The Shape of Stories

In the next two weeks  we will be reading and examining a series of short stories, and discussing the ‘shape’ of short stories – their plots.

Many of you are probably familiar with a simplified version of Freytag’s Pyramid :middle-school-plot-diagram (1)

plot-shape-conflict-2-638However, while this is an easy way to remember the typical form of plot progression in Western storytelling, it is not completely accurate. Not all, not most, stories follow this plot progress. Stories have their own ‘shape’ – and the more interesting the plot of the story, the more interesting the shape.

Listen to amazing short story writer Kurt Vonnegut explain the ‘shape of stories’ by clicking the link below.

Click here to listen to Kurt Vonnegut’s ‘The Shape of Stories’.

Vonnegut explains that stories are much more complex that the typical Freytag’s Pyramid.

BoxVYIlIcAAsg3Bkurt-vonnegut--the-shapes-of-stories_502918a226d9a_w1500

Think of movies you’ve watched – what type of ‘shape’ did the plot create? Think about tv shows – each episode has its own plot, and then all the episodes in a season create a larger plot as well.

2014-03-30-15.56.48-e1396238648548

As we read through the short stories in this unit I want you to consider the ‘shape’ of these stories. You will need to keep track of them – and decide which ‘shape’ make for the most interesting story.

Also remember that we’re looking at the shape of Western stories (stories from American or Europe) – stories from other cultures in Asian and the Middle East follow a much different plot structure. Stories in Asian culture are often told in a cyclical or spiral manner:

organic-architecture-spiralstoryspiralminnionspiral_plotspiral

 

 

If you’ve ever watched an Asian movie or tv show (Dragon Ball Z) and felt like so much information was being repeated, or that the story took a really long time to ‘get going’, it was probably because their storytelling structure is so different from ours.

Some modern storytellers and movie-makers like Christopher Nolan are trying to use new and interesting plot structures – if you’ve seen these movies and have been confused about what’s happen, that’s probably why!

inception-explained_50290a7919c5a_w1500 619f8731a1c552dc05fbc6fdf5b23dbd

 

10th Grade Literature Spring 2019

Elements of Storytelling

As we transition from our unit on poetry to our unit on short stories and works of fiction, it is important to realize that you won’t just ‘chunk’ all of that poetry knowledge and analysis skills – hold on to them, as you’ll still need them for this unit.

Prose is generally made up for four elements:

Of these four, prose and poetry both use many of the same elements of figurative language, as we covered in class:

  • Imagery
  • Irony
  • Puns
  • Metaphor
  • Similes
  • Allusion
  • Repetition
  • Symbolism
  • Personification
  • Tone
  • Mood
  • Diction
  • Theme

 

The plot of a story will generally follow the five step model of Exposition, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action and Resolution, with characters, setting, context, conflict developing over the course of the story.

Other elements that prose can use to develop the plot and reinforce the theme are in medias res, foreshadowing, flashbacks, and the use of dialogue. 

Look at the short pieces of flash fiction from class below. Each of these stories is able to establish characters, setting, mood/tone, and theme through the use of carefully selected elements.

Contagious Bottles

Remy wants to take a walk on the reservation but everything is contagious. He knows once he sees the dirty bottles scattered across the road he will pick them up to see if a drop is left. His father begs him to go collect them, but he stuffs his hair inside his ears and pretends everything is quiet. One day he’ll walk on the reservation and there will be no more bottles; there will only be drunken bodies to carry off the road.

In this piece of flash fiction, we learn that the characters of Remy and his father are both Native Americans, as the setting is on a ‘reservation’. The context of the setting is important to the conflict of this short story – alcoholism is often a problem for Native Americans on reservations, and we can see that here with Remy’s father. The use of the word ‘contagious’ (diction) makes us believe immediately that something is wrong, or someone is sick. We see that the relationship between Remy and is father isn’t what it should be when we see the dad ‘beg’, and Remy ‘pretend’ that everything is ok. These few choices of words characters both of them. By the end, we understand that the bottles Remy’s father asks for are because he is an alcoholic, as “there will only be drunken bodies to carry off the road”. The characters are the most important elements of this story, and the tone is depressing. Remy thinks the ‘illness’ his father has is contagious, and is afraid he and others will get it.

