a theme that is rich (perseverance, coming-of-age, character-building). I'll choose a few different books, talk them up to the kids, and allow them to choose. Generally, the kids pretty much agree on a book.
For this unit, I use a Story Starter each day to create a bank of possible first drafts. These are rough starters, which is okay. There will be time at the end of the unit for students to expand their favorite starter into a full-blown short story. I feel that if they have a large and varied bank to choose from, they'll feel more confident being creative.
In looking for a bunch of story starters, I came upon this Story Starter Site, which allows students to click until they found a story starter that inspires them. I put the Story Starter on the screen and had students use the site on the iPads. I don't have nearly enough iPads for each student, so I placed a few at each table. The first round of students had 3 minutes to find a prompt they liked. When they found one, they passed their iPad to someone else at the table, and began writing. For the students who were waiting (rather impatiently) for an iPad, I asked that they go back and continue working on one of their Story Starters from the past few days.
During this time, I'm circulating to see what students are choosing to write about. Almost all of my students are engaged. They've chosen the most ridiculous possibilities for their stories, and are having fun with them. This is okay with me. Because we are still pretty early in the unit, engagement is really important. As the unit develops, the Story Starters will get more traditional and will be more likely ones they choose for their Embedded Assessments.
Right now, though, I'm happy that they're happy!
I don't always get the most stellar answers for the Wrap-Up. Here's a student reflection that could use some work.