"Good books don't give up all their secrets at once." - Stephen King
Recently, we embarked on a fiction unit of study in Writer's Workshop. It's been a long time since I've actually taught the elements of plot, so I wanted to be sure that students were clear about the the parts through reading first.
Lester Laminack taught me a great trick this past summer: "Tell The Story Across your Fingers." Every time we would read a fictional text, we would practice verbalizing each part of plot across each 5 of our fingers:
2. Rising Action
3. Climax/Big Event
4. Falling Action
We did this so much in our immersion in reading, that when it was time to discuss our ideas for writing, students had a solid understanding of these parts of plot.
It was important to me that each student could verbalize the five parts of their story plots, and had a "vision" for their fictional texts, before they started writing.
I think sometimes we get carried away with graphic organizers, and we can forget to have students verbalize and talk through their ideas for writing. They start with graphic organizers and then have little vision for their entire texts.
After their vision was created, we plotted out our texts using a "6 Scenes" idea. Each scene was numbered, and the third scene had a star in it. This scene would be the Big Event/Climax.
Students planned their scenes starting with the third scene, the Big Event. Then, they moved backward and planned scenes two and one. The hope here is that if students sketch out their Big Event in the middle of the plot, then they will not be starting their writing with the Big Event. (As children often do.)
The 6 Scenes idea will hopefully encourage children to develop plot successfully without giving too much away at the beginning. Just as Stephen King suggests that good books do!
(I also wouldn't let them finish any of these parts in one day. Children need to know that writers do not finish their writing in one day. Neither do we!)
Next week we will begin expanding on our scenes into drafts. Happy Writing!