Look at the other examples from class, and see if you can analyze how they use elements of storytelling to establish a theme.

The Bird

It came of nowhere: A giant crow, its plumage like a black silken coat. It is hard to tell where it wanted to go, for certainly it cannot have planned to be stuck in the spokes of my brand-new bicycle. In horror I watch the bird flapping its wings until finally it breaks its neck. I would have only further distressed it by trying to help. It would have only pecked my hand and scratched me with its claws. Carefully, I disentangle the animal from my precious bike. It would have died anyway.

 

Man on the Bus Eating Fruit
He ate the banana roughly. Chomping down so that it disappeared in huge chunks. He watched them, watching him. They were uneasy, and their chatter had died away. They were relieved to press the bell and get off the bus when their stop came, but as they alighted and the bus slowly started to pull away they couldn’t help looking up. He was still watching them. His forehead pressed against the window pane, biting into an apple.

 

What Roman Says

Roman says that I shouldn’t refer to him as my boyfriend. Labels like that, he says, create unrealistic expectations. When I assure him that I don’t have any expectations, unrealistic or otherwise, he smirks and says that women always say that. I ask for a ballpark estimate of the number of women he’s surveyed. He smirks again. I’m not sure which annoys me more, his patronizing facial expressions or his authoritarian need to control the terminology with which I’m permitted to describe our relationship. “No problem,” I say. “From now on I’ll just call you my ex-boyfriend.”

 

Outside The Chase

It starts with a heavy pinpoint, sharp, deep in the middle of Aaron’s heart. As he reads Megan’s letter, it swells and blooms, licks like fire through his veins.

This feeling should be love. It is love underneath, but it’s wrapped in something hard and cold and perpetual.

Death.

Death’s followed Aaron for twenty years.

Death came for Aaron’s father first, a cruel illness that halved his body (no more walks in the woods), laid him flat (no more car journeys to nowhere), muted him utterly (no more wise words), and finally sputtered him out like a spent candle.

Aaron was seven, and he didn’t understand.

10th Grade Literature Spring 2019

The How and Why of Language – Poetry and Art: Cezzane and Duchamp, Ginsberg and Kennedy

Now that we’ve practiced analyzing poetry as a class with Van Gogh and Anne Sexton’s “Starry Night”, you’ll practice working in small groups with your peers to analyze the next set of poems and paintings.

For this assignment you will choose to either read the American poet Allen Ginsburg’s poem “Cezzane’s Ports” while examining the French painter Paul Cezzane’s painting “The Gulf of Marseilles Seen From L’Estaque”, or read American poet X.J. Kennedy’s “Nude Descending a Staircase” while analyzing the painting by French artist Duchamp with the same title.

Paul Cezzane’s painting “The Gulf of Marseilles Seen From L’Estaque”. L’Estaque is a town in southern France.

Marcel Duchamp’s “Nude Descending a Staircase”, a famous cubist painting.

Remember, refer to the chart you made in class if you have a hard time remembering which artistic elements you should be looking for, and how they relate to poetry:

Artistic Element Poetic/Literary Element
Color Imagery, or Symbolism
Texture Imagery
Images Imagery
Lines/Movement Line breaks, stanzas, enjambment
Lighting Imagery
Level of detail Imagery
Emotion Mood/Tone
Contrast Juxtaposition
Symbols Symbolism

 

Click here to access the poems if you misplaced them.

You will be responsible in Part One of this analysis project for teaching your other group members about the poem or painting you’ve selected.

In Part Two, you will work together with those students to teach the rest of the class how your poem and painting pair together.

