Tuesday, 21 April 2015

The Shape of Stories

In talking to English Language Arts teachers, I often hear that they wish that they could "jazz up" their Short Story units.  Other texts, such as novels and Shakespearean plays, offer lots of depth and, therefore, lots of juicy material to get kids engaged.  When it comes to the Short Story, however, lots of teachers use the stories to teach basic elements (character, setting, plot, conflict, etc.), and then move on.  I think that teachers would like to add more interest to their study of this text form.

I saw this infographic of Kurt Vonnegut's The Shape of Stories.  This information comes from his rejected Masters thesis in Anthropology.  He looks at the ups and downs of the main character's journey to create a shape.

(Image credit: http://visual.ly/kurt-vonnegut-shapes-stories-0)

I think that there is a lot of great teaching and learning that can come from these story shapes.  Start with a discussion- do you agree with these shapes?  Are they accurate?  Is anything missing?  This could easily move into kids mapping stories that they read into these shapes.  This would give the kids the chance to dig deep into a story to determine where the story goes up and down.

Food for thought... how do you teach short stories?  Do you have any great ideas for getting kids engaged?  

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