Teaching seventh grade is both a challenge and a joy. Students are inquisitive, silly, maturing . . . and in the seventh grade. Until last year, I hadn’t taught this grade for about eighteen years, and I wasn’t expecting to. But, life can be unpredictable, and in a strange and wonderful turn of events, I have found myself teaching seventh grade students.
I couldn’t be happier.
Recently, because of some standardized testing they were involved in, the concept of the plot triangle was raised. My students, for the most part, stared at me blankly, not understanding what it was. I realized that the plot triangle is a simple diagram, but can be a difficult concept.
It was really perfect timing because we were starting to read some short stories together as a class, and we needed some common language for when we discuss and write about them.
I created a chart I and posted it on our classroom wall.
As the students digested the ideas in the plot diagram, I was peppered with eager questions.
Why is the climax so close to the resolution?
What is the falling action?
How many events belong in the rising action?
We talked it through, and students started to feel more comfortable with the ideas, but the next question was one that made me smile. Why does the plot triangle matter?
Fair question. Why? is always a fair question in my classroom, and I had a proud teacher moment.
In trying to explain why the plot triangle matters, I tried to share that a visual representation of a story helps us to understand more deeply.
We made the connection that the fiction signposts also help us to more deeply understand a story. Since we’ve been studying the signposts as we study short stories and narratives, it was a great connection to make.
So, after class I annotated our wall chart with the fiction signposts. It took some thinking, and I’m hoping I got it right.
I didn’t want to limit anyone’s thinking by suggesting that a signpost might only be found in one part of the story, but I did want to let them know where they might start noticing them.
They started to create plot triangles with some of the stories we had recently read together, and then layering some of the signposts into the plot triangle.
Here are some examples of what they did right at first:
My students aren’t done creating their plot triangles, and they aren’t done thinking about how the layering of the plot diagram and the signposts complement one another, but so far their thinking is going in the right direction.
They are asking questions and making connections. They are talking to each other and challenging each others’ thinking. They care more deeply about the stories and the characters they are reading about.
I’ll call it a win.
Update: I had another “aha moment” and asked my husband to help add another layer to the wall chart. What do you think?
Julie has been teaching secondary language arts for twenty years, spending the first fifteen in rural Central Oregon, four in Amman, Jordan, and the most recent school year in Managua, Nicaragua.
Follow her on twitter @SwinehartJulie