Please click here to view the assignment sheet and rubric for this project.

 

10th Grade Literature Spring 2019

Diagramming Sentences – Coordinating Conjunctions

Before you can effectively write using the English language, or even analyze how others use writing effectively, you need to be familiar with the basic parts and components of the English language. I know grammar isn’t your favorite subject to study and learn (hey, it isn’t my favorite either), BUT knowing and being able to identify these smaller component of your own language will allow you to write more effectively and assess and improve your own writing as the year progresses.

This week we will be examining how to correctly diagram sentences with conjunctions.

We structure each compound element different in our sentence diagrams. Here are examples of how to diagram compound subjects, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and objects of the preposition.

The following sentences will only contain compound words that you will need to diagram.

  1. Mr. Travers teaches at the school and plays outside at recces.
  2. Matt and Dina learn from Mr. Tavers.
  3. Lori’s blue and green dress has been drying on the clothesline in the yard.
  4. I looked for the jacket in the house and the car.
  5. Scott jogged quickly and quietly onto the soccer field.

Phrases are groups of words that function as a single part of speech. We studied prepositional phrases last week, and now you will learn to diagram sentences with prepositional phrases and conjunctions.

The following sentences will contain compound phrases you will need to diagram:

  1. The students were running in the halls and were sent to the principals office.
  2. My sister drove around the block and up the hill.
  3. The crazy little dog ran out the door and toward the stranger.
  4. Lori and Lisa were laughing and howling at the funny movie.
  5. Jason looked in the garage and around the house.

A sentence is a group of words that express a complete thought. We can make sentences compound by putting two or more independent clauses together with coordinating conjunctions.

The following sentences will have two independent clauses connected by a conjunction:

  1. The little kitty in the basket meowed, and the small girl smiled.
  2. He drove across town, but she walked.
  3. Have you tried, or did you just ask for help?
  4. The man in the backyard cried, for he  fell from the tall ladder.
  5. Should you have been running towards the dog, or should you have been running away from it?
10th Grade Literature Spring 2018

Creating Poetry to Reflect World Themes

In this assignment you will create two poems that reflect the themes or images you have observed in the literature of your world culture. These two poems must:

• Be a minimum of 14 lines long.
o If creating a blackout poem, the poem must be at least two pages.
• Reflect a clear theme.
• Use five poetic devices, three of which are common in the poetry of your culture.

To help you decide on the topic of theme of your own poems, review the information regarding the poems from you country that you’ve already read, and the information you’ve already researched. Then, decide which of these themes or devices you will be using in your own poem.

 

 

Remember, poetry uses figurative language (imagery, metaphors, similes, hyperbole) and sound devices (rhyme and rhyme scheme, alliteration, anaphora, repetition). You should use a mix of these in your own poem. Decided on the POV for your poem – 1st, 2nd or 3rd. Will your poem tell a story or share a scene or experience, or have a metaphorical discussion about a topic or theme? Remember, you don’t just have to write your poetry, you can create it with blackout poetry:

“Blackout poems can be created using the pages of old books or even articles cut from yesterday’s newspaper. Using the pages of an existing text, blackout poets isolate then piece together single words or short phrases from these texts to create lyrical masterpieces.

Step 1: Scan the page first before reading it completely. Keep an eye out for an anchor word as you scan. An anchor word is one word on the page that stands out to you because it is packed and loaded with meaning and significance.  Starting with an anchor word is important because it helps you to imagine possible themes and topics for your poem.

Step 2: Now read the page of text in its entirety. Use a pencil to lightly circle any words that connect to the anchor word and resonate with you. Resonant words might be expressive or evocative, but for whatever reason, these are the words on the page that stick with you. Avoid circling more than three words in a row.

Step 3: List all of the circled words on a separate piece of paper. List the words in the order that they appear on the page of text from top to bottom, left to right. The words you use for the final poem will remain in this order so it doesn’t confuse the reader.

