We ended up teaching plot to our high school class a week after our middle school teams, so I took the results from Columbus and reworked the lesson plan before Friday. Normally we start our classes with a freewrite, then teach the lesson and finish off with an activity. However, our first quarter with Wooden has shown us we need to adapt our traditional routine to better fit this group of students, so we tried Kate’s suggestion doing an activity first and teaching the lesson second.
I think it worked.
First, the starting activity: Each student drew three cards—one each for character, setting, and a story starter—and had 30 minutes to write or plan a short story based on the cards.
Second, the lesson: we drew a plot mountain on the board and explained its different components. (I even made a fancy little graphic for this week’s lesson plan because I was avoiding finals.)
Once we went over the different elements of plot, a couple of students shared their stories as we dissected them on the board.
One student, Imari, was new to the class but was as passionate about storytelling as nearly all the other students combined. His story cards were: “a horse trainer desperately afraid of mice,” “an ancient temple with buried treasure,” and “the main character is recruited to join a professional singing group.”
From those three simple cards, Imari spun a fantastic tale of a horse trainer named Pierre who falls off his horse, wakes up in an ancient temple, and is transported again to the Middle Ages, where in his travels he encounters a king who wants him to join his court as a singer. After spending time in the court, Pierre sets off again, and finds himself back in the ancient temple where he faces a giant mouse (his greatest fear). He wakes up back home, right after he fell off his horse, and spends the rest of his life no longer afraid of mice.
Another student, Claudia, drew “a corrupt police officer,” “a secret moon base,” and “someone is out for revenge against your main character.” Carlos, the police officer, tried to take a bribe, but the other person backed out at the last minute and Carlos retaliated. Unfortunately for him, the other person belonged to a prominent family in the mafia, which didn’t hesitate in getting revenge. Carlos survived his punishment and decided to turn his life around by being a clean cop.
I loved teaching this lesson because we used examples from stories the students wrote. This way, instead of staring blankly at the board, they could see they already can do what we’ve been teaching them–and perhaps they could try this on their own. If at least one student takes what he/she has learned and starts writing outside of school, then we’ve succeeded.