Using Story Arc to Explore Author’s Craft and Characters #SOL17

Using Story Arc to Explore Author’s Craft and Characters  #SOL17

March 10, 2017

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I have been taking a serendipitous journey with a fourth grade class.  After reading Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing together for a weeks and then realizing that no one in the class understood theme,  we regrouped… by taking a week off for February vacation.  When we returned from February vacation,  the magic began to happen.  We did a few days on finding theme in picture books.  See The Space Between  for more about this beginning.  

Then, we spent a few days writing a filler chapter for Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing.  ( See Units of Study For Teaching Reading,  Fourth Grade Unit 1,  Interpreting Character: The Heart of the Story.)  The first day,  their teacher read a chapter from the next book in the series,  Super Fudge.  I think we both thought the students might write from between Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing and Super Fudge.  Not one did that.  After the first day we noticed that the students writing lacked the classic elements of narrative and the central elements of Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing,  so we decided to review narrative structure in light of Chapter 3, The Family Dog.  After reading chapter 3,  their teacher reviewed the story arc and conducted a discussion of the elements in this chapter. For your benefit,  the story arc in this chapter includes:  review as hook,  micro-story to set up solution,  problem,  several attempts, climax, falling action, and solution.  IMG_8264 (9).jpg

Since it wasn’t my idea,  I can say that it really was genius.  She continued the great ideas by using her iPads to let students view the arc representation while they completed a revision of their chapter with the same style.

In the end,  her class had a wonderful understanding of theme in novel, a terrific review of the story arc using a novel example, and two days of quick narrative writing.
These ideas could be adapted to any novel study at the intermediate grades.

Thanks to Melissa Quimby,  Grade 4 for this collaboration.



I am participating in the Slice of Life challenge to write and publish a post every day in March.

Slice of Life is hosted by Two Writing Teachers. I thank them for the community they provide. Read more slices here.



8 thoughts on “Using Story Arc to Explore Author’s Craft and Characters #SOL17

  1. Thanks for sharing ideas and materials generously. Seventh and eighth graders and I have been dusting off a similar plot diagram on occasion this year. Students have dubbed it, “the fancy mountain.”

  2. Love this — great integration of so many things. It is so powerful when we begin to make connections for ourselves and our students. It gives them multiple opportunities and modalities to construct understanding. Thank you for sharing the process and the resources.
    (BTW I could not open your blog from the link on TWT – I found it on twitter and then I could open it – not sure why. Just wanted you to know for tomorrow.)

  3. I love so many things about this post. I love that you found a way to do a re-do and they got it. I love the integration of the strategies. I love that it is a glimpse into a classroom doing meaningful work! One question- you did the story arc for just one chapter? How did that translate to the book as a whole?

    • We reread a few chapters and did some theme work prior to circling back. If you read a previous post, The space between, you will get another glimpse. We talked also about how the similar arcs in her chapters reflect on the overall conflict that Peter, the main character, is working through.

  4. It is always helpful to see how others teach something. It reinforces what we do, and inevitably, it always gives me new or expanded ideas. Thanks so much for sharing your learning, the other teacher’s and the students.


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