Step 4: Select words, without changing their order on the list, and piece them together to create the lines of a poem. You can eliminate parts of words, especially any endings, if it helps to keep the meaning of the poem clear. Try different possibilities for your poem before selecting the lines for your final poem. If you are stuck during this step, return back to the original page of text. The right word you are searching for could be there waiting for you.

Step 5: Return to the page of text and circle only the words you selected for the final poem.  Remember to also erase the circles around any words you will not be using.

Step 6: Add an illustration or design to the page of text that connects to your poem. Be very careful not to draw over the circled words you selected for your final poem!”

Source: https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/blog-posts/john-depasquale/blackout-poetry/

10th Grade Literature Spring 2018

The Shape of Stories

In the next two weeks  we will be reading and examining a series of short stories, and discussing the ‘shape’ of short stories – their plots.

 

Many of you are probably familiar with a simplified version of Freytag’s Pyramid :middle-school-plot-diagram (1)

plot-shape-conflict-2-638However, while this is an easy way to remember the typical form of plot progression in Western storytelling, it is not completely accurate. Not all, not most, stories follow this plot progress. Stories have their own ‘shape’ – and the more interesting the plot of the story, the more interesting the shape.

Listen to amazing short story writer Kurt Vonnegut explain the ‘shape of stories’ by clicking the link below.

Click here to listen to Kurt Vonnegut’s ‘The Shape of Stories’.

Vonnegut explains that stories are much more complex that the typical Freytag’s Pyramid.

BoxVYIlIcAAsg3Bkurt-vonnegut--the-shapes-of-stories_502918a226d9a_w1500

Think of movies you’ve watched – what type of ‘shape’ did the plot create? Think about tv shows – each episode has its own plot, and then all the episodes in a season create a larger plot as well.

2014-03-30-15.56.48-e1396238648548

As we read through the short stories in this unit I want you to consider the ‘shape’ of these stories. You will need to keep track of them – and decide which ‘shape’ make for the most interesting story.

Also remember that we’re looking at the shape of Western stories (stories from American or Europe) – stories from other cultures in Asian and the Middle East follow a much different plot structure. Stories in Asian culture are often told in a cyclical or spiral manner:

organic-architecture-spiralstoryspiralminnionspiral_plotspiral

 

 

If you’ve ever watched an Asian movie or tv show (Dragon Ball Z) and felt like so much information was being repeated, or that the story took a really long time to ‘get going’, it was probably because their storytelling structure is so different from ours.

Some modern storytellers and movie-makers like Christopher Nolan are trying to use new and interesting plot structures – if you’ve seen these movies and have been confused about what’s happen, that’s probably why!

inception-explained_50290a7919c5a_w1500 619f8731a1c552dc05fbc6fdf5b23dbd

 

10th Grade Literature Spring 2018

Introducing Ancient Greek Literature and The Hero’s Journey

classical-greece-map-gr2Today in class we began out unit on Ancient Greek Literature and will be examining how these stories and tropes from Ancient Greece continue to impact our modern storytelling, language and culture.

Below you will find a link to the powerpoint over Ancient Greek culture and its importance that we reviewed today in class. Remember, understanding historical and cultural context is an important part of this course as we read literature from the past and cultures that are vastly different from our own.

Click here to download the powerpoint over Ancient Greek Culture and Literature.

We also had a lengthy discussion over the use of archetypes in literature.

Click here to open the interactive Prezi presentation over archetypes that we reviewed in class.

Finally, we also covered The Hero’s Journey in class today – a concept you should have studied in 9th Grade Literature during your reading of The Odyssey. Below you will find a link to the video explaining the different steps of Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey that we took notes from, as well as a visual aid showing the steps of the Hero’s Journey. Remember, you will have a short quiz over this on Friday, January 7th!

graphictwo

10th Grade Literature 9th Grade Literature Fall 2016 Spring 2018