This summer, as I've listened to the last of the Harry Potter series and started The Lost Hero with my family, I've enjoyed our conversations about the characters, the conflicts, and the setting. Each year, I try to replicate these kinds of conversations in my classroom.
Teaching story elements is a great way to begin. When kids can identify story elements, they can pick out the parts of the story that fit together and start to talk about them coherently. Who are the characters? What is the setting? What is the main problem in the story?
Of course, teaching story elements needs to go much deeper than simple identification. Filling out a story map quickly becomes a dull classroom routine without an inspiring conversation to go along with it. In fourth grade, I like to ask students provoking questions about characters. These questions stimulate our discussion and help students to see story elements as being more than just disassembling a story.
When we have these conversations, I can judge from student responses where to go next. Sometimes I do hear the sound of crickets. This tells me that I've tried to move too far too fast, and that kids need some time before we can have this particular conversation. Sometimes their responses remind me of a fabulous book that I just have to share--a character who is similar to one of their favorites, or a character who acts the opposite of what is expected.
Most importantly, these kinds of questions bring a spark of "what if?" to our classroom...a spark that lights up the room with the love of reading.
-My Story Elements PowerPoint is a classic that I do come back to, year after year.
-I wrote some fun Story Elements Readers Theatre scripts for my students to share.
-You can try out the activity Camping Together for free over on Frolyc. Try it out if you have student iPads! (The story is also available in my Visualizing packet.)
-Analyzing Story Elements is finally ready. Four new stories with before reading pages, questions, and activities to help students understand and analyze story elements.