Saturday, February 23, 2008



Reading and Writing Activities (Grades 6-8)
by Martha Alderson, M.A.

Teacher Note: These activities were created to offer information through a variety of auditory and visual channels to accomodate all different learning styles.
Grades 6-8 (ages 9-12) Students
1.) Become more proficient in
Reading (R2-R3) and
Writing (W2) Standands
as outlined by the California Language Arts Content Standards
2.) Develop thinking skills as laid out in Bloom's Taxonomy

The following are sample guidelines from the California Language Arts Content Standards that work particularly well to the study of this plot tool:


R2.0 Reading Comprehension (Focus on Informational Materials)
Structural Features of Informational Materials
R2.1 Understand and analyze the differences in structure and purpose between various categories of informational materials
R2.3 Analyze text that uses the cause-and-effect organizational pattern
R3.0 Literary Response and Analysis
Structural Features of Literature
R3.1 Articulate the expressed purposes and characteristics of different forms of prose (e.g., short story, novel, novella, essay)

Narrative Analysis of Grade-Level-Appropriate Text
R3.2 Identify events that advance the plot and determine how each event explains past or present action(s) or foreshadows future action(s)
R3.3 Analyze characterization as delineated through a character's thoughts, words, speech patterns, and actions; the narrator's description; and the thoughts, words, and actions of other characters
R3.4 Identify and analyze recurring themes across works (e.g., the value of bravery, loyalty, and friendship; the effects of loneliness)
R3.5 Contrast points of view (e.g., first and third person, limited and omniscient, subjective and objective) in narrative text and explain how they affect the overall theme of the work

Literary Criticism
R3.6 Analyze a range of responses to a literary work and determine the extent to which the literary elements in the work shaped those responses


W2.0 Writing Applications (Genres and Their Characteristics)

W2.1 Write fictional or autobiographical narratives:
a. Develop a standard plot line (having a beginning, conflict, rising action, climax, and denouement) and point of view
b. Develop complex major and minor characters and a definite setting
c. Use a range of appropriate strategies (e.g., dialogue; suspense; naming of specific narrative action, including movement, gestures, and expressions)

W2.2 Write responses to literature:
a. Develop interpretations exhibiting careful reading, understanding, and insight
b. Organize interpretations around several clear ideas, premises, or images from the literary work
c. Justify interpretations through sustained use of examples and textual evidence

W2.5 Write summaries of reading materials
a. Include the main ideas and most significant details
b. Use the student's own words, except for quotations
c. Reflect underlying meaning, not just the superficial details

Teach students to push aside the words and "see" the underpinings of all great literature. Both the Scene Tracker and the Plot Planner tools for writers are demonstrated. Although initially produced for adult writers, these plot tools have proven helpful to students of all ages in improved reading comprehension and writing skills.
The stategies outlined below and in the materials and products themselves, encourage students of all ages to examine the text they read in a more analytical way. The Blockbuster Plots line of plot tools are useful aids in strengthening the following in their own writing, too.
For our purposes here, plot involves three major elements:

Character Development
Dramatic Action
Thematic Significance

The lessons that follow are intended for large-group or whole-class instruction. These whole-class exercises and experiences unify the group, create a common language in which to speak about reading and writing, and a common frame of reference.
The students can refer to their work here when they read other titles and write their own stories.

Purchase the Plot Guide for Children's Book Authors; A Writers Workshop DVD (NOTE: although orginally created for adult writers, this workshop DVD has proven a valuable help for Middle grade students to improve not only their reading comprehension skills, but their writing skills as well.)

This interactive DVD is formatted like a book so you can either watch "play the movie" in its entirety or, for help in a specific area, click on the "lesson selection" chapters.
The chapters are as follows:

1) Introduction
2) Plot Definition
3) Character Emotional Development Profile
4) Plot Planner
5) Scene vs Summary
6) Plot the Middle
7) Plot the End
8) Scene Tracker
1.)To deepen your understanding of plot, you may also wish to purchase as a supplemental reference material:
2.) To deepen the students interactive participation to the lesson outlined below, you may also wish to purchase as supplemental reference material:
1) Assign students to read Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko on their own to prepare for the class discussion.
Appropriate for: MIDDLE SCHOOL/Jr High or Grades 6-8 (ages 9-12) Students
California Department of Education Recommended Literature
Reading and Language Arts

Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko
History/Social Science

2) As the children are reading the book, watch "Chapter 2" of the DVD that overs the PLOT DEFINITION. Go over the information with the children (refer to BLOCKBUSTER PLOTS Pure & Simple [BBP] as a supplemental reference for the definition of plot -- pages 109-112)
3) While the children are reading the book, go over the Character Emotional Development Profile (BBP pages 145-152). Discuss and define all seven character traits ~ flaw, strength, love, hate, fear, secret, and dream. Have each child fill out a Character Emotional Development Profile for themselves.

4) When the children have read the book and before watching "Chapter 3" of the DVD, have each child pick a character and fill out a Character Emotional Development Profile. (BBP pages 145-152) Discuss what they came up with and why.

5) Watch "Chapter 4" of the DVD and discuss.
6) Before watching "Chapter 5" of the DVD, go over Scene and Summary (BBP pages 25-29). Have each child mark their books (can use post-it notes if you do not want them marking up their books) where a scene begins and ends, and where a summary begins and ends. Discuss which sort of writing the children most like to read. (Generally, the answer is: SCENES)
7) Watch "Chapters 6 & 7" together and discuss.
8) Watch "Chapter 8" together and discuss. Have each student pick their favorite part of the story and track the scenes in that chapter or section. See if by the process of tracking they deepen their understanding of the story (make copies of the SCENE TRACKER template from the SCENE TRACKER Template CD enough for 3 each per student.)

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